Wizards big man Nene went down awkwardly Sunday night against the Cavaliers and it is now official that he could potentially miss up to six weeks with a sprained left MCL.
Before we go any farther, it is a big blow to this team that Nene went down, but the four- to six-week diagnosis is very optimistic considering what Wizards insiders were reporting early Monday. Many feared that the injury Nene suffered was going to be a season-ending one for the 30-year-old Brazilian bruiser. Regardless, this injury is going to have a negative impact on the Wizards as they push to become a legit playoff team.
Nene is one of the most versatile big men in the league. With his size and unique quickness, he is tough matchup for many other bigs in the league. So far this season he had been averaging more than 14 points per game on 49.3 percent shooting while bringing down nearly six rebounds. He can score with his back to the basket as well as facing up and shooting the basketball from mid-range. His ability to knock down 15 footers creates a dynamic pick and roll with point guard John Wall. The two have been very tough to defend at times. Nene is also a very skilled passer. He is such a good passer, especially from the high post, the Wizards have often run their offense through him. He averages three assists per game, which is fourth best among power forwards in the league. He has also been a very solid defender this year for a defense that holds teams to 104.2 points per 100 possesions (eighth best in the league). With Nene on the floor the Wizards are holding teams to 102.7 points per 100 possessions compared to 109.8 with him off the court. The Wizards are going to miss the versatile big man on both ends of the floor.
The question is who do the Wizards go to in order to fill Nene’s void for the next month and a half? The main two players that will be called upon are Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin. When Nene went down with an injury earlier in the season, Booker saw his minutes increase. Booker started 19 games during the time Nene was injured and when Nene was slowly getting back into the lineup. Booker would be my choice, but coach Randy Wittman has been playing Seraphin more and more as of late. Seraphin saw 25 minutes of action in the Cleveland game Sunday while Booker only saw seven. However, I do think Booker will start for the Wizards Tuesday and see a lot of Nene’s minutes because Wittman can trust Booker. Booker is a guy that knows his role and doesn’t try and do anything he can’t. Seraphin, on the other hand, can become a ball stopper in the post and disrupt the flow of the offense trying to get his shot. Regardless, both players have to step up and provide quality minutes when their name is called upon.
Something else we could potentially see with Nene being is out is the Wizards going small. This would potentially be a lineup with Wall, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Trevor Ariza, and a big (most likely Marcin Gortat). This lineup has seen only 29 minutes of action together and has scored 112 points per 100 possessions while only giving up 93.8, per NBA.com. Obviously, it is a small sample size so you cant’t take much from it, but it is a fun lineup that could really get up and down the court and make teams match up with their speed. Wall would have a field day penetrating and finding open shooters with this lineup. It is certainly something to look for.
But in the end, it really is a bummer Nene suffered the knee injury Sunday. It especially hurts after watching his 30-point and seven-rebound performance, including the game-winning dunk, against New Orleans last week. The Wizards will have to find a way to keep the pedal down as the playoffs are right around the corner. Good teams find a way to to be successful when facing adversity and it will give us a chance to see what the Wizards are all about.