Updated 4:12 p.m.
It's been obvious throughout the season, but whenever Nene played during the Wizards previous two games, good things happened. In Tuesday's overtime loss against Atlanta, the Brazilian big man finished with 18 points and was the only Wizard with a positive plus-minus. Despite the back-to-back scenario Wednesday at Orlando, Nene posted a season-high 20 points in 25 minutes.
Though a minutes count of around 20-25 per game while he works his way back from a left foot injury has kept the season averages - 12.7 points, 5.8 rebounds - in check, the power forward's Player Efficiency Rating (PER) remains rather high. Based on the numbers I looked up over at basketball-reference.com, like really high. In fact, when looking at the all the NBA players this season who average at least 10 minutes per game, only the league's who's who rank higher in terms of per minute production.
1) LeBron James, 29.0
2) Kevin Durant, 28.3
3) Carmelo Anthony, 26.3
4) Kobe Bryant, 25.7
5) Chris Paul, 25.5
6) Tim Duncan, 25.1
7) Nene, 24.1
8) Brook Lopez 23.8
Honesty break: I didn't decide to create this post simply because of Nene's efficient ways, though they are worthy of highlighting. Rather, it's the names of two player's right behind Washington's leading frontcourt weapon and Lopez that caught my eyes.
9) JaVale McGee, 23.5
10) Andray Blatche, 23.2
Nene and the two ex-Wizards are the only members of the top 10 not averaging at least 30 minutes per game; Nene and Blatche are both playing 21 minutes, the shot-blocking McGee 19.
Now, we know why Nene's on-court time is where it's at. Wizards coach Randy Wittman hopes to play his big man more minutes following this latest four games in five days stretch. Washington plays at Detroit on Friday before hosting on the Pistons on Saturday.
Though he ranks among the league leaders in blocks, McGee's minutes are down from the 27 he averaged in each of his last two seasons with Washington though in line with what he played last season after being acquired by Denver in a trade for Nene. Oh, don't the let numbers fool you: he's the same unfundamentally sound player he's always been, but now with a fat contract In this Denver Post article titled "JaVale McGee a big puzzle in the Denver Nuggets' low post," Nuggets beat writer Benjamin Hochman notes, "And yet, McGee doesn't start, doesn't play starter's minutes and seldom is on the floor at crunchtime."
Before injuries and conditioning issues became the dominant story, Blatche played 28 minutes per game for the Wizards last season and 33 during the 2010-11 campaign. This season, the 6-foot-11 forward with a scoring knack has been a key cog off Brooklyn's bench.
What does all this mean? The Wizards need Nene on the court more while the Nuggets and Nets have learned that with McGee and Blatche, less is more.
One wonders where we'd be if the local team had learned that lesson before it was too late.