Nothing defensive about stating Nene's value

Nothing defensive about stating Nene's value
September 22, 2013, 11:45 pm
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(Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports)

We love lists. At least those that create them hope so (and we do). Ranking the top-100 NBA players entering the 2013-14 season, sure, why not, SI.com.

Two members of the local professional men's basketball team made said list. Let's reveal countdown style:

59. Joe Johnson

58. Nene

57. Ryan Anderson

This weekend I hung out with a colleague at some point the conversation landed on the Wizards. With news of Emeka Okafor's neck injury coming out this week, we debated Washington's most irreplaceable big man and the conversation. In terms of defense - an area the Wizards succeeded in last year to the tune of a top 10 finish -, my initial instinct was to give Okafor's rangy ways under the basket the edge. The counter argument centered on Nene's underrated speed and basketball instincts. SI.com notes that with Nene on the floor last season, the Wizards allowed 98.3 per 100 possessions, a level would put Washington among the league's elite defenses. 

"That he brings that caliber of defense along with a bevy of offensive skills makes him quite valuable — noticeably more so than his basic counting stats suggest. Last year was a down season for Nene due to his gradual recovery from a previous foot injury, but when healthy his touch and quickness allow him to thrive in a variety of functions."

Factor in Nene's skills as a low post scorer and a high post passer plus his locker room presence, well, it's rather obvious how valuable the Brazilian big man is to the team's well-being. One simple reason he's not higher on the list, injury concerns. One simple reason it's hard penning the Wizards into the postseason, injury concerns Until we have a prognosis on Okafor, the worries stay largely with Nene, who missed 21 games last season largely due to foot injuries. He played only 39 games with Denver and Washington during the 2011-12 campaign. 

The irreplaceable debate likely comes up again during camp, especially if Okafor's timetable for return is lengthy. Obviously, the Wizards hope the discussion remains a purely hypothetical one.

*Another Wizard made the list. You know who it is. We'll discuss his slotting tomorrow.