Three months ago, Nene was the NBA's top free agent. This is both an indictment of the 2011 free agent class and an indication of the quality of Nene as a player. On Thursday, the Denver Nuggets -- who retained Nene's services for the low, low price of $65 million over five years -- flipped the Brazilian center to the Washington Wizards for JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf's expiring contract.
The immediate chatter centered on Denver's buyer's remorse on Nene ... which must make Wizards fans overjoyed, right?
Here's SBNation.com editor Mike Prada at his home blog, Bullets Forever:
Why would the Nuggets trade Nene if there is something going on that we don't know? Why would they already have buyer's remorse? Shouldn't that be a bit of a red flag?
Unfortunately, that's the reality these lottery-bound teams face: to get a star, you've got to draft him or take a huge risk. Nene appears to be an injury/age risk; others, like Deron Williams, who the moribund Nets traded for last year, are flight risks. The good news for Washington is that Nene is only a salary risk, in the end, and flexibility is still possible as the Wizards hold their amnesty clause (Andray Blatche, come on down!) and only a portion of Rashard Lewis' 2012-13 salary is guaranteed.
In the best case scenario, the Wizards will still be able to add a decent piece via free agency or trade in June or July, plus they will have a top six pick in what's shaping up to be a brilliant draft. Nene, John Wall and those two pieces could form a nice core when you consider the potential of recent picks like Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton.
In the worst case, Nene could implode physically, and Washington could continue its tradition of having a poisonous contract on the books. But at least Wall won't have to remind his center that the Wizards have the ball.
The most likely path is the middle path: Nene won't be worth the $13 million he's paid every year due to wear and tear, but he'll be among the better big men in the East for the next couple of seasons and will be more of a plus than a minus. Meanwhile, McGee will sign a contract (either this summer as a restricted free agent or in 2013 when he could become unrestricted) that will pay him an average salary damn close to what Nene is making. And McGee will absolutely not be worth it.
Bad teams must take risks to get better. The Wizards are doing just that.