Later today representatives from the NBA's Player's Union will meet with Commissioner David Stern and the owners and attempt to figure out where everyone stands on the upcoming NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. The two sides are meeting in a last ditch effort to make progress and provide Stern with a good excuse to extend the deadline past midnight. If no agreement is reached -- it would be a monumental surprise if one is -- and Stern decides against extending the deadline, then the league will have officially locked out the players.
It's a very troubling time for NBA fans as signs point to the NBA undergoing a lengthy lockout. The sides are reportedly so far apart that some with knowledge of the situation have deemed it a "disaster." Unlike the NFL, the NBA actually has a problem -- they're losing money. With the owners' careless spending, ever-growing contracts, the state of the national economy and drastic decreases in attendance; the NBA is not the cash-cow that the NFL is. The NBA lockout appears to be a lot more threatening than the NFL's -- it's a scary thought.
With the looming lockout comes uncertainty. No one knows what the salary cap will look like, nobody is aware how the nature of NBA contracts will change; there's really no way to effectively project the landscape of the NBA when -- and hopefully, there is a when -- the lockout ends. Obviously, the lockout will prevent free-agents from inking new contracts. In essence, these players may not be viable to join new teams until November or December. However, as fans we choose to waste our time debating and discussing things that seem to be far into the future. As a result, I'm here to tell you that the Nets' top priority should be to add Nene Hilario to the roster.
The Denver Post is reporting that Nene has decided to opt out of his contract, making him an unrestricted free-agent:
Nene will opt out of the final year of his contract worth nearly $12 million and, as a result, become an unrestricted free agent, a source familiar with the situation said Wednesday night.
It means Nene can sign with any team he wishes without the Nuggets getting a chance to match the offer when free agency begins after the expected NBA lockout, which likely will start Friday.
Nene had until today to make a final decision.
The Nuggets tried to sign him to a contract extension before today, the last day of the NBA's collective bargaining agreement, but to no avail.
The general consensus seemed to be that Nene would sign an extension with the Nuggets before the conclusion of the NBA's current Collective Bargaining Agreement, but it appears that it won't be the case. Nene could still resign with the Nuggets, and has said that he "wants to retire in a Nuggets uniform;" however, now every team will have a shot to sign him without the Nuggets having the ability to officially match the offer. The Nuggets figure to be prominent players in the Nene sweepstakes this summer or fall, whenever the NBA's free agency period begins. The Brazilian native has played his entire nine year NBA career with the Nuggets.
There's no doubting that Nene is the best free-agent available in this year's class; as a result, he's sure to command a very sizable contract. Despite his price tag, Nets General Manager, Billy King, should peg Nene as the team's number-one target whenever free agency begins.
Nene stands as one of the NBA's most underrated players; because basal-level statistics don't tell the whole story. He's one of the league's best big-men -- sporting a strong 6'11" frame, with superior athleticism and skill. On the offensive end, Nene has been one of the NBA's most efficient players for the duration of his career. He's extremely unselfish -- as one of the best passing big-men in the league -- and versatile. He's made a name for himself with some pretty thunderous finishes over some of the NBA's premier defenders, but he can score in a variety of ways. He's got great touch around the rim, a consistent mid-range game, an effective and multifaceted post-game, a great knack for running the pick-n-roll and, of course, the ability to finish strong above the rim.
Nene's great hands and superior athleticism make him a perfect pick-n-roll player. In fact, Nene converted an astonishing 76% of shot attempts on pick-n-rolls, last season. And the crazy thing is, he has been severely underutilized in the Nuggets' offense over the past three seasons because of perimeter players with a propensity to shoot first and answer questions later. Plus, Nene has yet to play with an effective distributing guard -- who knows what he'd be capable of when playing alongside a player of Deron William's caliber.
Now there's no doubting that Nene's offensive production is underrated, but the even bigger travesty (Outlaw) is how his defense is overlooked. This season, the Nuggets gave up a staggering four less points per 100 possessions when Nene was on the court. Not only does Nene's overwhelming size and strength provide an intimidating inside presence, his athleticism allows him to effectively defend perimeter players and gives him great recover speed. Here's a portion of a piece by Tom Haberstroh analyzing Nene's defensive impact:
It might sound like a crazy assertion. How could the Nuggets possibly improve on defense without Camby, a member of the past four NBA All-Defensive teams who has 1,188 blocks the past six seasons? But the basketball box score does a lousy job of identifying a player's defensive contributions. On a player's stat line in an official NBA box score, only steals and blocks tell you anything about how effective a player is on the defensive end. At Insider, we know there are more revealing ways to measure a player's defensive contributions.
The opponent's offense suffers more when Nene is anchoring the middle than when he's anchoring the bench compared to his predecessor. While Camby has a glass case full of defensive awards, Nene might actually do more for the Nuggets' defense than Camby did.
Nene is a more valuable defender than Marcus Camby because he can move laterally as well as defend the rim and board. Camby was a superior defensive rebounder and shot-blocker, but Nene can guard a greater variety of offensive players one on one out on the floor or in the post.
If you have ESPN Insider, you can find the entire article HERE.
Another misconception of Nene's game is that he's an ineffective rebounder, but that just isn't the case. If we look closer at the numbers, we'll see that he isn't a bad rebounder at all. This past season, Nene posted a defensive rebounding percentage of 18.3%. That number puts him well above average for big-men. Where we see a dip in Nene's rebounding is on the offensive end; as he posted an offensive rebounding percentage of 7.0%. At first glance, this might seem to indicate that Nene doesn't fight for boards down-low, but here at NetsDaily we take things a step further. Over half of all offensive rebounds in the NBA last season (64% to be exact) came off of missed shots by the rebounder. Since Nene was so efficient on the offensive end -- and because he took a relatively low amount of shots -- he was considerably less susceptible (for lack of a better word) to offensive rebounds. Although Nene is not a bad rebounder, he could certainly board a little better. Scouts have said that he has the skills to be one of the league's best rebounders; he can still improve at this stage of his career.
Although the Nets appear to be pretty adamant about brining Kris Humphries back, it would behoove them to inquire about adding Nene's services. Humphries is a good player, but he isn't anywhere near the player Nene is. I think that the Nets should attempt to retain Humphries, but they shouldn't let him get in the way of adding a player of Nene's caliber.
Nene and Brook Lopez would combine to make up one of the NBA's best power-forward/center combos. Nene's ability to stretch the floor, the fact that he's an elite pick-n-roll player and his amazing combination of strength and athleticism make him the perfect fit next to Lopez. He also has the ability to slide over to the center position -- where he's played the majority of his minutes for the Nuggets the past three seaons -- and spell Lopez while keeping one dominant big-man on the floor.
Nene would be a great fit next to Lopez and he's the perfect player for Deron Williams to have at the power-forward slot. Along with some minor additions to bolster the Nets' depth and the acquisition of Andrei Kirilenko, Nene would push the Nets' team into championship-contention -- he's that good. The Nets should do everything they can to acquire him; he's the piece they need. The Nets can't allow the prospect of adding Dwight Howard prevent them from making any moves to improve the roster and utilize cap-space that they won't have next off-season. It seems pretty clear what the Nets should do -- hopefully, their pursuit can begin prior to the next calendar year.