Why Nene is underrated

In order to solve the mysteries surrounding Nene, let's look at solving all of the questions people have about him


If Nene was so good, why didn't he get the ball more? Why can't he even score 15 points a game?

To answer this, we will look at a statistic called usage rate. What is usage rate? It is the percentage of possessions a player uses while on the court. If a player has a usage rate of 20%, then 20% of the time while he was on the floor, he either scored, assisted, or turned the ball over. Basically, how much a guy touches the ball.

So what does this have to do with Nene? Well take a look at his usage rate compared to the guys he was playing with:

Carmelo Anthony in Denver: 32.49 - 2nd highest in the league, second only to Kobe Bryant

Al Harrington: 22.32

JR Smith: 22.25

Chauncey Billups: 21.46

Ty Lawson: 19.55

Nene: 18.75

So, does any of this make sense at all? He had only the 6th most touches on his team, not even mentioning the fact that Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith and Al Harrington are not exactly Jason Kidd clones. 

Never mind that when Nene does get the ball, he can put it in the basket, as John Krolik mentions:

Nene is nearly unstoppable when he catches the ball in the immediate basket area. He’s strong, gets off the floor quickly, has excellent touch and patience around the rim, and is very comfortable finishing with his left hand. According to, Nene makes 4.2 baskets at the rim each game, and converts 74.8% of his shots at the rim.

30.9 percent of Nene’s possessions are post-up situations, and Synergy has him ranked as the third-most efficient player in the league when he gets the ball in the post. Again, it’s Nene’s work without the ball that makes him so effective in that area. Most post players in today’s NBA prefer to do their work after making the catch in the mid-post area; Nene is one of the few players in the league who works tirelessly to get deep post position before he has the ball.

How does he score 15 ppg when he doesn't get touches? Aside from his high efficiency, it's because he doesn't need the ball to score.

Like Blake Griffin, Nene excels at creating opportunities for high-percentage shots by working without the ball. According to Synergy Sports, a full 24.8 percent of Nene’s possessions come from off-ball cuts, which is extremely high. Nene’s work without the ball has all the subtlety that his work with the ball lacks. Every time a Nuggets opponent doesn’t stick to Nene on an off-ball screen or gets caught paying too much attention to the ball-handler, Nene finds a soft spot in the interior defense, makes himself available for a pass, and goes straight to the rim for a layup, dunk, or free throws.

So yes, while Deron will be able to improve anyone who plays alongside him, he'll be able to improve Nene more since Nene is already very good at working without the ball, only needing a pass to finish things off. He's already adept at getting deep post position, something Brook was not able to do last year.

Whatever, man. You just made that up. How do you explain his rebounding then? Can't even average 7 boards a game, unlike Hump.

Unlike Hump, Nene actually played with good rebounders. Now we're gonna look at something called rebound rate, the percentage of all available rebounds that a player gets. Why are we looking at it? Well let's compare Denver and New Jersey in their leaders in rebound rate. (removing guys that did not play enough games or minutes to give a valid result)


Shelden Williams: 18% - 42 games, 17 mpg

Chris Andersen: 17.4% - 45 games, 16.2 mpg

Nene: 14.4%

Kenyon Martin: 13.9% - 48 games, 25.7 mpg

Carmelo Anthony: 12.4% - 50 games, 35.5 mpg

Al Harrington: 11.5% - 73 games, 22.8 mpg

Danilo Gallinari: 10.1% - 14 games, 30.9 mpg

JR Smith: 9.5% - 79 games, 24.9 mpg

Wilson Chandler: 9.5% - 21 games, 30.5 mpg

New Jersey:

Kris Humphries: 22.2%

Derrick Favors 16.1% - 56 games, 19.5 mpg

Johan Petro: 14% - 77 games, 11.6 mpg

Damion James: 12.5% - 25 games, 16.1 mpg

Brook Lopez: 10% - 82 games, 35.2 mpg

Travis Outlaw: 8.2% - 82 games, 28.7 mpg


So now, may I ask the question, which guy was the one playing on a team depleted of rebounding?

And while i'm at it, NO, Hump has not been rebounding this well ever since forever. Let's take a look at Hump's year by year rebound rates.

2004: 14%

2005: 15.4%

2006: 16.4%

2007: 16.6%

2008: 15.5%

2009: 17.8%

2010: 22.1%

So now I pose the question, do you think that it's normal for a career 14-16% rebound rate guy to suddenly jump up to 22%? Mind you, that might seem small, but the difference between 14-16% and 22% is the difference between Brendan Haywood (16.5%) and Dwight Howard (21.9%).

Now, back to Nene. Has he been average rebounding-wise his entire career? Yeah. But that's it, he's average. When people constantly bring up "oh, he's never even averaged 8 rebounds a game" they never mention that oh, by the way, Nene's career high in minutes per game is 33.7 minutes a game. If Nene played a mere 36 minutes a game every year, he has not gone below 8 rebounds per 36 minutes since his 2nd year in the league, and never below 7.


Hey, if you don't believe me, let's see what other people have to say about him (both recommended reading):

Zach Lowe, Sports Illustrated

This is not some space-filler or minutes-sopper. This is a big guy who can be as productive — if not quite as polished — as Chris Bosh, someone who can score in a variety of ways from 18 feet and in, get to the line and play solid positional defense. 

John Krolik, the New York Times

Still, the bottom line is that Nene has been giving his team 15 points a night without wasting possessions or needing his team to run plays for him, and he’ll significantly improve the offense of any team that signs him and uses him correctly.


P.S. The response to Nene's "12 and 7" criticism? 6 and 5. Hump's career averages. 

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