HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — In a day filled with moves both major and minor, obvious and perhaps not so obvious, one complex deal stood out above the crowd here at the hideout.
The Denver Nuggets traded Nene to Washington for JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf, with the Clippers helping facilitate the deal by sending Brian Cook and a future second-round draft pick to Washington for Nick Young.
The Clippers clearly got what they needed in Young, a scoring machine who can play alongside Chris Paul in the backcourt but also has the size to work at small forward as well. But what the Nuggets and Wizards get out of this deal remains a little a murky at this point.
McGee is a talented but enigmatic player who has struggled to put it all together in Washington, But he does offer the Nuggets some size, athleticism and big-time defensive potential for a very reasonable price. Toss in the fact that he’s a restricted free agent after this season, the salary-cap relief alone provided the Nuggets with a financial opportunity they simply could not pass up.
But it throws their December signing of Nene to a five-year, $67 million deal onto the top of the buyer’s remorse pile. Apparently Nene’s injury history and struggles this season overshadowed his value (13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds) to a Nuggets team in the thick of the Western Conference playoff chase.
On paper it seems to make good sense, but is Nene the low-post anchor the Wizards needs to help point guard John Wall come into his own? And does McGee, even in the short-term and at such a discount compared to Nene, really make the Nuggets better in a playoff series in the rugged Western Conference?
There simply are not definitive answers to either one of those questions right now. That’s not acceptable for the Nuggets, a team that has to mind its money in the wake of their work at the trade deadline last season, when they sent Carmelo Anthony to New York in a blockbuster deal that many observers feared would decimate their team.
What’s not clear is what impact rookie Kenneth Faried‘s play had on the Nuggets’ decision. He’s played so well as of late (11 points and 8 rebounds in his last 10 games and scored a career-high 20 points to go with 12 boards in 34 minutes Monday in a 119-116 overtime win over the Kings), the front office has to take notice and wonder if they could get the same sort of production from Faried as they have from Nene.
If this deal for the Nuggets was more about the future of Faried than anything else, then it makes much more sense for the Nuggets. Because for all of the dollars they might have saved by trading Nene, they also needed a deal that makes sense for a team that’s already a playoff squad.