This season Big Brazil was nothing short of worthy of every last cent that the Nuggets shelled out to keep the 6’11”/270lb power forward. Nene averaged a career-high 12.2 points, a career-high seven rebounds, a career-high 57% from the field, and a career-high 69% from the free-throw line. Furthermore in the playoffs, against the NBA’s elite power forward in Tim Duncan, Nene raised his game another notch and averaged 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 77% from the charity stripe.
Keep in mind, this was a player who only played three minutes of the 2005-06 season after suffering a knee injury that eliminated his entire year!
In the early portion of the season Nene was overweight and the extra pounds were holding him down and putting unneeded stress on the knee. Nuggets trainer Steve Hess immediately put Nene on a special diet and the Brazilian Big man dropped nearly 30 pounds as he played himself back into game shape while his numbers began to rise significantly. In November, Nene was only playing 16 minutes a game and was averaging eight points and four rebounds. His post game was slow, his quick and explosive dunking was absent, and his demeanor was just not the same. But in the next sixty days, Nene underwent an incredible overhaul and was averaging nearly 17 points and nine rebounds in over 30 minutes of action by the end of February.
The game that I think best sums up what Nene is truly capable of is the late March match-up with the Detroit Pistons. Big Brazil was absolutely incredible, not scoring his most points of the season, but overall he was a dominating force against another great power forward in Rasheed Wallace. ‘Sheed would have the last laugh as he sunk a 68-footer at the buzzer to force overtime, (not to mention the Nuggets lost the game), but Nene’s box score was astonishing. He finished by playing 47 minutes, scoring 21 points, snatching 17 rebounds including nine on the offensive glass, four assists, two blocks, two steals, and an efficient two turnovers.
With all that out on the table, I truly do believe that Nene is the third most valuable player on the Nuggets as of right now. He may become one of the best power forwards in the game in the next two or three years, but his potential is undeniable as he only turns twenty-five this September. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Nene becomes a 20/10 kind of force in this league by next year. He has all the intangibles that NBA GM’s dream about a power forward possessing. Big hands, quick feet, broad shoulders, and most importantly… an unbelievable work ethic.
And here is another thing to think about before I lay down my prescription for this off-season once the player report cards are finished. With Kenyon Martin essentially un-tradable, do not be surprised if Nene moves over to the center position so the Nuggets can start AI, Carmelo, Nene, and Kenyon after making a move to gain a legitimate starting point guard to round out this team. And as I was writing this, a comment was submitted by Jason who I can tell is already thinking what I’m thinking concerning making a move to make this team a REAL contender next season. But make no mistake; Nene is a cornerstone of where this team is headed.