Nene Should Continue to Play With the Second Unit


Since returning from a foot injury on Dec. 5 against the Denver Nuggets, Nene has been a vital role in Randy Wittman’s second unit.

At first, it was a no-brainer to use Nene as a role player in order to limit his minutes and ease him back into game action. Plantar fasciitis is a very painful and nagging heel injury. And with it only being the second month of the season and with the performance of his players, there was no reason for Wittman to rush Nene back into the starting lineup while risking the possibility of aggravating the injury.

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But, it’s been almost two weeks since Nene returned and Wittman has opted to keep Kris Humphries playing with the first unit and Nene off the bench.

The results have paid off for the Washington Wizards.

Since jumping into the starting role, Humphries has grabbed double-digit rebounds in five games. He’s also recorded 13 steals and nine blocks over that span. And in those 12 games, Humphries is shooting just under 42 percent from the floor.

Dec 12, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards forward Kris Humphries (43) dunks the ball as Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) looks on in the first quarter at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As for Nene, his numbers have been about the same as they were before his injury. He’s averaging nine points per game (one point less than his season average) and six rebounds, which is one more than his season average.

But the numbers aren’t the only reason why Nene needs to continue coming off the bench; he also presents a clear advantage for the Washington Wizards down low against other teams’ backups. It’s as simple as that.

You put a veteran starter who averages nearly 13 points, seven rebounds and one block a game – to go along with his physical toughness down low – against inferior players who might not match up with Nene’s size, and it’s a total mismatch for Washington.

Spacing is also a factor. Since Humphries has been inserted into the starting lineup, the Wizards efficiency has gotten better. Before Nene’s injury, John Wall had double-digit assists in seven games. Since the injury, Wall has double-digit assists in nine games. He’s getting more room to operate in the paint to drive-and-kick.

Gortat is also getting more room to operate down low. In the 12 games since Nene went down, the Polish Machine has 10 games in double-figures – averaging 14.5 points per game.

And again, none of this would be happening if Humphries hadn’t been holding his own with the starters.

Right now, the Washington Wizards are rolling on all cylinders. And one factor of that has been Nene coming off the bench.

As long as the Wizards keep winning and Nene is happy, there’s no reason for Wittman to mess with the starting lineup.

Embrace the moment, Lord Nene!

Next: Where Martell Webster Fits in the Wizards Rotation