Nene is a nice player. Last season he averaged near career highs of 14.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game for the Denver Nuggets. His PER was a career high 20.4, right in the Al Horford range and fifth among centers. That season made him quite the sought-after commodity. In fact, the New Jersey Nets reportedly offered Nene a four-year deal in the $70 million range.
But Nene chose to pass up an average salary of $17.5 million and accept Denver’s five-year, $67 million offer… or an average salary of $13.4 million per year.
Why would Nene pass up $4 million a year? Well, either the reporting was way off on the Nets offer, or Nene never really wanted to leave Denver. Let’s face it, he may be smart enough to know that system suits him better than others would. There’s also an issue of what was guaranteed versus what’s not. A guy with multiple knee injuries on his resume wants to be sure he’s set for a while.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets also added Corey Brewer and Rudy Fernandez from the Dallas Mavericks to the mix for a future second rounder. And if you are confused by that last sentence, it’s probably because I misspelled “salary dump,” especially when you consider Rudy Fernandez is actually going to play. Suddenly, the Nuggets, who watched three free agents run off to play in China, have a team again. And that team is anchored by the return of their big man.
And I’ll commend Dallas and Nene for actually coming up with what is, especially in this market, a fairly reasonable contract for a big man. You’ve got to figure that if Kwame Brown is getting $7 million, Nene is worth at LEAST twice that. Considering what it seemed like Nene could get on the open market, the Nuggets benefited from a nice hometown discount.
That doesn’t happen often in the NBA, and it won’t happen much more often after this lockout and the rules changing in a couple of years. So enjoy this moment of sanity while it exists. It won’t last long.