[Note: I recent wrote a JaVale McGee scouting report of sorts for the ESPN TrueHoop Network blog Roundball Mining Company, check it out. In turn, Jeremy Wagner (@RoundballMiner) provides the readers of TAI with the below scouting report on Nene, who is set to make his debut against the New Jersey Nets tonight. Enjoy Jeremy's writing, contemplate Nene's presence. Oh yea... the picture of Nene below. It was tweeted by the official @WashWizards Twitter account with the message: "Nene and the
#Wizards on their way to New Jersey. Nene expected to make his #Wizards debut in tmrw nights #WizNets game." -- I find this picture to be so fascinating, yet I can't explain why without sounding ominous. Carry on...]
Nene: The Scouting Report
by Jeremy Wagner, Roundball Mining Company
Maybyner “Nene” Hilario is a very difficult player to assess. He is quick, but not explosive, big, but not physical. He has a good feel for the game, but relies on that feel far too much. He is an All-Star talent without that certain extra something that transforms good into great.
For a big man, there is very little that Nene cannot do on the court although the two areas in which he has the greatest shortcomings are the most in demand for players of Nene’s ilk. Nene has never been a good rebounder, nor does he block shots. The lack of shot blocking is understandable due to his lack of explosiveness, plus he makes up for it with his ability to notch steals.
The rebounding is a problem. Nene boxes out and does OK working for rebounds, but if the ball does not come directly to him, he is not going to get it. Perhaps it is his lack of explosiveness, maybe we should make a drinking game on every time I mention that, but he is not capable of rebounding outside his area. Part of the reason why the Nuggets have struggled so badly in the postseason is they have consistently failed to control the defensive glass and Nene deserves a good chunk of the blame for it.
Nuggets fans have debated whether he is a power forward or a center and many longed for him to be able to slide over to the four and have a big body next to him. Timofey Mozgov filled that role this season, but it did not make much of a difference in Nene’s effectiveness. I have always believed he is a center and it would take a pretty good center to be on the court in crunch time in order for Nene to slide over to the four. He has also struggled to defend quicker fours on the perimeter a little, most notably a recent matchup with Josh Smith, but part of that could be an issue of nagging injuries and conditioning.
Nene has a very diverse and impressive range of skills. He has a tremendous arsenal of moves to score in the post, most of which is due to his quickness advantage over most other centers. He utilizes an array of spin moves and pump fakes in order to get his shot off. He does appear to make up his mind what he is doing and try to force that move on a defender rather than read the body position of whoever is guarding him. Frequently you see him having a great opportunity to spin away from the defense only for him to continue to barrel into whoever is guarding him completely unaware of the advantage his initial move created.
When it comes to finishing, he is adept with both hands, but tends to avoid contact and shoot underhand flip shots around or underneath his defender. The result is a sideways spin that causes many of his attempts from point blank range to spin off the rim. Although his soft hands and tremendous feel and touch still allow him to shoot a high percentage, it sure seems if he would be more forceful, he would be even better.
When facing longer defenders, Nene becomes somewhat timid as if he believes getting you shot blocked is akin to watching another man sleep with his wife. He rarely attempts a shot when it appears it could be rejected. He was at his worst against Yao Ming, but obviously that is not a concern anymore. He has learned to be more aggressive around Dwight Howard although that is certainly not a great matchup for him.
Nene is also an exceptional passer for a big man. He has very good instincts and timing allowing him to surprise defenses with unexpected drop passes to cutting teammates. He can also handle the ball well whether it is leading the break, which he attempts to do from time to time, or driving to the rim. Again we see a bit of a dichotomy as despite his skills, he suffers from a high turnover rate. Many of his turnovers are unforced as he will lose control of the ball as he attacks the rim. I am not talking about someone tipping it away, sometimes the ball just flies away from him as if both he and it were the same poles of opposing magnets.
Nene’s biggest shortcoming on offense is his lack of aggression. Even when he has a favorable matchup, he does not take charge of the post and demand the ball. He can be fronted rather easily as he meekly attempts to seal his man in the hope that the offense will swing the ball to the top of the key and dump the ball into him, which never happened in Denver.
The most surprising stat that sums up his career is he has never surpassed the 30 point mark. In fact, he rarely even gets into the mid 20’s. Some Nuggets fans have blamed his teammates and George Karl for not ensuring he gets the ball more often. The reality is it comes down to his unselfish nature. Maybe he is just trying to be a good teammates, but it comes across as a lack of determination to own the block.
On the pick and roll, he can be effective. He is in the habit of slipping nearly every screen anymore which for some reason is a primary tactic in the Nuggets offense. He is very capable of setting solid screens and has the quickness to spin and move towards the rim before the defense can catch up. Believe it or not, Nene and J.R. Smith were an unstoppable pick and roll combination. I would have John Wall watch film of the two of them.
Defensively, Nene is a very capable pick and roll defender. As previously mentioned, he has good quickness and is able to keep most guards in front of him, or at least force them to the sideline. In his younger days he would pick point guards trying to run a high pick and roll clean and be at half court before they ever realized what happened. This season it seemed his pick and roll defense did not have the same enthusiasm it had in the past. He is an adequate post defender, but as with his pick and roll defense, he has declined a bit in that category as well. He used to begin fighting for position when his man hit the free throw line, now he is more content to allow him to get to the box before leaning on him.
As far as intangibles, Nene has not played for a non-playoff team since his rookie season. He has always been a professional showing up and working hard every day. I assume that will continue with the Wizards, but he surely is shocked about finding himself the “veteran leader” of a lottery team.
Leadership has never been a strong suit of his, at least on the court. It will be interesting to see whether or not Nene attempts to claim the mantle of leadership. I do not think he has ever felt like he is the best player on his team. With apologies to John Wall, in Washington he might be and that could free him to explore a new role.
Mentally Nene is solid. He will get down on himself from time to time, but he is resilient. The once concern is when he is not getting calls he can become more focused on the referees than on the game. I forget who it was who tweeted this, but it was said when Nene thinks the ref missed a call he treats it like a personal affront.
There are no concerns regarding Nene’s character. He has never had any issues off the court. He has a huge smile and seems to be very likeable. I see no reason why he would not be embraced by Wizards fans.
The biggest question surrounding Nene is his history of injuries. I have argued in the past that Nene is more a victim of bad luck than being truly injury prone. The incidents that caused him to miss the most time over his career have been somewhat random. He missed significant time in his third season due to fracturing his thumb after getting it caught in a jersey. The next season he blew out his ACL on opening night. Two years later it was testicular cancer that claimed a large chunk of the season. Testicular cancer? For a guy in his mid 20’s? Come on! That is not being injury prone, it is a random life event. In the three full seasons following winning his battle with cancer Nene missed a combined total of 12 games.
This season has been slightly different. He has already missed 15 games due to some minor ailments. A bruised heel sidelined him earlier in the season followed by a tweaked calf muscle. Neither injury was serious and in a normal season he would not have missed so many games.
So why did Denver trade him especially given the fact they do not have any player on the roster who can duplicate his talents? Nene’s play certainly dropped off this season and GM Masai Ujiri may have felt the need to avoid falling into a situation where his contract was untradeable. Teams will certainly be avoiding bad contracts at all costs and if there was a contract in Denver most likely to become an albatross it is Nene’s.
The million dollar question is whether or not Nene’s struggles this season are due to the demands of the schedule and some minor nagging injuries. If that is all it is, Wizards fans can expect to see Nene return to form and provide an incredibly efficient presence in the paint for the foreseeable future. If his drop off is due to a physical decline, the Wizards are going to regret this trade.
The bottom line is Nene has many gifts and it is certainly possible by going to Washington he will be forced to completely develop his skillset in a way he never had to in Denver. I for one would love to see him finally fulfill his All-Star potential.
Just like in Denver with McGee, do not judge Nene by what he does over the next few weeks. You can count on him coming into next season rested, healthy and in shape. At that point, you will see everything that Nene is capable of.