FISH: From the start of this weekend story, the right chord wasn't being struck with me. Nene, upset over the distractions the organization has allowed to sidetrack the Nuggets, now wants out of Denver? Since when did Nene not love Denver? Since when was Denver truly distracted?
Yes, the Nuggets deal with the Carmelo Anthony zaniness, the J.R. Smith instability, coach George Karl's health issues, the transferring of the ownership from father to son, the dismissal of the Executive of the Year in favor of a rookie GM … and it's all "distracting'' that the Nuggets enter the week with a 25-18 record that puts them just three games behind Dallas in the West.
Here are the facts: Nene, the native of Brazil who by all accounts has adopted Denver as a beloved second home, has an opt-out clause (an ETO, or Early Termination Option) in his contract for next season. But he seems highly unlikely to choose to forfeit the $11.6 million he is due next season.
Yet down the pike comes a story from CBSSportsline saying that Nene has a "list'' of three teams to which he'd like to be dealt, the Heat the only one specifically mentioned in that piece. Then comes Marc Stein's ESPN tweet that mentioned the Dallas Mavericks as a second team.
"We're on somebody's list? Exciting!'' one Mavs staffer told me in mock-glee.
Steiny-Mo's credibility is beyond question. It is strange, though, that the details of a "list'' would trickle out incompletely like this. If this was coming from the player or the agent, why wouldn't they mention all three teams?
Also strange: I ran this "Dallas-on-the-wish-list'' by two trusted sources who would figure to be close to the situation.
Both of them were familiar with it only because they'd read the media reports. Previous to that, they knew of no such list. That isn't a measure of Dallas' interest in such a thing, which would be great. But it is a measure, I think, of how fanciful it all is at this point.
So where did this come from? Or, maybe more accurately asked than "where'': Why?
I think Nene's unhappiness is relative. He is, after all, playing at a terrific level, experiencing his best NBA season ever at 15 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He leads the NBA in field-goal percentage. He has a chance to be an All-Star center.
I believe this is a push, from the Nene camp, not to orchestrate his escape from Denver but rather to encourage the Nuggets clean up their assortment of messes and get to the business of winning – with or without Anthony, but WITH Nene.
If the problems are not corrected? We've got ourselves a story, and I've even gone so far as to ask an NBA talent expert how Nene, a powerfully-built center, might fit in a Dallas uniform. Doesn't Dallas already have a center in Tyson Chandler? Is finding upfront help that much of a priority?
"He's a unique body,'' my NBA talent guy says. "(The Mavs) could play him at the 4 and the 5. They could play him next to Tyson Chandler some times. He'd be a big upgrade over what (they) have, he'd be a big complement to Chandler and Dirk. Nene would change (Dallas) in so many good ways, mostly because I think he'd be more than just a center.''
So I pass the baton to DB.com's number-crunching genius, Kammrath. Can Nene succeed at the 4?
KAMMRATH: The answer to that question this year? Well, in 2010-11, Nene has played zero time at the 4.
But he's playing so well, that we can assume that he'd succeed in any role and with any team – obviously, including Dallas.
There is, however, a track record of Nene at the four, so Fish's NBA team scout is absolutely right.
Last year, 2009-2010, the Nuggets' second-most-played unit (at 215 minutes) was Billups, Afflalo, Anthony, Nene (at the 4), and Petro. This was a very productive unit, outscoring their opponents by +5.09 and having an adjusted plus/minus of +3.67.
In 09-10, Nene played about 9 percent of his time at the 4 and the team outscored its opponents by +4.8 during those stretches. He was a better offensive player as a 5 (because he is a matchup nightmare there and therefore put up a better PER) but his team was better defensively when he was at the 4.
I don't know if this is more than somebody's fantasy. But if it's a possible reality, Nene would be a phenomenal grab for the Mavs.
He is putting up great numbers this year from the 5, having easily the best adjusted plus/minus on his team with +10.56 and a great unadjusted plus/minus of +7.45. His defensive plus/minus is +0.27 while his offensive plus/minus is about +7.18. When Nene plays, the Nuggets also grab +3.9 percent more defensive rebounds. He has been healthy the last three years after a very hard start to his career. He is only 28 and has put up PER numbers of 18.8, 18.9, and 21.1 the last three years.
Nene could easily play next to Chandler at the 4 or next to Dirk at the 5.
D-LORD: Allow me to scattershoot some thoughts here:
*I disagree with Fish about the "fantasy'' of this. Stein mentioned Nene and the Mavs in the same breath about a week ago when he wrote of Dallas' unwillingness to take on Al Harrington as the fourth team in a ‘Melo deal. What he said then is that the only way Dallas would take Harrington is if the Mavs "were also getting Melo for a rest-of-the-season rental … or at least rugged Nuggets center Nene.''
So it's on somebody's mind.
*If I'm the Mavs approaching Denver about ‘Melo, and he is still insisting he won't sign an extension, I'm throwing that "kitchen sink'' at them – and asking that Nene be part of the deal, too, so I'm left with a piece that does end up staying here. That's one way to get Nene – as part of a gigantic ‘Melo deal.
*There are countless other ways to do it, too. With Denver wanting cap reduction, it's quite doable to make them tax free if you want to. But the Mavs also should expect/demand a really strong return for doing so.
If you took Harrington's nasty deal AND gave Denver no tax this year AND sent them kids and picks for them to rebuild with, could you get Nene (a keeper for sure) plus a ‘Melo Rent-and-Hope that you are only going to have for two months?
That's the blockbuster I give up everything for. Not Tyson Chandler, but everything else. And if I'm Dallas, I think I can find the deal in multiple ways if I know Denver might eventually say "yes.''
*One more tidbit as I keep my eye on the prize: Let's say Houston is on Nene's wish list. They need a center more than Dallas does, which means they Rockets might be more likely to offer their version of "the kitchen sink" for a permanent Nene than a temporary Melo.
So … If Houston is the competition, and you are Dallas … and you see Houston throwing everything at Nene … doesn't that leave you with almost no one else left standing beside you in the ‘Melo sweepstakes?
I'd like to have Nene. But ‘Melo's worth even more. If I have a chance at both, I still want to land ‘Melo.