The Washington Wizards will be without Nene for four-to-six weeks after the big man suffered a sprained MCL, per reports from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The good news is that it’s not a torn MCL as the Wizards feared it might be, but the injury could not come at a worse time for the Wizards.
At 28-28, the Wizards currently sit in the five-seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference and have looked like a team ready to make a run in the final two months of the regular season. With the addition of Andre Miller at the Trade Deadline, Washington had put themselves in position to possibly climb up the standings and position themselves well for the postseason.
Without Nene, though, that’s going to be a much taller task than they expected. In 49 games this season, the veteran big man has averaged a solid 14.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, three assists, 1.2 steals and 0.9 blocks in 30.1 minutes per game. While his 14.2 points per game can theoretically be replaced with guys like Al Harrington and Trevor Booker likely seeing more time, it’s the loss of Nene on the defensive end that could take a toll on the Wizards.
One of the biggest forces behind Washington’s success this season has been their defense. The Wizards have ranked as the ninth best team in the league in terms of defensive efficiency this season, giving up just 102 points per 100 possessions. Nene has been a big part of that, evidenced by the fact that Washington is six points worse per 100 possessions when Nene is off the floor, per 82games.com.
Nene’s defensive effort is key to the Wizards’ success on that end of the floor. Not only is a he a big body in the middle that helps deter opponents from getting to the rim, but he’s also solid in terms of his spacing on the defensive end of the floor and his quickness for a big man.
The Wizards still clearly have the talent to make a run over the remaining weeks of the season, but the Nene injury also clearly has the potential to derail them a bit. We’ll see what they can come up with to keep their defense playing well without the big man on the floor and if they can maintain their positioning in the conference until he returns.