Over the past several games since returning from an achilles injury, Randy Wittman has decided to play Nene off the bench due to his limited minutes. Nene has missed games with injuries in the past, but the Wizards seemed to insert him back in the starting lineup as soon as he was available to play. This time, they seem a lot more cautious with his minutes and have opted to start Trevor Booker instead.
Washington has won three straight games, all of them on the road, and Nene hasn’t started in any of them. Trevor Booker has done a terrific job playing within himself, and he’s earned a legitimate rotation spot as a result. Prior to Booker’s emergence, their were questions about whether Kevin Seraphin or Jan Vesely should get the nod to start, but it seems like the Wizards finally found a big they could rely on in Booker. He’s averaged about 10 points and 8 rebounds in the past-5 games, and if he continues to play this well the in the final year of his contract, the Wizards will certainly consider bringing him back this summer.
Now that Booker is starting (at least for now), Washington’s bench has been nearly as atrocious as it was without Nene playing with the reserves. Nene has given the bench a go-to option once the offense becomes inevitably stagnant, and it’s worked thus far. Nene has played 23 minutes in both games since returning, but he’s managed to averaged 15 points which is virtually the same amount of points he’s averaged when starting. Players like Martell Webster and Otto Porter have played off Nene without having to initiate their own offense like they did before. Nene is someone the bench could play through until the starters come back into the game, but Wittman has certainly made sure that the Brazilian big man finishes games with the starters.
It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s worked out so far for the Wizards. Nene is Washington’s second most important player on the team and keeping him healthy is key for the Wizards. He’s gone out of his way to complain amount the minutes he’s logged in the past, but I don’t think the Wizards need Nene to play 35+ minutes to have an effect on the team. His presence on the team has taken pressure off both John Wall and Bradley Beal and the Wizards are starting to pick up wins that they wouldn’t have prior to Nene’s return.
Every team needs a reliable player off the bench that will keep the team afloat before the starters check back into the game, and Nene seems to enjoy that role until he’s completely healthy.