The fear of committing a lucrative, long-term contract to JaVale McGee — when he did little to help them win games and provided more fodder with his blunders than blocked shots — prompted the Wizards to deal him to Denver at the trade deadline in exchange for Nene.
The Wizards felt that paying a proven, veteran commodity in Nene was a smarter investment than dedicating an eight-figure annual salary to a freakish athlete who remained unpolished and provided inconsistent production.
Denver, however, took the opposing viewpoint and rewarded the gifted but goofy center with the big money he started chasing last season in Washington.
McGee announced on Wednesday on Twitter that he re-signed with the Nuggets. He will reportedly receive $44 million over the next four years (slightly less than the $14 million annual salary McGee reportedly sought from the Wizards before getting moved in March). Nene, who turns 30 in September, is set to earn $52 million over the same time period.
Denver quickly soured on Nene after re-signing him last December and has now committed an average of $2 million less per year to a center who averaged 10.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks and started just five regular season games for the Nuggets.
The Nuggets were clearly pleased with what they saw out of McGee, who had two huge performances in their seven-game, first-round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Nuggets Coach George Karl routinely raved about his potential, comparing him to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar only a few days after he arrived.
The market for McGee was essentially set when DeAndre Jordan signed a four-year, $43 million deal with the Clippers last offseason. McGee and Jordan are also represented by the same agent, B.J. Armstrong.
This summer, size has been rewarded handsomely, with restricted free agents Brook Lopez and Roy Hibbert — two centers selected in McGee’s draft in 2008 — signing maximum extensions worth more than $60 million over four years.
McGee scored a big contract but the Nuggets figure to discourage him from overextending himself the way he did in Washington. With better talent surrounding McGee, Denver will be satisfied with his shot-blocking and lob dunks. Anything more would be gladly appreciated but not necessarily expected. More than anything, the Nuggets will just want him to be available every night, one of the problems they had with Nene.
Do the Wizards have any immediate regrets about surrendering a 7-foot-1, 24-year-old big man? Can’t say that they do — especially after resembling a competent NBA team and making dramatic improvements on both ends in McGee’s absence.
Nene has been credited for helping create a culture shift in Washington, but the McGee trade also created an opportunity for Kevin Seraphin to provide comparable production and better defensive awareness.
Both franchises feel good about the trade that they made three months ago. And since both Nene and McGee play the same position, comparing which franchise came out ahead will be easy to do over the next four years.