The Nuggets got their man this time.
Nine months after the departure of Carmelo Anthony, free agent big man Nene agreed to a five-year, $67 million deal with the Nuggets, sources close to the situation told SI.com.
The deal gives the Nuggets a significant piece of their new foundation with the hope of more to come. It capped an active day for general manager Masai Ujiri, who also acquired swingmen Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer from the Mavericks in exchange for a future second-round pick.
While Nene signed with Denver after being pursued by Indiana, Houston and New Jersey, the Nuggets continue to negotiate with restricted free agent Arron Afflalo and there are indications the fourth-year shooting guard is likely to return. If Afflalo (career-high 12.6 points per game last season on 49.8 percent shooting) does indeed return, the Nuggets would be well on their way to recovering from Anthony's exit to New York last February.
Nene's presence will help the Nuggets retain their feisty personality, even with the temporary loss of power forward Kenyon Martin, guard J.R. Smith and swingman Wilson Chandler (all free agents playing on no-opt out deals in China), as the the 6-foot-11, 250-pound Brazilian is among the league's most physical players in the post. He averaged 14.5 points and 7.6 rebounds last season, as Denver finished 50-32 in the regular season before falling in five games to Oklahoma City in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
Nene's decision is likely to have a ripple effect in Houston, where Rockets officials who came close to landing Lakers forward Pau Gasol last week in a proposed Chris Paul trade with New Orleans were still hoping to land Nene. Sources say they're likely to now turn their attention to free agent center Samuel Dalembert, whose options include returning to Sacramento.