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If there’s one player for the Orlando Magic that could have a major impact on the season this year, aside from Dwight Howard, it’s fellow captain Jameer Nelson.
In the 2010 NBA Playoffs, there was no question that Nelson was the second-best player for the Magic. To some, that was a surprise.
Entering the first round against the Charlotte Bobcats, there were a few writers that thought Nelson’s matchup with Raymond Felton would be nothing more than a toss-up. To be honest? It’s hard to blame those people when comparing the regular season numbers of Nelson and Felton. Yet four games later, nearly everyone was forced to pick up Felton’s remains after Nelson torched him.
It was more of the same against Mike Bibby in Orlando’s series against the Atlanta Hawks. At this stage in his career, Bibby is known as a defensive sieve and Nelson made sure to remind those that forgot. If it wasn’t for the fact that nearly every player for the Magic played well, Nelson could have done the same damage to Bibby as he did to Felton in the previous matchup.
As for Rajon Rondo, many suggested that he dominated against Nelson for the Boston Celtics but that wasn’t the case. Did Rondo best Nelson in the series? In some aspects, yes, but ‘dominated’ seems too strong of a word since Rondo could do little to stop Nelson on his warpath in Games 4 and 5. But that’s neither here nor there. As they say, history is the propaganda of the victors.
At the very least, Nelson proved that he could play at an All-Star caliber level with consistency in the postseason for Orlando, as well as hold his own against — arguably — the best defensive point guard in the NBA. The cruel irony is that Nelson’s performance in the playoffs further twisted the knife in the hearts of Magic fans, many of which are convinced he could have been the difference maker in the 2009 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers if he was healthy.
It’s another ‘what if’ scenario that could be explored in the future at some point.
All in all, this is an important year for Nelson because he’s going to have to play like an All-Star if the Magic want to overtake the Celtics and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.
That much is clear.
Can Nelson play at that level this year?
To be determined.
The key is that Nelson has to be healthy, or this entire conversation is a moot point.
|2009 regular season||42||20.6||.612||.580||32.1||12.6||23.2||121|
Nelson had an inconsistent season last year, mainly due to the fact he was dealing with a knee injury that slowed him down a bit. It wasn’t until after the All-Star break, in which Nelson was able to get healthy and closer to 100 percent, that Nelson played more like the All-Star that he was in 2009. The explosiveness and aggressiveness, two keys to Nelson’s game offensively, returned and he became more comfortable with Vince Carter in the backcourt.
It’s been brought up before, but there’s no reason why Nelson can’t fully return to his All-Star form this season. Given his vital importance to Orlando’s success, as well as taking into account his gifted abilities on offense, Nelson deserves to be the second option after Howard but that’s up to head coach Stan Van Gundy.
Nelson’s ability to run the 1/5 pick and roll with Howard makes him a dangerous player, especially when he’s looking for his shot (something he doesn’t do enough sometimes). That makes it difficult for defenders because when they’re forced to guess where to commit themselves on the court, either against Nelson or Howard, one or both of them could have a field day on offense.
Nelson is not a prototypical point guard and he catches a lot of flack for that, even when he’s playing well, but fans need to realize that he is the perfect point guard for the Magic because of his ability to score the basketball — hence why he shoots a lot like a shooting guard. In Orlando’s 4-out/1-in scheme, the lead guard needs to be a threat offensively. A weapon that can be used.
Nelson can distribute the ball to his teammates if need be, but his primary task should be to put up points on the scoreboard. And usually it is. This has been stated many times but when Nelson goes, so go the Magic. Nelson, and everyone around him, is at his best when he is aggressive and looking to attack. When Nelson is doing that consistently, it makes Orlando a tough team to beat.
It’s no coincidence, despite Rashard Lewis‘ struggles and Carter’s disappearances, that the Magic were able to defeat the Celtics in Games 4 and 5. Nelson’s aggressive ways on offense had a large part to do with those wins.
If Orlando wants to entertain ideas of returning to the Finals, Nelson needs to be the second-best player on the team. Lewis could be that guy, but Nelson is inherently more important to the Magic because the ball is always in his hands. Lewis can create shots for himself but not to the degree that Nelson can, thus his potential impact is lessened. As for Carter, he’s 33 and not the same player he once was. That doesn’t mean Carter isn’t talented because he is, though it would be a mistake to rely on him a ton. It has nothing to do with Carter’s exploits in the postseason or lack thereof. It’s just that Nelson, aside from Howard, dictates a lot of Orlando’s success and failure.
Nelson has a tattoo on his back that says ‘All Eyes on Me.’
It seems appropriate enough, don’t you think?