Rebuilding with Jameer Nelson | Magic Basketball

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Nov 01

Rebuilding with Jameer Nelson

Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

I’ve been asked about a dozen times why the Magic made an offer to Jameer Nelson during what everyone considers “a rebuilding time.” My answer has simplified every time the question has been asked and now consists of just five words: because he is a leader. Okay, also because Orlando needs to sell tickets, but let’s look at leadership first.

The more you run those words through your mind, the more it makes sense. Jameer is the most tenured player on the roster, has been to the playoffs, has been to a Finals, quarterbacks the offense, etc. I could go on.

If you’re going to keep a few guys around while you build from the bottom up and take on packs of rookies, you have to have a guy who can lead by example, and you have to have smart and patient guys in those leadership positions. We’re talking about J.J. Redick, Hedo Turkoglu, and yes, Jameer Nelson, even if that meant signing him with money that perhaps could have been spent to further rebuild. Because otherwise what do you have? A bunch of rookies running around, making mistakes, and watching SportsCenter for guidance.

Think of it this way. Before Andrew Luck, if the Indianapolis Colts decided to take a middle linebacker for their first round pick in the draft and this was long before decided and agreed upon by owners and coaches, you might have still said that they were rebuilding. At that point, you have to ask yourself if you want a Peyton Manning who is like a 60 percent version of himself or a new, untested quarterback who has no grasp of the system in place in Indianapolis. Orlando was not in a position to go out and sign a young stud or higher-echelon point guard. So you have to sit back and say, “Yeah, Jameer looks pretty good right now, given our circumstances.”

So leadership is a huge part of this rebuilding process (if you are going to call it that). There’s no more Stan Van Gundy, for goodness sake, and with a rookie coach in place, it further emphasizes the need for proven veterans (player-coach) to be in leadership positions.

Make no mistake, Jameer Nelson is not the same player he was in 2009. I wrote about that last year when he came off a midseason injury. He turns the ball over more than he should, he’s a little slower, his jumpshot is worse, and he doesn’t have Dwight to feed in the post. But if that ball is not in his hands, you’re talking about a trial-by-fire situation with E’Twaun Moore at the helm and J.J. Redick trying to teach him how to run point. Either that or you’re looking at another rookie (or sophomore) trying to man up in a point guard role for a team that lacks character. At it’s best, you have the Washington Wizards last season. At it’s worst, well, I’d rather not go there. Nelson provides a safety net in one position, perhaps the most important position, on the floor.

Nelson was also a terrific guy to keep on because, in a way, Orlando was doing him a favor, which puts Nelson in debt to the organization. I would guess very few solid offers would have been floated Jameer’s way were he to have departed from Orlando. But in Orlando, at a time when the team is at the very start of “rebuilding,” or whatever you guys want to call it, Nelson is still important. In fact, he’s way more important than he could ever be in any other situation. That is crucial for a player. Orlando is basically getting max production (and max focus and swagger) from a guy who very well could be out of a starting job had he landed on another team.

Love it or hate it, the other thing Jameer gives Orlando is an attacking option, even if an average one. With a lack of slashing perimeter players, Nelson, at the very least, is a guy who knows how to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim at this level. It’s an invaluable discipline and one that has gone missing in Orlando for a while. If Nelson doesn’t get signed, Orlando gets stagnant on the perimeter.

The sprinkles on the sundae in this whole situation is the prospect that Nelson may have a good bit left in the tank or that this sudden shift to “most tenured on the squad” might boost his game to another level. We saw just a few seasons back (2009) a guy who could get to the rack at will, a guy who connected on a little more than half of his long two’s for the entire season, and a guy who could bury a triple from almost every point around the arc. While he appears to be a few steps behind where he was in that last Orlando run to the Finals, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see a pretty strong year from the vet, if for no other reason than the fact that he’ll be considered a much more valuable scoring and creating option than he was with Dwight sitting on the block.

Here’s the good news. Jameer is remarkably consistent. Outside of 2006 and his All-Star campaign in 2009, he has posted a Player Efficiency Rating between 14 and 16 (his career PER is 15.9). There is little evidence that suggests he’ll dip below that this season. Conversely, all the evidence points to him staying the course, at least from an individual standpoint.

I think Jameer will be fine and I think any fuss about him sticking around is for the birds. If anything, it’s a good thing for this “rebuilding” (if you’re going to call it that) season. And yes, Orlando will probably sell a few more tickets this year with him on the roster than without him. But that’s a different story altogether.

4 comments
Monkeygq
Monkeygq

Not sure where you get your facts from, but Jameer and Finals run don't really go together.... he was injured for more than half of that season and appeared/ ruined the final team chemistry... Worse decision in franchise history to bring jameer in to a finals situation after not touching the court for 4-5months....  Also in 2009 you can't say he made over 50% of his long range 2's for the entire season when he only played like 33 games that year...... Get your facts right!!!

As much as I have been a Jameer hater (he was the wrong PG for the type of system we were running under SVG... Skip to my Lou was the right type and proved it when everyone but him was avg. 15+pts a game cause he could actually pass the ball and find the open man)... However, I think he is a great fit for the type of team we have right now. Leader, solid pg (not great), mentor, not terrible contract etc etc.

erivera7
erivera7 moderator

@Monkeygq Three points:

1.) The Magic don't get to the Finals without Jameer spearheading a 33-8 start to the regular season. 

2.) Jameer shot 52 percent from 16-23 feet (long two's) in 42 games. 

3.) Jameer was the ideal fit for SVG's system because he was (and still is) a pick-and-roll point guard. 

natedrexler
natedrexler

@Monkeygq He played 42 games and shot over 50 percent from the field and over 45 percent from three. Do we also discount everyone's stats from last season too? He also has played in 44 playoff games and has a career 17.1 PER in playoff games. The point here is that he is a veteran with very strong post season experience.

CarloSimone
CarloSimone

I really think the folks that thought this was a bad move are crazy.  I think they're right on a whole bunch of other things, but keeping Jameer was very important for a whole host of reasons.  The Magic weren't going to upgrade at the position, Jameer offered tenure and leadership on a team that was sorely lacking either (even the coach) and he's a pretty decent player.  Not top tier by any means but he's solid.  The money we gave him really wasn't that crazy.  And three years isn't crazy either.  Basically the Magic will look to acquire his replacement soon and he'll transition into a mentor/backup role.  By the time that happens his contract will be up and we'll either keep him for very little or let him go.