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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?