Orlando is at the start of a very distinct era, one headlined by the "core four" and the absence of a certain big man (hint: he currently resides in Houston). Rob Hennigan has done an impeccable job making the transition from the Dwight era, and Jameer Nelson has helped bridge the gap. While Magic fans were still learning about Nikola Vucevic and Maurice Harkless, Jameer Nelson was there as a fan favorite to keep interest in the team. To reward him for his service, Hennigan gave the 20th pick in 2004 draft a three year, $25 million contract last summer.
In his first season under coach Jacque Vaughn, Nelson was plagued with injuries early and often, putting a damper on a year where he was supposed to be the face of the franchise. In just 56 games, the Mighty Mouse averaged 14.7 points and 7.4 assists, showing that even at 31, he can still hold his own with the youngsters. (It's worth noting that although his points and assist numbers increased, it was a result of increased playing time, not increased efficiency. His per 36 minute numbers were on track with those of previous seasons.) His vision and quickness allow him to threaten opposing defenses, and once he penetrates into the lane, watch out. The painted area is where Nelson does his best work, both scoring the ball and kicking it out to an open shooter.
What Should He Have Worked On This Summer?
As he enters his tenth season in the league, Nelson's best days are behind him. Gone is 2009, when Nelson had an all-star season shortened by a devastating injury. Now, Nelson is on a young team whose primary objective is player development, not winning games. But winning may be in Orlando's future, and if Nelson wants to stick around to complete the rebuild, he needs to add a reliable three pointer to his arsenal.
He isn't a bad three point shooter by any stretch, and he shot a respectable 34% from three last season -- at an inordinate 6.3 attempts per game. As his number of attempts decrease, the quality of his shots will increase, and Nelson will shoot at a higher percentage from deep. But to make himself attractive to both the Magic and the rest of the league as his career winds down, Nelson needs to become a marksman from downtown.
Jameer's shot chart shows that the veteran takes almost all of his threes from the top of key, attempting a paltry 30 shots from the corner in last year's three-happy campaign. However, Nelson was effective when taking those juicy corner threes, shooting 43% on such shots. As he passes the ball-handling duties to youngsters like Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris, Nelson can migrate over to the corners and add a dimension to his game that is coveted throughout the league. He will continue to lose the first step that made him so attractive when he first entered the Association, and a commitment to three pointer will help him compensate and change his game.
What's His Future in Orlando?
As Jameer grows older, and the Magic pick up more players in their early twenties, Nelson's future becomes murkier with the organization. His primary role on the team is obviously one of a veteran presence, and while he is needed, the $8 million price tag that comes with the Mighty Mouse isn't easy to swallow. Luckily, Nelson's third and final season of his contract seems to be only partially guaranteed, making it a theoretical expiring contract this season, if the Magic are intent on moving him.
But there is no evidence to suggest that they want to trade Nelson. In fact, Orlando Magic Stuff has learned that CEO Alex Martins gave Rob Hennigan the power to trade any player at last season's deadline -- except for Nelson. The logic is pretty simple to follow, as Nelson has been a mainstay with the organization for the past ten years. Trading one of the fan favorites -- a player who is much more valuable to the Magic than any other team -- is counterproductive.
So while it seems that Nelson will be a member of the Magic for the remainder of his contract, will he resign and finish his career in Orlando, even if it's in a backup role? I'm inclined to say yes, but that may be wishful thinking. Nelson seems destined to be the backup point guard for a contending Orlando team, bringing a veteran presence off the bench and making at least two key shots in the playoffs to propel Orlando's future contender to a championship. However, it's also possible that Rob Hennigan will make the decision to move on from Jameer, giving him only a few more years in pinstripes.
If Nelson does finish his career with the Magic, one can't help but wonder if it will lead Orlando to hang his #14 up in the rafters. Nelson has never been a fantastic player in the league -- he's only been an all star once -- but if he is a lifelong Magician, I think that might be enough for him to become Orlando's inaugural retiree.
All of these things factor into Nelson's very fluid future. It will be interesting to see how Nelson's career winds down, whether in Orlando or elsewhere.
Does He Have A Strong Social Media Presence?
No. But at least he acknowledges that social media exists, unlike some Magic players. (see: Vucevic, Nikola). Jameer uses Twitter and Instagram sporadically, providing fans with a glimpse into his personal life. He tweeted continuously about this years US Open (the golf version), as it took place in his hometown Philadelphia, but other than that, there isn't really anything to note about Nelson on social media. Like most players in their thirties, he came into the league before social media took over society, and therefore doesn't spend the time on it that some of Orlando's youngsters do. Regardless, I recommend that you give Nelson a follow.
Jameer Nelson will not lose his starting job all season. Victor Oladipo has played fantastic this preseason, save for his shooting performance against the Houston Rockets. And Oladipo's primary position has been point guard, leading to some speculation that he will overtake Nelson as the team's starter early in the year. However, I think Nelson will play well enough that Coach Jacque Vaughn will leave him in the starting lineup all year, even if Oladipo ends up playing more minutes than him. Nelson is still one of the faces of the franchise, and he will be treated like one. I also expect Jameer to become more proficient from behind the arc, and to continue to build some solid pick and roll rapport with Nik Vucevic. Even if this season marks the end of his time as Orlando's starting point guard, I don't expect the changing of the (point) guard to happen until next offseason.
By: Scott Fisher
Read the rest of our 2013-14 Orlando Magic Player Previews here.