Jameer Nelson came into the league eight seasons ago along with Dwight Howard, a coup the Magic pulled on Draft night, after making a trade in the middle of the first round with the Denver Nuggets. It signaled the beginning of a new era for the Magic, but save a failed appearance in the Finals in 2009, it has been one marked by mediocrity, as I have never felt Nelson had what it takes to be a starting caliber NBA point guard.
Detractors to this statement will cite Nelson’s stellar performance in the beginning of the 2008-09 season, when Nelson averaged 16.7 points per game and 5.4 assists per game while shooting a blistering 50% from the floor and 45% from three. If Nelson continually were that type of player, this re-signing would make sense, but he’s not. It was a fluke and since Nelson has been nowhere near that level of player for a Magic team on the brink of irrelevance. With Dwight Howard likely on the way out, how does re-signing a 29 year old Nelson make any sense?
The Magic were unable to snag desired target Kendall Marshall in the Draft and finding a young and capable replacement won’t be easy. Good starting level NBA point guards can be snagged in the middle of the first round (where the Magic will likely be selecting for the next few seasons), but it takes luck to get the right one, and the Magic spent their first round pick on another forward, Andrew Nicholson of St. Bonaventure, which did nothing to address their problems at the point guard position.
It’s not even as though the Magic have any promising backups. With Chris Duhon and Ish Smith coming off the bench last year, the Magic went from bad to worse when Nelson exited games.
So why re-sign Nelson? Is it commitment to Nelson or is it a move to appease Dwight Howard?
At this point, I’d be hard pressed to say it’s not both. The Magic have a history of committing to players long past their primes, and while Nelson is still in his, it won’t last much longer. At his best, he is capable of scoring in bunches and nearly taking over games, but it just doesn’t happen often enough. After Howard departs and the Magic make their descent to being a .500 team, having a mediocre point guard might suit them just fine.