In today’s NBA, it’s rare you find a player who spends his whole career with one franchise. Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, and Dwyane Wade are just a few names that stick out. Jameer Nelson is one of those players who tends to go under the radar in this category. After being selected 20th overall out of St. Joseph’s in the 2004 NBA Draft, Nelson would go on to play the next 10 years with the franchise. A consistent, quality point guard, Jameer was selected to the 2009 Eastern Conference All-Star squad.
While Nelson has been an invaluable player for Orlando during this stretch, it may be time for a change. There’s no getting around the fact that Orlando is in the midst of a rebuilding period, and younger players are a hot commodity. Nelson, 32, is starting to look more and more like a veteran player that could be used better on a contending, “win now” squad. Plus, he shot only .394 from the field this season. Of course, the Magic as a whole were dismal offensively, but Nelson’s efficiency did not stand out.
Now, as far as when the Magic can cut ties with Nelson, his contract is up after next season. In theory, they could roll with Nelson for another year (assuming they wont be contending regardless of his presence or not) and let him walk come this time next year. Or, they could elect to deal him to a team this summer. On paper, Nelson would make a quality backup or even starting guard on a contending team, averaging 12.1 points, 7.0 assists, and 3.4 rebounds in 32.0 minutes of play last season. What could hold up the trade is the fact that Nelson is due $8.4 million dollars next season, a steep price for a 32-year old guard. Maybe a team could overlook that fact, given that the contract expires at the end of the year, but it could bring down his overall trade value. All this being said, a second-round pick, and a rotation big man from a contending team is an offer that Orlando could have some serious interest.
Whether they trade Nelson now or not, what could the Magic start to do now to replace him? The easiest answer is to look towards the 2014 NBA Draft. The Magic are in position to land the #3 overall pick (this could change post-lottery of course) so going after one of the top guards in this draft could be a smart move. As far as their options, they could go with Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, or the Australian phenom Dante Exum. Both players are incredibly talented, and have the serious potential to be franchise cornerstones.
If Orlando was to take one, they could sit behind Nelson for a year. Valuable bench minutes would be key for both players, especially Exum who’s NBA readiness is still slightly unknown. Once Nelson walks, one of Exum or Smart could take the reigns. Smart seems like the typical modern NBA point guard. Athletic, high-volume scorer, and a talented rebounder and passer. He’s the type of player that could flawlessly move into Orlando’s system and create one of the most fearsome young guard duos in league.
It’s still unclear what Orlando’s plans are for the ten-year veteran, but they have a handful of moves they could make to let the veteran walk, and grab a young star in the system.
Shawn McFarland covers the Orlando Magic for HoopsHabit.com