At 6-14 coming out of the weekend, the Orlando Magic are a team going nowhere fast. The team has a resurgent Arron Afflalo and a couple of nice young pieces in rookie Victor Oladipo and 23-year old center Nikola Vucevic, but not much else right now. There’s some talent on the roster, but Orlando is likely a good two years away from having a chance to do any real damage in the Eastern Conference.
With that in mind, it almost makes too much sense for veteran point guard Jameer Nelson to be dealt.
At 31, Nelson is one of the elder statesmen on the roster. He’s actually the oldest player on the roster to suit up in a game this season and forward Jason Maxiell is the only other player over the age of 30. The Magic are clearly in the midst of a rebuilding movement and so far out of contention, there’s really not much point in hanging onto Nelson.
There have been Nelson rumors all season long, and even Nelson himself knows it could be more than just talk:
“If they tell me they’re going to trade me, what can I do?” he said. “My job is to play, no matter where it is. I would love to continue to play here in Orlando and finish my career here, and see this thing turned around. That’s not up to me. My job is to play.”
ESPN’s Marc Stein has one of the most recent looks at the situation. In a nutshell, he says that word has it that the Magic will take a first-round draft pick for him.
Well, sure they would.
Nelson is a nice little player and can even be considered an above average point guard. This season, he’s averaging 11.9 points per game and his 6.2 assists per conference are good for seventh in the Eastern Conference. Further, Nelson has proven himself to be a reliable point guard for many years in the NBA and at 31, still could have many more good seasons left. Still, a first-round pick? That seems a bit stiff for a player of Nelson’s caliber.
Another factor is that teams have to consider his injury history. Nelson has only played in at least 70 games in three of his nine NBA seasons and always seems to miss several contests. He’s already missed a few games due to a sprained foot this year and there have to be at least minor concerns about his health – especially as he’s now on the other side of 30.
Back to the first-round pick talk, though. The only teams that may be willing to part with such a pick would be ones that expect their picks to be late first-round selections. Those teams are contenders, but a closer look reveals that most of the best teams wouldn’t really need Nelson unless it would be as a backup.
The Atlanta Hawks (Jeff Teague), Portland Trailblazers (Damian Lillard), San Antonio Spurs (Tony Parker), Oklahoma City Thunder (Russell Westbrook), Los Angeles Clippers (Chris Paul), Denver Nuggets (Ty Lawson), Golden State Warriors (Steph Curry), and to a lesser degree, the Houston Rockets (Jeremy Lin) are all settled at point guard. Teams like the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers could use a player like Nelson, but he wouldn’t be a considerable upgrade over their current starters, Mario Chalmers and George Hill respectively. Ditto for the Dallas Mavericks with Jose Calderon. Those teams desiring Nelson to challenge their current starters wouldn’t be a huge surprise but the upgrade may be so minute that it’s not worth trading away a top pick for him.
Nelson is a good player, but not a great one. I’m not convinced he does any one thing spectacularly well and first-round picks are kind of hard to come by. Throw in the fact that Nelson’s shooting efficiency has dropped significantly this year (he’s making fewer than 40% of his shots so far this season) and my guess is that the Magic will have a hard time landing one of those in return if that’s truly their asking price.