The Orlando Magic Must Keep Jameer Nelson


Dec 29, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic point guard

Jameer Nelson

(14) and Orlando Magic head coach

Jacque Vaughn

talk during a timeout in the first half as the Atlanta Hawks face the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

As the NBA offseason draws nearer, the Orlando Magic have a big decision to make regarding Jameer Nelson.

The question at hand is simple: Do they keep him or cut him?

The answer in my mind is also simple — they should keep him.

Nelson’s $8 million contract for 2014-15 is non-guaranteed. However, if he isn’t waived by July 15 then his contract becomes partially guaranteed at $2 million.

Basically, if the Magic don’t want Nelson, they can cut him before July 15 and won’t have to pay him a penny.

However, the Magic need Nelson.

He’s the team’s leader, he’s their captain, he’s the guy the young players look up to, he’s been the one constant during a rough transition for the franchise. Off the court, he’s also a stable in the Orlando community.

Nelson has spent his entire career with the Magic. Two years ago he could have bolted but he stayed. He wants to be in Orlando.

He’s second in franchise history with 651 games played, is the franchise’s all time assist leader (3501) and is fourth in points scored (8,184).

Over his 10-year career, Nelson’s averaged 12.6 points per game. While he hasn’t always been explosive, he’s been consistent. His field goal percentage dipped this year but his assists per game was the second highest of his career. On the court, Nelson is always doing something that benefits his teammates and team, whether it’s making a pass, grabbing an offensive rebound or hitting a big shot. Plus, it never gets old watching Nelson drive the lane and finish a highly contested layup.

On the floor, he also adds a calm demeanour and is player who remains positive. When head coach Jacque Vaughn experimented with Victor Oladipo at point guard, Nelson didn’t complain; instead he helped Oladipo as best as he could.

The last two years have been dismal for the Magic but one consistency has been Nelson. He stuck it out — he wants to be part of the turnaround. He doesn’t want to leave.

Nelson is the only player on the roster who is over 30 years old (assuming Jason Maxiell and Ronnie Price’s contracts aren’t picked up — they shouldn’t be). Arron Afflalo is the next oldest at 28. They are also the only two players making over $5 million.

The Magic are going to need a leader on this team. With the trade market for Afflalo heating up, the Magic are going to need a veteran. It’s unlikely the Magic sign an experienced star in free agency since Orlando continues to rebuild through a youth movement.

Outside of Nelson and Afflalo, every player on the roster is under the age of 25. The Magic also have two first round draft picks who will be joining the team in less than two weeks.

$8 million might be a touch expensive for a 32-year-old point guard that is a little past his prime. However, Orlando have a lot of salary cap space so it should be a mute point. While Nelson has never played an 82-game season, and injuries are always a concern with the former Saint Joseph’s University star, he remains a valued member of the Magic organization in multiple ways.

Nelson continues to perform on the court but his leadership and value to the Magic franchise might be most important.