(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
If Jameer Nelson does not pick up his player option--which could be worth as much as $8.6 million, according to ShamSports.com--for the 2012/13 NBA season, the Orlando Magic point guard will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, 2012, able to negotiate with any team. Nelson has said he wants to finish his career with Orlando, while reports have suggested Nelson will indeed test free agency, if only to secure a long-term contract with Orlando.
Beyond getting a long-term deal, there's another incentive for Nelson to become a free agent. Larry Coon's indispensable NBA salary cap FAQ indicates that Nelson would be eligible, under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, to negotiate a no-trade clause into any new deal he signed with Orlando. "A no-trade clause can be negotiated into a new contract if the player has been in the NBA for at least eight seasons," according to Coon, "and has played for the team with which he is signing for at least four seasons."
Nelson is in the midst of the eighth season of his career, which he's spent entirely with the Magic, so he would indeed have the ability to include a no-trade clause in a new deal with Orlando. As Coon indicates, "a no-trade clause cannot be negotiated into an extension," so signing an extension to his current contract would not give Nelson protection against trade.
If Nelson is serious about ensuring his future with the Magic, he could decline his player option--he must inform the team of that choice, one way or the other, with seven days of its season ending--and then negotiate a new, long-term deal with the club, one which includes a no-trade clause.
Nelson could also obtain a no-trade clause even if he did pick up his player option for the 2012/13 season, but playing through the last year of his current deal comes with a certain degree of risk: as a reasonably productive player on an expiring contract, he has some value as a trade chip, and he would have no say in his destination. If he's serious about remaining in Orlando, it'd be far more prudent for him to not play his option year, and instead sign a new contract in 2012 with the no-trade clause.
Nelson, 30, averaged 11.9 points and 5.7 assists for the Magic in the lockout-shortened 2011/12 campaign.