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Is it Time to Bench Jameer Nelson?

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It should come as no surprise that Stan Van Gundy is considering moving Jameer Nelson to the bench, as John Denton reported today. The Magic are 2-7 in their last 9 games and Nelson's struggles are a big reason why. Nelson, who signed a sizable contract extension in October, is averaging 9.8 points on 41% shooting in this month; the Magic are 4-7 in those games. For whatever reason, Jameer simply has not been as aggressive in the past month. In the early part of the season, he drove to the basket either to set up perimeter shooters or to lob the ball to Dwight Howard for a dunk. Now, he's content to stay out of the lane, which means he's not breaking down defenses, which means he's just not playing the way he should be. That's a problem. But is benching him the solution?

Well, it might be, at least for the short-term. Frank from Brew Hoop, SB Nation's Bucks blog, pointed us in the direction of www.basketballvalue.com earlier this week when addressing the question of who should take Desmond Mason's spot in the Bucks' starting lineup.

Basketballvalue tells us that the Magic's starting lineup of Nelson, Keith Bogans, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, and Dwight Howard scores 104.25 points per 100 possessions and allows opponents to score 103.27 points per 100 possessions; in other words, the starting lineup barely breaks even in terms of outscoring the other team.

But take a look at the second lineup in that list: it's the same starting lineup, except Carlos Arroyo has replaced Jameer Nelson. That lineup scores a whopping 124.21 points per 100 possessions and allows 109.78. Although that lineup would struggle defensively, it would cover itself with strong offensive play.

That said, the Magic's struggles of late have been on the defensive end. Benching one defensively-challenged point guard for another defensively-challenged point guard isn't going to prevent the other team from scoring points. And although Keyon Dooling has played well of late and is capable of playing the point, he is not the answer as a starter for two reasons:

  • He's a natural two-guard
  • We need his energy off the bench

So although Jameer Nelson has stunk lately, replacing him with Carlos Arroyo won't do much good. Nelson might not be the point guard who will take us to the proverbial "next level," but Arroyo certainly isn't either. Making that lineup change would be a wash. However, if Jameer continues to struggle the way he has, we may have no choice but to give Arroyo his minutes to see if his veteran savvy can get us out of this nasty slump.

It's worth noting that Jameer's best game this season was a 24-point, 10 assist performance against the Knicks, whom we happen to play tonight. Let's see if he can get back on track against what is arguably the most dysfunctional franchise in all professional sports.