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Off-Day Open Thread: Has Jameer Nelson Silenced His Critics?

Brief topic for discussion today (although if you'd rather talk about the Grant Hill trade rumor, that's obviously cool too): Jameer Nelson's stellar play of late. Here's something Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! Sports pointed out yesterday:

Has anyone noticed that Jameer Nelson is having a better per-minute, pace-adjusted year than Derrick Rose? Just me? I'm the only one that cries? Heartless, people. Heartless.

The way K.D. phrases it makes it sound as though he's slighting Nelson, but that's not what I want to focus on. Instead: Jameer Nelson has been pretty flippin' good this year. His stats indeed compare favorably to Rose's, and he single-handedly revived a stagnant Magic offense in the third quarter Monday night by scoring 15 of his career-high-tying 32 points. Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus notes that Nelson is the Magic's most improved player so far, although he doubts Nelson will continue to shoot at his current clip. But even if Jameer's shooting percentage regresses toward the mean, haven't we seen enough of him this season to finally assert that he's a starting-caliber NBA point guard? Before the seasons, questions about Jameer's long-term viability as Orlando's starting point guard lingered. Well, we have our answer. We have the facts and we're voting yes.

For $7.7 million this year, the Magic are getting 15.9 points on 50.0% shooting to go with 5.3 assists and 1.4 steals from their starting point guard. They're also getting leadership--Nelson takes his team co-captaincy very seriously--and, lately, peace of mind knowing that their team is in good hands until at least 2012, at which point Nelson can opt-out of his deal.

Excluding the established Hall-of-Famers (Chauncey Billups, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, and Chris Paul) and the franchise-cornerstone types (Devin Harris, Rose, and Deron Williams), there are few better point guards in the NBA than Nelson. "Well, yeah," you might say, "if you don't count the people better than him, he's the best. Idiot." Fair enough, but the Magic don't expect Nelson to play at that high a level; their franchise is built around their center, not their point guard. Apart from Rajon Rondo, I'm hard pressed to think of any non-H-o-Fer/non-cornerstone point guard I'd rather have running my team than Nelson. He's come a long way from last February, for instance, when he recorded DNP-CDs while the Magic took their chances with Carlos Arroyo (currently out of the league) and Keyon Dooling (currently a back-up for the Nets) running the show.

I make this post while acknowledging I've made excuses for Jameer in the past, and have long been one of his staunchest supporters. It's nice to see my faith in him rewarded. And although I can't say for sure, I suspect Otis Smith feels the same way.