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Evaluating Jameer Nelson

The veteran point guard took on a greater offensive load in the first year of Orlando's rebuild.

Jameer Nelson
Jameer Nelson

Jameer Nelson was the most important holdover from the previous regime as the Orlando Magic overhauled their roster over the summer. Once an All-Star, Nelson would be expected to lead a roster filled with youngsters and to ease Jacque Vaughn's transition into coaching. He'd also be expected to produce, especially scoring, given the team's overall lack of talent.

He didn't exactly deliver on all counts.

Jameer Nelson
No. 14
Point Guard
Points Per Game Assists Per Game Turnovers Per Game
14.7 7.4 2.8
Points Per 36 Assists Per 36 Turnovers Per 36
15.0 7.5 2.8
PER Assist Rate Turnover Rate
14.4 33.3 15.7
FG% 3FG% FT%
39.2 34.1 87.3
eFG% TS%
47.0 49.8

All statistics in this table from Nelson's player page at basketball-reference. Career-best statistics highlighted in gold; career-worst statistics highlighted in silver.

Finally given the freedom to run an offense without so many straight post-ups, Nelson reached new heights in assists, ranking seventh in the league per game and 14th in percentage. His ability to create high-value shots--specifically three-pointers and layups--out of the pick-and-roll remains strong, and he managed to create those shots without a terribly high cost in turnovers.

The issue is his scoring. Nelson set a new low in field-goal shooting, and because he's never been a great foul-drawer, he needs to connect on his jumpers in order to be a plus as a scorer. In my estimation, that low percentage ties strongly to his role in the offense: he has to do too much for himself, given the quality of the players around him. Opposing defenses can key on him, to a degree, complicating his attempts to create space for a jumper.

Consider that in 2011/12, before Orlando's rebuild, Nelson posted an effective field-goal percentage of 41.7 in the final four seconds of the shot clock, according to, and he was assisted on 46 percent of his makes on such shots. Flash forward a season and Nelson's accuracy in the final four seconds of the clock dipped to 36 percent, with 32 percent of his makes assisted.

One can't overlook the games Nelson missed due to injury: he sat 26 games in 2012/13, pressing E'Twaun Moore, Ish Smith, and eventually Beno Udrih into larger roles. Were the Magic competing for anything more than pride and player development, his absences would be even more costly. Nelson has earned a reputation for being injury prone, but it's fair to point out that he missed only 15 games over the prior two seasons combined.

Orlando is asking too much of Nelson as a scorer, but his passing and leadership still make him a worthwhile player. Further, only one of the two seasons remaining on his contract is fully guaranteed, giving the Magic some flexibility; they can cut him if his game deteriorates the point of acceptability.

On balance, Nelson had a decent season. That's about all Orlando needed from him, but it's clear that the co-captain's best years are part of the dim and distant past.

Grade: B-

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