The Magic resigned PG Jameer Nelson to a reported 3-year deal worth around $19 million. Let me count the ways it is confusing.
1. Jameer Nelson is in decline. He has seen his scoring and shooting percentages decline steadily for the last three years. He is 30 now, and even at his best, which was 4 years ago, he was a flawed player.
2. Jameer Nelson might be good enough to start in the NBA still, but he is pretty clearly not among the top 20 point guards. And you could strongly argue not the top 25. Think I am just throwing out a random number? Okay, here who I think is better: Paul, Williams, Rose, Westbrook, Rondo, Nash, Parker, Irving, Lawson, Curry, Lowry, Conley, Jennings, Dragic, Rubio, Lin, Holiday, Wall, Billups, Miller, Teague, and Mo Williams. And I could easily argue I’d rather have Brandon Knight, Devin Harris, Avery Bradley, Sessions, Augustin, Bledsoe, Collison, Hill, Chalmers, Calderon, and Jack as well.
3. And if he isn’t that good anymore, why pay him like he is? Who was Orlando competing against to give him that much money? Portland and Dallas are the only two teams without a settled point guard situation. Over $6 million per year for a mediocre starter seems a bit hefty.
4. The Magic aren’t a championship-level team, and with the likelihood of Dwight Howard being moved they’ll be moved further away from it. Why invest in someone who won’t help that transition?
5. If you are looking to start over, or at least regroup, why add another burdensome contract to your roster. Can you move Jameer in a deal? Yeah, probably. But resigning him isn’t moving forward, it’s staying with the status quo, which isn’t good enough. If the Magic weren’t dealing with contracts like Turkoglu, J-Rich, Q-Rich, Duhon, and Davis I’d frown on a deal, but at least be less confused. Alas, they just added another player getting overpaid on a multi-year deal.
6. Why not just go cheap at the position and look to future free agency (the 2013 point guard class is loaded) or even the draft of 2013 or 2014?
7. Yes, cheaper options are out there. Why not Jerryd Bayless? Or Jordan Farmar? Or Ramon Sessions? Or even less appealing, but cheaper options like Johnny Flynn or John Lucas III? Heck, maybe even you could find the next Jeremy Lin.
8. If you tell me it hurts the team and the Magic wouldn’t be as good, I say, “so what?” I’d rather be picking high in the draft than looking to rebuild than picking in the teens fighting for a playoff spot.
9. Loyalty? There is no message the Magic can send that will be heard louder than what is happening with Dwight. Other NBA players won’t care that they “took care of” Jameer. Plus, players will go to the money, and history shows Orlando hasn’t had problems attracting players before, and they won’t in the future.
10. Leadership? That sounds great to say if you are Orlando, but none of that matters when you are just fighting to make the playoffs. Jameer may not be a problem, but he isn’t a solution either.
To wrap up and be clear, I don’t hate Jameer Nelson or begrudge him in any way. I think he’s been a model citizen and a dedicated worker for the Orlando Magic and an important part of their success during his tenure here. I simply believe it makes more sense to move on from him at this point, and to begin the painful process of starting over. If he would have come back at a smaller price-tag or stayed in the contract that had him here one more season, that would have been okay, but it just doesn’t make dollars or sense that he returns at what they’ll be having him back for.