It was no surprise that the Orlando Magic chose Jameer Nelson to address the crowd tonight before their home opener. Nelson is something of a Magic icon: He ranks first in Magic history in assists and in the top three overall in games played. He's a holdover from Orlando's last Eastern Conference championship team and a rare constant for a franchise better known for seeing its star players bolt to bigger markets.
All that being said, however, this Magic team is clearly in rebuilding mold, and the front office has made it clear that Nelson is on the trading block.
The Magic, according to the latest rumbles, would surrender Nelson today if offered a future first-round pick for him. Orlando GM Rob Hennigan continues to chase draft picks and young assets above all else as he remakes the Magic.
That theoretical swap of Nelson for a first-rounder makes sense from the Magic's point of view, but in the world of trades, it takes two to tango.
What does Nelson have to offer? He is a one-time All-Star who has been an above-average point guard for most of his 10-year career. He's due $8.6 million this season and $8 million next year with a $2 million buyout.
Unfortunately for the Magic, in the supply-and-demand world of the trade market, Nelson isn't nearly worth the value of a first-round pick. Most teams have been much more reluctant to part with picks in recent years, and in this current "era of the point guard," most playoff contenders are already set at the position. As the league stands today, there is simply no way the Magic are getting a first-rounder for Nelson.
There is only one way the Magic can squeeze the value of a first-round pick out of Nelson, and that is if a desperate playoff contender were to lose a point guard to a significant injury.
The Phoenix Suns' front office played the injury card to their advantage just a few days ago. Washington Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld, desperate to make the playoffs in the final year of his contract, panicked in the wake of an injury to Wizards' big Emeka Okafor. The Suns took advantage of Grunfeld's desperation, getting Okafor and a first-rounder for center Marcin Gortat. As macabre as it sounds, the Orlando front office should be hoping for a similar injury at the point guard position.
The Magic would do well to hold onto Nelson for the time being. They have an exceptionally young team, and Nelson's veteran leadership at the point guard position does provide them with value. In the meantime, Orlando's front office should simply sit back and wait for the right deal: The more desperate the trading partner, the better.