It would seem the Orlando Magic are ready to hand the keys of the franchise to rookie guard Victor Oladipo. Courtesy of ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the Magic brass are prepared to trade longtime Magic point guard Jameer Nelson for as much as a first-round pick. It's debatable just whose pick Nelson would be worth, but it's no doubt shocking to hear following his commitment to the team last season.
Nelson opted out of his contract, only to re-sign with Orlando, and he expressed his favor in the decision through his Twitter account:
Glad to say I've reached an agreement with the Magic... I'm blessed to have the best fans and a great organization supporting me!— Jameer Nelson (@jameernelson) July 5, 2012
He could have easily signed with a championship-contending team as he entered his early 30s; however, Nelson chose loyalty over personal gain and stayed with the rebuilding Magic.
Nelson said (per ESPN): "Genuinely, I love the city. I love the organization. I've learned a lot from the people in the organization. The DeVos family means a lot to myself and my family and it means a lot to me that they always put out a winning product."
Even Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan spoke on the matter of mutual agreement, noting, "My hope is that he remains in Orlando and in a Magic uniform." It would seem he and the rest of team management have had a change of heart, however, and are looking for potential suitors for Nelson in what will be his tenth professional NBA season.
There are few teams with the cap space to absorb Nelson's $8.6 million outright; however, an exchange of players is more likely considering his contract. In addition, Nelson is not worth a first-round pick in what is expected to be a stacked draft class. It isn't in the Magic's best interest to move the veteran, either.
Despite owing Nelson $8.6 million this season, just $2 million of his $8 million contract is guaranteed for next season. Keeping him around as a mentor for Oladipo and the rest of the team is more ideal, given his experience and the roster's lack thereof. Nelson helped lead a Magic team that reached the NBA Finals in 2009-10 and, while he isn't the same player, that leadership remains part of his psyche.
Nelson's 12.4 points and 6.6 assists per game this season aren't terrible; however, his shooting percentages (39.3 percent from the field, 32.3 percent from three-point range) could improve slightly. Oladipo is a favorite to win Rookie of the Year, so it's understandable for Orlando to want to give him more playing time.
Oladipo's 13.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists—along with 1.8 steals and 46.3 percent shooting—are excellent given his 27 minutes per game. Benching Nelson in favor of the rookie would be a smart move, giving Oladipo more time on the court and potentially fast-tracking his development. Keeping Nelson as a reserve player would be better suited for both parties than sending him away.
Nelson is in a place we're he's content, regardless of the team's success, and remains a solid contributor. His leadership and experience will be invaluable to the team's young roster, as it sports eight players under the age of 25. Nelson isn't necessarily worth a first-round pick, despite being a decent player; hence, the Magic should look to keep their longtime point guard.
Nelson's contract isn't guaranteed for next season, thus Orlando could waive him for a discounted price if things don't work out. He will also be on an expiring contract, which has much higher trade value given the cap relief it can provide the receiving team.
Either way, there is no immediate reason for the Magic to expel Nelson, and they should keep him in the rotation for the season.