An aging veteran on a rebuilding team, Jameer Nelson doesn't figure in the distant plans for the Orlando Magic. His name is a hot one in trade rumors, and if the Magic want to get the most value in return, the approaching Feb. 20 trade deadline should be the target to get a deal done.
ESPN's Marc Stein reported in November that the Magic would be anxious to exchange Nelson for a first-round pick:
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.
Hennigan has made some great trades since joining the Magic before last season. He swapped Howard for the assets it takes to rebuild and flipped J.J. Redick in a package that delivered Tobias Harris. Can he work his magic in a Nelson deal?
Backup point guard is an important position in the NBA that becomes more important when the bench shortens in the playoffs. However, finding a team willing to give up a first-round pick in a loaded 2014 draft for an aging point guard won't be easy.
Nelson still has some value for the Magic, though. Importantly, he keeps Victor Oladipo from making point guard a full-time gig—a very good thing that will allow Oladipo to progress toward his future as an off-ball offender.
For a young team, it is important to have a veteran around. It's a cliché, but very real. Magic coach Jacque Vaughn referenced that leadership in an interview with the Delaware County Daily Times.
He’s been great for our guys. There’s little things that go on through the course of the year, whether it’s: How do you talk to the ballboys? How do you act in the hotel? When you get in the cab, do you tip? Those are things veterans take care of. A coach is not always around. And then (there’s) his ability on the floor to guide guys.
Knowing when to tip your cab driver and consistently executing the pick-and-roll vary in basketball importance, but still.
Breaking down his contract, Nelson is making $8.6 million this season and has a cap hit of $8 million in 2013-14, the final season of his deal. However, only $2 million of that is guaranteed if he is waived on or before July 15, 2014, according to ShamSports.com. A team looking to acquire him will likely want him for a playoff run and would plan on dumping him by mid-July.
Let's take a look at some possible deals.
The Chicago Bulls Trade Carlos Boozer and a Future First-Round Pick for Nelson and Glen Davis
The Bulls could also throw in young point guard Marquis Teague if the Magic swap Davis for Arron Afflalo. The Bulls have Charlotte's top-10 protected pick for the 2014 draft and can afford to part ways with one of their own.
This is working under a few assumptions: (1) Chicago is still trying to win, (2) that they want to dump Boozer that badly and (3) the Magic would be willing to eat the Boozer contract for a Bulls draft pick that could land in the middle of a loaded 2014 draft.
The Philadelphia 76ers Trade Evan Turner for Nelson
Philadelphia as a landing spot makes sense. Nelson is from the area, and the 76ers could use a backup point guard to the injury-prone Michael Carter-Williams.
Would Philadelphia trade the expiring contract of Evan Turner for Philly-boy Nelson? Turner might not re-sign, and they could give Nelson a chance to retire in his home state. The Magic would not get the draft pick it covets, but it would get another young player in return.
The Golden State Warriors Trade a 2015 First-Round Pick for Nelson
The Warriors could swing this because they have quite a bit of trade exception cash that they can use, including the $11.04 million they gained by dealing away Richard Jefferson. As a result, Golden State has more than enough room to acquire Nelson while giving away a draft pick. (They would only need to waive one of their 15 players to make room).
The Dubs owe the Utah Jazz their 2014 first-rounder, but could give away their2015 pick for much-needed depth behind Steph Curry. The Warriors have Toney Douglas, who is a good on-ball defender but is not a factor on offense. Nelson could replace the bench production left vacant by Jarrett Jack.
What it comes down to is the $8 million due to Nelson after July 15. It doesn't make sense for Orlando to hold on to him after that and guarantee the final year in full. I don't think they should, or will, trade him for just anything by the trade deadline. Nelson as a stopgap for the rest of the season has value, after all. That said, his value drops after the trade deadline when potential suitors (playoff teams) can no longer trade for him.
The Magic, Nelson and the rest of the NBA know the deal here. Still, can Hennigan pull another rabbit out of a hat?