Geoff Burke/USA TODAY
Jameer Nelson has been many things in his career with the Magic. One thing that he has quintessentially been — it is what has gotten him and kept him in the league — is a scorer.
Nelson has always been effective running the pick and roll, he has always been a pretty effective shooter and a decent 3-point shooter. Defense has always been a bit of a weakness and he struggles with larger point guards — like Andre Miller last night. Those things are not changing.
As Nelson's role has increased the last two years, his efficiency has predictably gone down. He is not the kind of player any team should be relying heavily for production. His passing and assist numbers have increased even as that one skill that helped him cut it in the league seemed to be diminishing. That would be expected for a player climbing over the 30-year-old barrier.
This past week has seemed unusually brutal for the Magic's leading point guard.
Last night against Washington, Nelson played while suffering a painful sinus infection and it showed in his performance. Nelson scored seven points on 2-for-8 shooting and had seven turnovers against eight assists. It usually takes Nelson a little while to get into a game — he tries to get others involved before himself — but Tuesday night was a real struggle for him.
Games may not have been that bad for him, but lately Nelson has really struggled on the offensive end.
In his last 10 games, Nelson is averaging 6.7 points per game and 7.0 assists per game. More distressingly, he is shooting 32.1 percent from the floor and 26.8 percent from beyond the arc. His efficiency numbers are down the tube. Worse still, the Magic are posting a 114.0 defensive rating with Nelson on the floor.
Nelson's shot chart is not pretty to look at either:
All that red in the middle of the floor? That was not there in 2009:
And even last year:
While Nelson undoubtedly makes the Magic offense better in several respects, he has become more of a defensive liability as he has aged. And seeing his offensive game take this much of a nose dive has really hurt what he can provide to the team. Those free throw line jumpers used to be automatic, now they are extremely less so.
His passing has gotten better and has helped relieve some of this pressure left off from Nelson's struggles to score right now. Arron Afflalo's recent injury, though, does not help matters either.
Nelson needs to find himself again to give the Magic the boost they need from their veteran point guard.
For the season, Nelson is averaging 12.4 points per game and is shooting 39.4 percent from the floor. If his shooting slump continues, it would be Nelson's second consecutive season shooting worse than 40 percent, and the only two times that would have happened in his career.
Nelson is slowly seeing himself passed on the depth chart by Victor Oladipo. There have been a few games already this year that Oladipo played over Nelson at point guard in close games.
Further, Nelson's future with the team is very uncertain. Only $2 million of the $8 million he is owed next year is guaranteed. The rest of his contract becomes guaranteed on July 15, according to ShamSports. The Magic may be making a decision on Nelson this summer rather than at the deadline next year.
Nelson still has good basketball in him. It is clear though that he is not going to be able to give it every game anymore. This recent stretch has been disheartening to see from him, but time claims everyone, I guess.