Making the Case: Jameer Nelson to the Spurs

On October 16, 2017, the Denver Nuggets made space for the newly acquired Richard Jefferson by waiving Jameer Nelson. A point guard wearing yellow and blue for the last 3 seasons, Nelson built something of a cult following in the Mile High City, garnering a spot in the second, third and fourth most used Nuggets lineups in 2016-17 alongside emerging talents Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris.

Perhaps best known as the primary ballhandler for the 2009-10 Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic, at 35 years old (36 in February 2018) Jameer Nelson has shown throughout his career he’s capable of adapting to flexible offenses; Denver ranked seventh in pace (100.7) in 2016-17 while the 2009-10 Magic ranked 18th in the league that season (92.0). Being able to lead a fast paced, transition-oriented offense in 2017 and at his age should net Nelson at least a few suitors, though none more prolific than the San Antonio Spurs.

This past August, veteran Spurs guard Tony Parker estimated, according to CBS Sports, that he’d return to court form in “four or five months.” After tearing a quad tendon in the second round playoff series against the Houston Rockets, the four-time NBA Champion has prioritized a slow and steady rehabilitation process, leaving point guard duties to Patty Mills and DeJounte Murray until his return. Though Mills and Murray are nicely indoctrinated in Gregg Popovich’s system, Jameer Nelson could make for an interesting addition until Parker’s return.

With LaMarcus Aldridge accepting a contract extension with the Spurs for three more years to the tune of $72.3 million, the Spurs are buying into at least a short-term experiment with L.A., particularly as they usher Parker and Manu Ginobili into the end of their NBA careers while giving Kawhi Leonard (when healthy) the space to dismantle teams on both ends of the floor. Where the Spurs found trouble last year was in involving Aldridge early in the offense, who, while a solid interior defender, couldn’t find his midrange touch throughout the season and playoffs.

Adding Jameer Nelson to the mix could continue to kindle the fire started by the newfound Spurs-Aldridge pact, as Nelson has marked much of his career playing with enormous interior presences, namely Dwight Howard in Orlando and Nikola Jokic in Denver.

A reliable shooter (38.8% from three in 2017) Nelson can bail out offenses if necessary, and his composure would certainly flourish under a Popovich, half-court offense. The Spurs should be more than happy to give the reins to Mills for the upcoming season, but as Western Conference teams continue to pursue depth to take on the Warriors, Nelson could be an appreciated (and inexpensive) link to prevent lapses between Mills’ stints on the bench. In fact, a glance at the stat lines for Parker and Nelson last year, would show a pair of players doing decent impressions of each other. Good for about 10 points and five assists per game, the two shot just under 50% from inside the arc while assisting around 27% of their teammates shots. Surely replacing a 35 year old with another 35 year old isn’t a recommended model leaguewide, the Spurs have shown time and time again that Aaliyah was right.

 

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