Nelson has been a great point guard for Orlando. He distributes the ball, he can score at a high percentage and he knows how to lead.
That the Magic were able to get Nelson is a story that is hard to believe. He was a superstar in college, leading his small school to big heights. But his height, 6-0 or maybe a bit less, was a reason given for a draft day slide.
The first two picks that year were set, Howard or Okafor for pick one, the other going second. The Magic picked Dwight Howard first, a wise move.
Then pick after confusing pick was made and nobody was announcing Nelson’s name. Rafael Araujo, Robert Swift, Sebastian Telfair, Kirk Snyder, they were all getting selected.
The Magic then got a deal done, all they had to do was send Denver a future first and the Nuggets would pick Nelson, at number 20, and send him to Orlando. The Magic were able to land their center and point guard of the future in the same draft.
A look at his college numbers shows why Nelson should have gone a lot higher. In his four years at Saint Joseph’s, Nelson shot 45.4% from the field, 78.6% for free throws and his three-point percentage was 36.5%.
His averages for those four years were 16.8 points, 5.7 assists and 4.6 rebounds. For his senior year, Nelson scored over 20 points a game, shooting 47.5% from the field. That year he won the Wooden and Naismith awards, and was also the Sporting News Player Of The Year.
Jameer Nelson wasn’t the only talent that was underrated in that draft. Orlando also drafted Anderson Varejao in the second round, but would trade out him and Drew Gooden for center Tony Battie. Kevin Martin went at pick 26, Beno Udrih at pick 28 and Chris Duhon started his NBA career as pick 38.
Showing that some of the scouts were wrong on their assessment of Nelson, he made an instant impact in the NBA. Named to the All-Rookie Second Team, Nelson shot 45.5% from the field and handed out 3 assists per game.
From 8.7 points per game in his rookie year, Nelson improved to 14.6 points per game in his second year and gave out 5 assists per game. The Magic made the right move when they handed the team to Nelson by trading away Steve Francis.
Every year with Orlando, Nelson can be depended on. 13 to 16 points per game, 5 or 6 assists, a steal and great shooting percentages. It is also his great outside shot that allows the Magic to give Turkoglu some of the ball-handling duties which is when he plays at his best.
With Nelson stationed on the perimeter, the Magic don’t lose an offensive option, the players just change roles. Instead of Nelson setting the scene and getting the assists, Turkoglu becomes the playmaker and if he can’t score against his opponent or lob a pass to Howard there is Nelson waiting to hit the open shot.
In season 2009, Nelson was selected to participate in the All-Star game. That was the year he increased his scoring to 16.7 and shot 50% from the field. Nelson was unable to play in the game due to injury.