The Mavericks made quite a few big moves in NBA free agency this summer, none bigger than stealing Chandler Parsons away from Houston and trading to bring back Tyson Chandler. Beyond the two Chandler deals, though, a signee who is flying below the radar could have the biggest impact on the Mavs this season.
I'm talking, of course, about Jameer Nelson.
Nelson is a 10-year veteran in the NBA, and has spent his entire career to this point with the Orlando Magic. As Orlando's long-time starting point guard, Nelson has averaged 12.6 points and 5.4 assists for his career. However, he saw a dip in shooting percentage over the past two seasons, which may raise a red flag for some fans. I would caution you, if you're one of these people, to write off Nelson too soon.
Looking at Last Year (and the year before)
Nelson's shooting percentage was down last season, to 39.4 percent, under 40 percent for only the second time in his career (with the other season being 2012-13). Nelson's minutes also spiked, up to above 32 minutes per game for the past two years. In fact, the 2013-14 season was only the third time in his career that Nelson has eclipsed the 2,100 minute mark for a season. It was also the third most games Nelson has started in his career (68).
The biggest issue with Nelson is his tendency to get banged up. He's had nagging injuries throughout his career, and was absent during Orlando's run to the 2009 NBA Finals with a shoulder injury.
However, when he's in the game, he has the ability to be a playmaker. Over the past two seasons Nelson has seen his assists per game jump to over 7, something he hadn't done in his first eight years in the league.
Best Case Scenario for 2014-15
In my dream world, Nelson is the starting Mavs point guard, and he sees about 25 minutes a game. He'll revert to his old shooting ways, knocking down about 44-46 percent of his shots, while shooting about 37 percent from three point range. Meanwhile, his main job will be to facilitate the offense, dishing the ball to Dirk, Monta and Parsons, while stretching the floor just enough to keep defenders honest.
Ideally, in that 25 mpg, we'd see Nelson averaging about 12 points and 8 assists per game. In any case, I expect to see another jump in assists, as we could make the argument that he's surrounded by the most offensive weaponry since he entered the league.
Meanwhile, he stays healthy enough to start 75+ games, thanks to his limited minutes and the Mavs' stellar medical team. He also loves Dallas enough to pick up his $2.8 million player option, staying in town on the cheap for another season.
Worst Case Scenario for 2014-15
In this nightmare scenario, Nelson can't stay healthy, missing a substantial portion of the season and depleting the Mavs backcourt depth. When he is in the game, we see a precipitous dropoff in his shooting percentage, somewhere around 37-38 percent from the floor, and he drops to around 32 percent from three point range. In fact, even when he's healthy, he only sees spot minutes to give Devin Harris a breather.
He eventually picks up his 2015 player option because he realizes after this season that opting out may mean the end of his career, and he tortures Dallas by taking up a roster spot.
All the Passes
Seriously, Jameer Nelson is a great passer, and with talent like Monta, Dirk, Parsons and Chandler, he could feast on opposing defenses and rack up enough dimes to buy a mansion.
And, if you didn't know, he's great at getting in the lane. Check out his highlight reel from last season to get a better idea of what you can expect from Nelson this season (you'll see his drives and passes between clips of every three he made last year...).
And tell me you wouldn't like to see this happen with Tyson all season. We're in for a real treat with Nelson this season.