Dwight Howard's Co-Captain: Jameer Nelson

Dwight Howard's Co-Captain: Jameer Nelson

The 2003-2004 season and had been a tough one for the Magic, as despite Tracy McGrady's league-leading 28.0 points per game the Magic had stumbled to a 21-61 record. Despite winning the first pick of the lottery, the offseason was a tumultuous one as well. The Magic were saddled with making a tough choice between two dominating big men, Emeka Okafor and Dwight Howard, and the organization was leaning towards choosing Howard, the talented Gatorade High School Basketball Player of the Year who had averaged 25 points, 18.1 rebounds, and 8.1 blocks while leading his team to the state championships. But rumors persisted that Tracy McGrady valued Okafor's college experience and defensive accumen and believed that the UConn product, who, even while battling back-problems, had lead the NCAA in blocks and been named the NCAA Defensive Player of the Year, the Big East Player of the Year, and the NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player while helping UConn capture the NCAA title, should be the Magic's pick. There were even allegations that McGrady wanted to be traded to another team if the Magic chose Howard over Okafor.

Knowing that, and likely knowing the basic outlines of the Steve Francis-Tracy McGrady that would go throw only days later, the Magic knew they would also likely have to look to the draft to find a young guard who could contribute immediately to help fill out their rotation. When the Magic found a willing trade partner in the Denver Nuggets, giving up only what turned up to be the 20th pick in the 2005 draft, the Magic selected Jameer Nelson, the St. Joseph's PG who had lead his team to a perfect regular season and been named the NCAA National Player of the Year. Although the Magic front office likely considered how Nelson would fit alongside Howard on the court, their primary concerns were likely more centered around his ability to contribute immediately and share the floor with either Steve Francis or Tracy McGrady.

That said, Nelson is Howard's co-captain on the Magic and his longest-tenured teammate. Together Howard and Nelson have helped the Magic go from a dismal 21-61 campaign the year before they arrived to all the way to the NBA Finals in 2009, and both have been named All-Stars along the way. But was Jameer Nelson the best guard the Magic could have gotten to play beside Howard in either the 2004 or 2005 drafts?

Jameer Nelson

USG%

3pt./100

PPR

DRB%

3pt.%

Dwight Howard Teammate Rating

NBA Career

22.0

28.2

3.82

10.0

0.385

103.9


The thing that jumps out immediately is how much better perimeter players, who handle the ball and shoot threes far more often than the forwards we examined yesterday, are rated in the Dwight Howard Teammate Rater. While it's tempting to dismiss Nelson's high rating as a factor of his development playing alongside Howard for his entire career his rating comes primarily from how well he sees the floor and shoots the three. Those two qualities were entirely present in Nelson's college career however, as he shot 39% from beyond the arc on 187 attempts and lead the Atlantic Conference with 5.3 assists per game. Either way it's clear that throughout his career Nelson has consistently been a top-notch match for Howard on the court. Unfortunately, Nelson has also steadily regressed in several of these categories over the past two years, particularly PPR, as he loses the speed in his first step that allowed him to penetrate into the lane while keeping his dribble alive. And while Howard hides many of Nelson's defensive shortcomings, his height and lack of length hurting when closing out on shooters- one of the few defensive responsibilities Howard's teammates do have.

Monta Ellis

USG%

3pt./100

PPR

DRB%

3pt.%

Dwight Howard Teammate Rating

NBA Career

25.5

16.0

0.29

9.1

0.328

43.7

Had the Magic not chosen to trade draft picks with the Denver Nuggets during the 2004 draft and kept their 2005 NBA draft pick, they would have had a chance to select Monta Ellis, the Golden State Warriors scoring sensation. Ellis, of course, has since been mentioned in multiple Golden State-Orlando trade rumors, as Howard supposedly would love to play alongside the offensive-minded guard. But the numbers suggest that Ellis wouldn't be a great fit beside Howard, because as effective as he is at scoring the ball he isn't very good at creating for others or shooting three-pointers. While some would suggest that Ellis' elite ability to create shots from the perimeter would be a huge asset for an Orlando team desperately in need of playmakers, drafting Ellis likely wouldn't have helped the Magic create efficient perimeter shots.

In addition, Ellis is known around the league as a slightly immature player and was once injured and had miss games after a scooter accident. Compared to Nelson's professional demeanor, floor vision, and three point shooting, drafting Ellis likely wouldn't have been a great move for the Magic.

Nate Robinson

USG%

3pt./100

PPR

DRB%

3pt.%

Dwight Howard Teammate Rating

NBA Career

23.5

38.1

1.17

9.3

0.352

79.6

Even worse, had the Magic not traded for the rights to Nelson back in 2004 they may have felt the need to draft a different undersized point guard with a good stroke from three- Nate Robinson. Robinson, who many Magic fans will remember from his Krypto-Nate Dunk over Dwight Howard in the Slam Dunk Contest, was drafted with the 21st pick in the 2005 draft, one slot below the pick the Magic traded to Denver. Had the 2004-2005 season ended with the Magic's Steve Francis at point experiment not working out, the Magic might have felt forced to draft the diminutive guard. As a teammate for Howard, Robinson excels in the same categories Nelson does but is predictably worse in all of them. While he's a strong three-point shooter and a relatively effective point guard, he's simply not even close to Nelson in either category and with his waning athleticism is likely to end up even worse over the next few years. In addition, Robinson has been something of a locker-room problem at each of his first three NBA stops.

Kevin Martin

USG%

3pt./100

PPR

DRB%

3pt.%

Dwight Howard Teammate Rating

NBA Career

24.7

32.5

-1.62

10.6

0.379

54.1

But the 2004 draft offered the Magic another interesting option at guard, as when they selected Jameer Nelson with the 20th pick Kevin Martin was still available. Martin, who was eventually drafted 26th by the Sacramento Kings, has been a borderline All-Star player for years due to his ability to score the ball efficiently, draw fouls, and shoot the ball from downtown. As compared to Nelson he seems like an ill-fit for the Magic as he's a little less efficient at shooting the three and far less effective in PPR. But unlike the other players in this comparison, Martin is exclusively a wing player and it would be his job to finish plays rather than set them up. Given how effective Kevin Martin has been at doing so, especially considering that he's never played post scorer with Dwight's skills and has almost always been the first option offensively on his teams, it's reasonable to consider that perhaps his rating ought to be a little higher than a pedestrian 54.1. However no matter what way you slice it, it doesn't look like he would be quite a good a teammate for Dwight Howard as Nelson is. In fact given Nelson's standing in the Magic organization and locker room and how well he fits alongside Howard on the court, it seems as though the Magic organization did a good job selecting Nelson alongside Howard in the 2004 draft.

Trending Discussions

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SB Nation Tampa Bay

You must be a member of SB Nation Tampa Bay to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SB Nation Tampa Bay. You should read them.

Join SB Nation Tampa Bay

You must be a member of SB Nation Tampa Bay to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SB Nation Tampa Bay. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.