Over the next few weeks, the Denver Stiffs staff will be previewing the 2016-17 Denver Nuggets. The team enters Michael Malone’s second season with the Nuggets with a mix of new and familiar faces. With a roster mixed with young talent like Jamal Murray and more experienced veterans like Wilson Chandler, the Nuggets are looking to improve on their 33-49 record from last season.
Jameer Nelson is the consensus 10th ranked player by the writing contingent here at Denver Stiffs. This roster position is what usually amounts to the last rotation player who sometimes doesn’t even play at all, but given the youth on the Denver Nuggets’ roster, Nelson will likely play a reasonably sized role through the first three months of the season. At 34 years old, Nelson is likely winding down his career as a full-time rotation player anyway, but he still commands the pick and roll while facilitating the flow of NBA caliber offense.
He did have a major efficiency drop off last year though. 36.8 percent from the field and 29.9 percent from beyond the arc are not enough to justify being a rotation player, especially for a veteran. One has to wonder if a heavy minutes load early in the season really tanked his efficiency throughout. 26.6 minutes per game is borderline starter minutes, and Nelson just can’t take that anymore.
The hope is for Nelson to be a stabilizing force in the backcourt for Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, and even Malik Beasley to continue to learn from. Like Mike Miller, the majority of Nelson’s impact has been off the court, and while Nelson may still be a regular in the rotation for the beginning of the season, one or both of the rookie guards will likely assume his spot in the rotation by midseason.
Here are some quotes that Denver Stiffs’ own Kayla Osby (@nuggetchica) procured around media day a year ago from Jameer:
Nelson on Mudiay: "[Mudiay is] a lot more mature than his age, going to have some tough times this year, we're all here for that reason to help him get through those times."
And one more for good measure.
Nelson on leading: "[I’m] not going to overstep boundaries, but I'm going to do my part to help lead the team."
Jameer Nelson is a true professional and somebody who the Nuggets should be thankful to have. Mike Miller gets a lot of credit for being a veteran leader, but Nelson has not only led the team off the court, but on the court as well. He will continue to be utilized in that role until the younger players can play without him.
Nelson’s primary strength, especially for this team, is his basketball IQ and leadership skills. Both have been an asset for Michael Malone to utilize the 34 year old as a glowing example. The way Nelson organizes and runs the team when he’s on the floor is what sets him apart. In the pick and roll, Jameer understands where every player will be while attempting to find the best shot attempt on the floor.
But people are quick to forget that Nelson can still play, given the additions of Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley. Remember when Nelson almost engineered a comeback against the Golden State Warriors after being down 37-11? THIRTY SEVEN TO ELEVEN! A quick reminder of how Nelson navigates the pick a roll so well here.
Up until this past season, Nelson’s three point shot has also been an asset. Only three times in his extensive career has Nelson shot below 33 percent from beyond the arc: his first season, third season, and this past year. My belief is that Jameer shouldered a role that was too heavy for him early in the season last year, and he will find his shooting touch again after a season to recover.
At this stage in his career, Nelson’s biggest strength and weakness are the same: his age. While he has developed some tricks to the trade, the veteran has slowed down on both ends of the floor considerably. He can usually dictate the pace of play on offense, but defensively, he struggles to keep up. In games where Nelson is asked to play heavy minutes, he’s usually fine, but the games after are where the efficiency and effort start to slip.
The hope is to never be in position where Michael Malone believes Nelson must be on the floor for extended periods of time. Some of this will come down to Mudiay and Murray as well. If used correctly, Nelson should continue to be a weapon for the Nuggets, but ask him to be more than what he is: a 15 minutes per contest guy who sometimes gets a rest day, and the Nuggets will be in trouble.
Projected 2016-17 Season Stats
Courtesy of Hashtag Basketball, here are the projections of Nelson.
Nelson’s deal runs through the following season in 2017-18. Both years are guaranteed. Right now, he’s slated to be the fifth highest paid player on the roster both years. That says a lot about the Nuggets and their financial state right now. Things look really good.