The Orlando Magic have waived long-time point guard Jameer Nelson, according to Joshua Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Nelson was entering his final season under contract, for which only a quarter of his $8 million salary was guaranteed. His release will save Orlando $6 million in salary and open up the equivalent in cap space.
The Magic are not expected to be players for big free agents, though they could feasibly tender a max offer. At present (and accounting for the waiver claim of former Clipper Willie Green), Orlando has just more than $43 million in committed salary and cap holds -- about $20 million shy of the projected salary cap. Even more room could be cleared with the release of Jason Maxiell (as reported) and/or Ronnie Price, veteran contributors out of sync with Orlando's youth movement. Some of the younger second- or third-tier free agents could be in play for the Magic, though Orlando renting out its cap space to some team needing to dump salary is more likley.
Many of the league's playoff contenders fancy themselves in the running for LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, though many are still a move or two away from clearing the cap room necessary to make a competitive offer. Enter the Magic, or any other team positioned well below the salary cap. By agreeing to take on burdensome salary, Orlando can command picks or prospects in return. Utah wrangled two first-round picks from Golden State last season with that kind of arrangement as prelude to the Warriors' signing of Andre Iguodala, and the same formula may well be followed to facilitate the relocation of Anthony.
As for Nelson, the 32-year-old guard still has plenty to offer a team. The most obvious fits are those more immediately competitive outfits, as Nelson will likely be interested in joining a playoff contender after missing out on two consecutive postseasons. Any number of quality teams might register interest. Miami could likely find a place for Nelson in rebuilding its supporting cast from scratch. Houston could use Nelson if forced to offload Jeremy Lin's contract as expected. Portland could replace the outgoing Mo Williams with Nelson, as could Charlotte with Luke Ridnour or Atlanta with Shelvin Mack. Dallas might be in play if Devin Harris signs elsewhere, with Toronto similarly positioned if Greivis Vasquez leaves in free agency. New York might not be a bad fit given how Nelson's talents would fit in the triangle. And even the Pistons could be a good landing spot given Nelson's relationship with head coach Stan Van Gundy. The market for reserve guards is wide open and Nelson vaults up the free agent list as one of the steadier hands available.