The latest name in the C’s search for a big man has come to the surface, and quite frankly it may be the best option out on the market in Jermaine O’Neal. The former member of the Heat lists the C’s as one of the finalists for his services (along with Dallas and Denver) for the upcoming season. Marc Stein of ESPN.com has the scoop:
“Those are my favorites,” O’Neal told ESPN.com “Those are teams that are going to compete [for a championship] next year.”
O’Neal said he’s still deliberating between the three teams — all believed to be offering a portion of the mid-level exception to sign him — and called the decision perhaps “the most important of my career because I know this is kind of my last run at it” in terms of title-chasing.
O’Neal averaged 13.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 28.6 minutes in 70 games last season for the Heat, who are expected to renounce their rights to the former All-Star as part of the cap space-clearing exercise required to create sufficient cap room for the incoming Chris Bosh alongside a re-signed Dwyane Wade and Miami’s other free-agent targets.
Let’s take a look at what O’Neal could bring to the table in Boston.
Well, first off Jermaine, if your talking about winning Championships, Boston is your best bet on that list, rather than trying to get out of the gauntlet that will be the Western Conference next year. Hopefully he figures that out.
Now, let’s take a look at a quick scouting report on O’Neal prepared by our own Zach Lowe at the beginning of the free agency period:
• Jermaine O’Neal: Had a rebound season in 2010 (his PER was a robust 17.9), and his shooting percentage jumped over 50 percent for the first time in his career. But as we saw when he pooped the bed against Boston in the playoffs, it’s unclear if he can score against elite defenses, and he’s become more a jump-shooting big as he has aged. His plus/minus numbers over the last three years show a player who is a neutral presence, at best.
It is worth noting that despite O’Neal’s collossal stinker in Round 1 (20 percent shooting), he was battling through knee and ankle injuries throughout the final stages of the season. Those undoubtedly affected him as he battled Perk one of the best low post defenders in the league. Is it a complete excuse? Absolutely not, but the dismal performance should be taken with that in mind.
The bigger sample size, (the regular season) shows the 31 year old having a nice bounceback year, with terrific shooting from the perimeter (44 percent in the 16-23 foot range according to Hoopdata.com). Much of his offense has been pushed out towards that range, (a la KG) in this stage of his career, but he would be a nice complement to Perk in spacing the floor, perhaps not as well as Sheed did, but enough for opponents to keep an eye on outside the paint.
As for the rest of his game, the rebounding is steady and defensively O’Neal can still make an impact. He blocks shots, rotates well given his size, and ranks amongst the leaders in charges taken by centers in the past few years. He’s regressed quite a bit from his peak obviously given his 14 year career, but overall he’d be a solid fill-in for Perk and strong piece in the team’s big man rotation.
For a portion of the mid-level exception, say 3-4 million dollars per year for two seasons, you can count me in. In this market, that might even be a steal for a veteran who wants to win.