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Maybe Jermaine O’Neal Being a Trade Target of the New York Knicks Isn’t as Crazy as It Sounds

February 20th, 2013 at 10:13 AM
By Matt Agne

What if I told you that Jermaine O'Neal is the best target out of all the trade talks the New York Knicks are rumored to be in? What if I said O'Neal represents the formula that has led to the Knicks best record in over a decade? It's not as crazy as it may seem. O'Neal is a veteran big, with a high-skill set, that knows how to play the game and is in the final stretch of his career. Sound familiar? O'Neal might be the exact kind of player the Knicks need.

'00060230' photo (c) 2009, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Jermaine O'Neal is a 34 year old power forward/center from Columbia, South Carolina. The 6'11", 255 pound big man was drafted 17th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1996 NBA Draft. He played for the Trail Blazers from 1996-2000, the Indiana Pacers from 2000-08, the Toronto Raptors from 2008-09, the Miami Heat from 2009-10, the Boston Celtics from 2010-12 and became a member of the Phoenix Suns in 2012.

He was named the NBA Most Improved Player in 2002, is a two time All-NBA Third Team player (2002-03), an All-NBA Second Team player in 2004 and a six time NBA All-Star (2002-07).

O'Neal played for the United States National Team and won a gold medal in Brisbane in 2001 at the Goodwill Games. As a member of the Unites States National Team he also won a gold medal in San Juan in 2003 at the FIBA Americas Championships.

'Jermaine O'Neal' photo (c) 2011, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

O'Neal use to be a force in the NBA but injuries have added up and slowed his career. That being said, there's no reason he can't help a team if they can manage his minutes and his health. This season for the Suns, O'Neal is averaging 7.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks a game in only 16.85 minutes of play.

Just to take a snap shot of his production lets look at his stat lines for the past five games with the Suns. On Wednesday, February 6 against the New Orleans Hornets he played 18 minutes, scored seven points, had one steal and three rebounds. On Friday, February 8 against the Oklahoma City Thunder he played 23 minutes, scored 12 points, had two blocks, one assist and six rebounds. On Sunday, February 10 against the Oklahoma City Thunder he played 21 minutes, scored seven points, had two blocks, one assist and eight rebounds. On Tuesday, February 12 against the Los Angeles Lakers he played 27 minutes, scored 12 points, had one steal, five blocks, four assists and 13 rebounds. On Tuesday, February 19 against the Portland Trail Blazers he played 20 minutes, scored nine points, had one assist and recorded 13 rebounds.

In fact, in the six games he's played in in February he's averaged 22.7 minutes, 10.2 points, 0.7 steals, 1.7 blocks, 1.7 assists and 7.8 rebounds per contest. This is a man with 90 playoff games under his belt. He has the experience and skills set to help the Knicks as a role player off the bench.

With the NBA trade deadline approaches on Feb. 21 this Jermaine O'Neal talk seems to have come out of nowhere. However, with the Knicks looking to bolster their frontcourt it's not surprising they'd take a look at such a skilled big on a bad team who only makes $854,389 this season.

Chris Broussard of ESPN reported the Knicks interest in O'Neal via his twitter account.

Sources: Knicks showing strong interest in Phx's Jermaine O'Neal…Phx also talking w/Toronto about moving Sebastian Telfair

1:45 AM – 20 Feb 13

The Knicks roster seemed deep in the frontcourt when the season began. That's all changed thanks to constant health problems for both Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby. Camby has missed 36 games and Wallace has missed 30 himself, and although both returned to practice Tuesday and participated in conditioning drills, it's not known when either will return to the court.

Wallace's absence has been the most painful for the club. He's a leader and brought solid scorer in the post as well as a decent defender. Furthermore, he helped the team spread the floor with his three point shooting like not many big men can.

'20090930-1897' photo (c) 2009, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Clearly the Knicks have a void to fill and perhaps O'Neal is the player to do it. However, there are a few things to deal with before that happens. First, what's the true status of Wallace and Camby's health? Second, what will it cost to get O'Neal? Third, if it only cost say a second round draft pick, who do the Knicks cut to make room for O'Neal on the roster? Fourth, can the Knicks keep O'Neal healthy?

The first three questions should take care of themselves. If Wallace and Camby are healthy maybe the Knicks can wait and pick someone up off the street if need be. If not, it's time to cut bait and bring a usable player into the mix. The cost of the trade could be little to nothing. Phoenix is under the cap so a trade doesn't have to be even and the Knicks can either use a player to get him and in turn open up a roster spot or trade a second round pick and cut someone. Most importantly is O'Neal's health. O'Neal has had a lot of injuries over his career. When he plays he's productive but the Knicks can't afford to bring him in here only to have him have the same problems Wallace and Camby are having. It should be noted that he's playing for Phoenix who has the best medical staff in the business. That being said, he's only been in Phoenix this season so it's not like they've been duct taping him together for years now.

He pretty much is what he is. It's a matter of if the Knicks want to take a marginal gamble on bringing him to New York. Some think it would be foolish for the Knicks to give up anything for O'Neal when history shows his season could be over because of one freak reason or another. Just last month O'Neal was sidelined with an irregular heartbeat. However, sometimes you have to ask if the risk is worth the reward. If O'Neal doesn't work out cutting him is extremely easy and the same free agents available today will likely still be looking for work. That said, if he does work out sending a bench warmer or a second round pick to Phoenix for him is well worth the veteran depth.

The Knicks have been decimated by injuries because they chose to build a deep team with aging players. it was a risk they took and one that has hurt them in the frontcourt. However, bringing Jermaine O'Neal to New York is a low-cost, high-reward move the Knicks need to look into. At first thought, bringing O'Neal into the mix sound plain crazy. However, it's a move that could prove to be crazy smart.

Tags: Basketball, Jermaine O'Neal, Marcus Camby, NBA, New York, New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns, Rasheed Wallace

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