If there are two big needs for the Nuggets, it is bench help and to get larger up front and there is no better fit than free agent Jermaine O’Neal, who is the answer for both.
O’Neal, who will turn 32 before next season, is at a stage in his career where he is more useful in a more limited role. The Heat learned it the hard way last season, where he played his fewest minutes since his Portland days. He was also non-existent in the playoffs against the Celtics.
However, O’Neal, who is going into his sixteenth season, is still a skilled NBA player who can be useful on both sides of the ball. And while he isn’t as athletic as he once was he still can put up points in bunches with a solid mid-range game and good post moves that the Nuggets current bigs lack. Not to mention he is an underrated defender, who can block shots and play strong man-to-man defense. And can play Center and Power Forward.
His personality also fits right in with the Nuggets. He has a self-confident ‘bad boy’ attitude that is similar to Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin and JR Smith.
The Nuggets don’t lose anything with him on the bench or when the Nuggets are dealt with an injury to Nene or Kenyon Martin. You at least would get more from him on both sides of the ball than Chris Andersen or Johan Petro and at a far more consistent rate.
Just imagine how different the outcome would be if O’Neal was on the team when K-Mart was injured during the regular season or when Nene went down in Game 5?
And if we learned anything from this year’s NBA Finals it is the importance of bench and veteran leadership. Both squads have veterans that have been in the NBA since the mid 1990s and both have veteran big mans that are valuable off the bench in Rasheed Wallace and Lamar Odom.
While O’Neal doesn’t have Wallace’s range or Odom’s ballhandling skills, he is a better scorer than both and has the same type of size that makes a team’s bench dangerous. O’Neal also is alumni of the 1996 Draft, which featured Boston’s Ray Allen, Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher and Phoenix’s Steve Nash.
The Nuggets are in a cost-cutting mode and O’Neal won’t come cheap but he also won’t cost $22 million which he was due last season. Veteran players like Wallace, Shawn Marion and James Posey all have been overpaid the previous few years.
- Wallace-$17 million for three years in 2009
- Marion- $39 million for five years in 2009
- Posey- $25 million for four years in 2008
It is doubtful O’Neal will cost as much as any of the above and the Nuggets will probably not offer a deal more than three years. An offer of $16 or $17 million for three years should be reasonable enough for both the Nuggets and O’Neal, especially in the later stages of his career. It will also push Andersen to a more comfortable role as the energetic big and limit the wear and tear on the Nuggets bigs.