Last week, the Golden State Warriors signed on the well-traveled center Jermaine O’Neal to a one year deal. Formerly of the Phoenix Suns, the 34-year-old was drafted way back in 1996. In recent years, he’s been largely a rotational player, which is the role he will fill on the Warriors. He’s going to mainly be expected to stop the gap left by the loss of Andris Biedrins (third string center), that is when Festus Ezeli returns.
So, what will this newest addition mean to this team?
Statistically, he’s enjoyed one of his better years since 2009-10 last season. He averaged 8.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks. All this while shooting 83.5 percent from the free throw line (quite good for a big man) and 48.2 percent from the field. There are a few issues, though.
First, his age can look worrying. He’s a ripe 34 years old, which puts him right in the range where players’ bodies, particularly bigger guys, can start to break down in poor fashion. And even worse, he’s already started. He has seen his fair share of injuries in the past few years, though they weren’t really an issue with the Suns.
When considering last year, though, one has to remember that Phoenix’s medical staff has been resurrecting careers for a while now. They have the absolute best staff in that area, and it’s not even close to a second. Also take into account that his minutes were pretty well-managed, restricted only to 18.5 minutes a game.
With Golden State, he might see even less minutes each night depending on Ezeli’s situation as the season progresses. He will definitely see at least the same amount of minutes early in the year, since he’ll be second on the depth chart until the newly-sophomore big man is fully healed. Once Ezeli is fully returned to action, performance will determine minutes.
It’s a given that O’Neal will see more minutes than Biedrins did, since even at his worst, he’s an upgrade over Biedrins. Detractors of the signing will call O’Neal a washed up, injury-prone risk of a signing.
But with only a single season on the contract, there’s not much risk there to worry about. Plus, as I said, he’s a more skilled big man on offense than Biedrins has been, and he’s a heck of a lot cheaper.
O’Neal is, at the end of the day, a stopgap for the loss of Carl Landry as well as an insurance policy for Ezeli. That makes his role, while not the most prominent, one that is integral to the preservation of Golden State’s playoff hopes. You won’t see a ton of him on the court most likely, but make no mistake, he is important.
Moreover, he brings another veteran presence into the locker room. He’s spent time with a ton of playoff teams in the past, including the Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. He’s been around the block. That means that they can expect him to at least provide some stability on a young and promising team–maybe even a mentor to Ezeli.
Either way, look for this to be a good thing in some capacity for the Warriors moving forward.