Jermaine O’Neal averaged 7.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in 44 games last season, backing up Andrew Bogut at the center position.
In the postseason, he scored 6.0 points and grabbed 3.4 rebounds in seven games.
Coming into last season, O’Neal was a mere afterthought with a healthy Bogut coming off a great postseason and Festus Ezeli filling in admirably in Bogut’s absence two years ago.
But last offseason, Ezeli had surgery on his knee and missed all of last season. This meant O’Neal would be looked upon to provide that lift that Ezeli gave in his rookie season, and O’Neal more than delivered. Bogut and O’Neal teamed up to be one of the best center tandems in the league on the defensive end of the court, changing countless shots and giving the Warriors an intimidating presence in the paint.
O’Neal also showed an unexpected offensive game throughout the season with a stretch in February where it looked like he found the fountain of youth. In a three game stretch, he won a game with an amazing block on Chandler Parsons in a rare victory over the Rockets. He turned back the clock in the next game against the Nets with a stellar 23 points and 13 rebounds, shooting almost 80 percent from the field and followed that with another outstanding performance in Detroit, recording his second consecutive double-double.
Whether it was his quirky free-throw shooting or his unquestioned leadership, there was a lot to love about Jermaine O’Neal. There has been talk about O’Neal retiring and this will be a huge loss for this team, not only on the court but also off the court. O’Neal really believed in what the Warriors were doing and thought they were a serious contender in the Western Conference.
It didn’t come to fruition, but O’Neal was a huge part of the Warriors’ success and will be missed if he does not return.
There is not much negative you can say about O’Neal except for the fact that he missed almost half the season due to injuries.
His first injury was a sprained wrist, which required surgery, making him miss 26 games. He broke down later in the season, providing the Warriors no interior presence in the postseason with Bogut already out with a ribs injury. DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin completely dominated in the paint and as a result, the Warriors lost in seven to the Clippers.
O’Neal was a presence in the paint and it was never more apparent against the Houston Rockets where he blocked a baseline dunk attempt by Chandler Parsons in an overtime victory. After the block, he stared into the Oracle crowd with an expression that said he could still play and jump.