Raptors Allegedly Acquire Jermaine O’Neal for Ford and More

Title: Raptors Allegedly Acquire Jermaine O’Neal for Ford and More
Date: June 26, 2008
Original Source: The On Deck Circle
Synopsis: Looking back, this trade sucks, because the #17 pick ended up being Roy Hibbert and Jermaine O’Neal ended up being a zombie corpse. At the time, it was more justifiable.

Apparently, the Toronto Raptors have agreed to a trade that would bring Jermaine O’Neal to the Raps along with Indiana’s 2nd round pick (41st overall) for T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Maceo Baston, and the #17 overall pick in the draft.

Originally, I had planned to do an article highlighting possible Raptor draft choices at #17. Then when I heard this news, I planned to break the trade down in great detail. But now, there are reports that the deal isn’t finalized, as Bryan Colangelo has said they’re in the middle of “four or five” deals. Additionally, because Ford is a Base Year Compensation player (different cap rules for trading), the deal can’t go through until the new salary cap season starts July 1. There is also an embargo on trades from July 1 to July 9, so the deal can’t go through until July 9.

What that means is that there are a lot of question marks still surrounding this trade. With that in mind, I’ve broken down the trade as if it was official.
 More after the jump!
The Actual Trade
On paper, the trade makes a lot of sense for both teams. It is essentially a swap of risks that both needed fresh starts. Indiana has wanted a young point guard for some time to replace Jamal Tinsley, and the Raptors needed to deal Ford to allow Jose Calderon to man the point full time. The Raptors sorely needed inside scoring and rebounding, and the Pacers have been trying to get any modicum of value in a trade for O’Neal for years now. This is one of those intelligent trades for both sides, the rare deal that could make both teams better in the long run.

The Concerns
Jermaine O’Neal is Vince Carter Lite, to some people. Over the past four seasons, he’s played just 206 games and his production in 42 games last season was far below what you’d expect from him. O’Neal has followed a strange career path, taking a long time to develop, turning into a full-fledged All Star and Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and then declining much earlier than most would expect. Still, it was just two years ago that Jermaine was a 20-10 threat every night, and his shot blocking average has stayed above 2.0 for the past eight seasons. You could point out that O’Neal isn’t an efficient scorer inside or that he has had well publicized character problems the past few years in Indy, but you’d be ignoring his situation and the one he’s moving to.

The Basketball Aspect
O’Neal and Chris Bosh are perfect complements for each other offensively. Seriously, you couldn’t find a better match. While Bosh has an inside-outside game and a great jump shot, relying on finesse and quickness, J-O is more of a banger and a low-post scorer. Additionally, O’Neal can spread the floor to some degree, and is a fairly effective passer from inside. O’Neal has averaged over 2.0 offensive rebounds a night for his career, development years included, adding a skill that is of the utmost importance on a team with loads of 3-point shooting ability. O’Neal should fit in right away as a more agile center that can bang the offensive glass, spread the floor from inside, and help take the pressure off of Chris Bosh.

Defensively, the fit is also fantastic. O’Neal is a former Defensive Player of the Year candidate and averaged 2.5 blocks per game from 2000 to 2007. O’Neal is also the physical presence the Raptors needed, allowing Bosh to guard the less effective big man and help in the paint, something he wasn’t able to do with the group the Raps trotted out at center last season. J-O is also a Sam Mitchell player, I think, as his toughness is sorely needed. The only questions that remain are motivation and health related, but from a purely basketball standpoint the fit is great.

The Price Tag
O’Neal has two years left at $44M, which some would find to be ludicrous, but the guy is a former All Star and a potential difference maker. While I’ll concede it is far more money than O’Neal has earned the past two seasons, the price tag also makes him an even more attractive player – in the 2009-10 season, O’Neal could either be a massive trading chip or $23M worth of expiring contract in a big free agent year. I’d rather pay O’Neal $21M this year than Rasho $10M and Ford $8M to be disgruntled, that’s for sure.

The Draft Picks
It’s always tough to give up draft picks, especially ones just outside of the lottery, but in this case I’d say it’s worth it. All evidence is that the Raptors were leaning towards a physical big man anyways, and they got O’Neal. Still, if they didn’t give up the pick in this deal, they could have secured a contributing wing player like Chris Douglas-Roberts or Courtney Lee, so add whatever player taken at #17 into the deal. It should be noted at this point that the Raptors will draft the pick and then trade it on July 9, so whoever is selected is Larry Bird’s pick but a Raptor for two weeks.

Initially, reports were that the Raptors hadn’t received a 2nd round pick back. I really like that toss-in, as there could still be some value at #41. Primarily, there are three European centers projected to go around there in Nikola Perovic, Ante Tomic, and Omer Asik. While they won’t contribute for some time and may not even come over, they are Raptor-type players, for sure. Unfortunately Stu, most mock drafts I’ve looked at have Joey Dorsey going no later than #40 to New Jersey, and the need for him really isn’t there with the O’Neal acquisition. Options that could be available include Bill Walker (he’s slipping, somehow, and getting him here would be a massive addition), Indiana’s D.J. White (a back-up PF with good rebounding), IUPUI’s George Hill (a PG to battle with Ukic for back-up minutes), and Cal’s DeVon Hardin. There isn’t much except for big men at this point in the draft, so if Walker isn’t there and Dorsey is, I think he’d be the pick. Anyone I mentioned outside of Walker wouldn’t be a huge addition but would definitely see minutes off the bench. Oh, and with the recent health concerns, Nicolas Batum (the guy many thought the Raps would take at #17) has been free-falling down draft boards, providing a potential Roko Ukic situation (almost taken at /16 but the Raps grabbed him at /46 instead).

So what of the #1 pick from 2006? Does this signal that he’s no longer the future of the franchise? Or is it buying him an extra two years to develop? Or does it mean they’re giving up on him as a canter and they’ll try and recreate him as a more natural small forward? A frontline of Bargnani-Bosh-O’Neal would be imposing and explosive, to say the least, but it may be the case that Bargnani is back to the bench. While I’m not his biggest supporter, if this move was done to signal a white flag on Andrea, I’m not sure I approve just yet. I like him at the three, though – just shoot!

Other Possible Trades
Apparently, Ford and #17 for Diaw was readily on the table, but I absolutely hate that trade for the Raptors, even though I kind of like Diaw. It’s way too much for an overpaid role player, and I would have rather just had the #17 pick at a discounted price. Colangelo said other deals are still in play, too, and I’ve heard rumors about deals with the Knicks and Clippers. I think O’Neal is probably the best value the Raptors are going to get for Ford, and at this point I’ve sold myself on O’Neal enough that any other trade would have to blow me away for approval.

The Verdict
If O’Neal plays 70 games and is healthy for the playoffs, this deal is a home run for the Raptors. They were moving Ford regardless, and I didn’t think they could land a top-flight player in return, unless maybe it was Corey Maggette. O’Neal fits well with the Raptors style and fills holes that the Raps desperately needed to fill on the inside. The salary is tough to swallow, but that means he’ll also be a valuable chip the following season, when he’s a huge expiring contract or a cap space creator. O’Neal and Bosh should form the most feared big-man duo in the Eastern Conference, and the way their games complement each other and the Raptors’ system should make this trade a glowing success, health permitting.

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