Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How Compatible is Jermaine O'Neal with the Miami Heat?

As we put the MSG Evaluation to the test for the first time, we analyze the compatibility of Jermaine O'Neal with the Miami Heat. To give a quick overview of the process, we will evaluate each player on the following categories:

-Statistical Analysis
-Attitude/Behavioral Research
-Talent Evaluation

Statistical Analysis

Let's begin by taking a look at Jermaine O'Neal's stats compared to the Miami Heat's centers. It's clear that an offensive game will be added to the Heat's low-post presence. O'Neal is averaging 13.5 ppg, whereas Joel Anthony, Jamaal Magloire, and Mark Blount are averaging 4 points or less a game. Primarily, Miami's centers have been used to gather rebounds and take up space in the paint - leaving the shooting up to Wade, Beasley, Cook, and Chalmers. If you thought offense was an issue, the Heat centers averaged 3.5 (Anthony), 3.6 (Magloire), and 1.9 (Blount) rebounds per game. Good news for Erik Spoalstra: O'Neal can be a significant rebounder for the team besides Udonis Haslem, Michael Beasley, and the former Shawn Marion.

Don't leave out the block statistic when it comes to O'Neal because his forte is swatting the ball into the stands (Alonzo Mourning would urge him to keep the ball inbounds though). Joel Anthony is a very good shot blocker, but O'Neal is a definite upgrade and an intimidating defensive player. Just in the month of February, O'Neal logged a game with 9 blocks (versus the Lakers) and 6 blocks (versus the Spurs). Need I say more about his defensive presence?

Attitude/Behavioral Research
Examining O'Neal's past,there are only a few taints to his record: his involvement in the infamous Pistons-Pacers brawl and his outspokenness on race in the NBA. On the other hand, he has an official charitable foundation (
Jermaine O'Neal Foundation) and served his 60 hours of community service for his participation in the 2005 altercation. The combination of his behaviors virtually neutralizes his image and keeps him away from the negative limelight. One thing that can be said is that O'Neal has not been in the headlines lately other than in trade talk news, which is generally good for pro athletes.

The Miami Heat is very involved with the community and has cultivated a select group of Heat players that find various ways to give back to the Miami-Dade area. It seems that O'Neal will make a decent fit into the organization's community affairs, especially when he has a big smile on his face now that he's in South Beach. Playing with an MVP-caliber player, such as D. Wade, will brighten up any disgruntled NBA athlete's day.

Talent Evaluation
On the talent evaluation front, we can easily label O'Neal's strengths and weknesses by looking at his career in retrospect. First of all, defensive awareness, low-post presence, height, and ambidexterity are his strengths. Blocking shots and posting up are what O'Neal makes a living off of. At 6'11 he stands taller than any other Heat player besides Mark Blount (but Blount is rarely spotted in the paint - it's his kryptonite). The fact that O'Neal can take it to the rack with either hand makes his game more dynamic. With Beasley able to do the same, opponents will now have to worry about Miami's front court eliusiveness. Who can deny that O'Neal will make a solid impact on Miami's game with all these strengths to account for? If you remember the game versus the Lakers (where Miami was out rebounded by 15 rebounds, yet only lost by two) you can imagine what impact O'Neal would have made defensively and on the boards - Miami could have won that game with O'Neal.

The weaknesses that are most notable for O'Neal include injury proneness, shot selection, and turnovers. The biggest thing people questioned during the O'Neal-Marion trade rumors was Jermaine's health. "Will his knees hold up?" "How long will he last?" And the criticisms continued. Well, if Shaq rejuvinated his career in Miami by getting in shape and losing excess pounds, I'm sure O'Neal can do the same for his health. Pat Riley know's what to ask of his players and health will be an issue he will surely address with J. O'Neal. The other downsides to O'Neal's game are his hesitation and shot complexity; he tends to think too much about how to attack the hoop and usually ends up taking a difficult shot in the process. This also leads to traveling calls and loose balls (i.e, turnovers). Hopefully, with Wade as the star and the facilitator, Jermaine won't feel the pressure of having to put the load on his shoulders.

Evaluation Score
Based on our final analysis of Jermaine O'Neal and the Miami Heat we've graded his compatibility as such:

Statistical Analysis: 5 / 5
Behavioral/Attitude Research: 1 / 2
Talent Evaluation: 2 / 3
Total Score: 8 / 10

O'Neal rates 8 on the MSG Heat Index and looks like a highly compatible player for the Miami Heat, their organization, and their system. We look forward to seeing how well he performs with the Heat and what his final impact on the team will be. Stay tuned for a follow-up article on O'Neal's performance compared to our evaluation rating.

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