Jermaine O’Knick?

Sam Smith of the Chicago Tribune reports that Jermaine O’Neal has asked to be traded to the New York Knicks.

But sources say O’Neal already has told the Pacers he wants to be traded to the Knicks and former Pacers coach and close friend Isiah Thomas. Would the Pacers take Stephon Marbury or maybe a package with Steve Francis, Jared Jeffries and Channing Frye and the Bulls’ first-round pick, which the Knicks own in the swap?

While I’m not particularly familiar with Smith’s work, the article reads like the Peter Vecsey of the mid-West, especially with “sources say” line. But since it’s only the beginning of the second round of the playoffs, which means the draft is still far off and the next official Knick game even further, now is a good time to fantasize about such things.

First off, I’d like to say Jermaine O’Neal is exactly the kind of player the Knicks need. He’s a legitimate All Star, something the team hasn’t had since 2001. O’Neal would also give the Knicks a strong defensive presence in the middle, something they haven’t had since 2001. Although he’s had a lot of mileage, O’Neal will only be 29 next season, so he’s not likely to decline severely. In fact taller players tend to age better.

On the other hand, recently O’Neal has missed his fair share of games. Suspensions and injuries has limited him to an average of 55 games over the last 3 years. Additionally Indiana still has an NBA rivalry with New York, so it’s not likely that they’ll send O’Neal over gift wrapped. And lest we forget that the Pacers’ GM Larry Bird isn’t in Isiah Thomas’ 5. Finally do the Knicks have enough assets to trade for Jermaine? Or more importantly, can Isiah come up with a package for O’Neal without bankrupting the Knicks?

It’s still early in the rampant speculation season of the NBA. Between now and the draft nearly every quasi-available All Star will be rumored to be traded to one team or another. But for now it’s Jermaine O’Neal to the Knicks. Dream on, Knick fans.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

43 thoughts to “Jermaine O’Knick?”

  1. I just find it hilarious that I was JUST about to post an entry, because it had been awhile since our last one, and this pops up while I am writing.

    Thank you, Mike. Not writing something is always easier than writing something. ;)

    And how awesome was Game 1 of Spurs/Suns?

  2. Peter Vecsey of the Midwest? Yeah, that about covers it for Smith. My favorite Smith piece came during the recent dark days when he excoriated free agents for not signing with the Bulls.

    At any rate, I think NY would need some help to get a deal done for O’Neal. Unfortunately for us he’s also exactly the kind of player Dallas could use and they’ve got more movable assets.

  3. Oh, and yeah, I almost forgot – Smith is pretty lame.

    O’Neal might very well have requested a trade to the Knicks, but I’ll believe it when I see it (or at least see more people reporting on it).

  4. What frightens me about this off-season is that after shrewdly signing Randolph Morris Thomas might be wise to package the Bulls’ pick and a player or players for veteran talent that can come in and contribute immediately.

    Yet I’m not inclined to think the Knicks need a complete overhaul. That’s why rumors of these megadeals frighten me a bit. Thomas needs to add talent without taking a wrecking ball. This is precisely Thomas’ main weakness. His major flaws are exacerbated in pro personnel decisions: his tendency to personalize negotiations & his penchant for falling in love and overpaying for talent.

    I feel a bit like a parent whose kid just got his license. I know this kid’s temperament will make him a poor driver but at some point I have to let him drive.

  5. Sam Smith is always a great read, but I think he makes up this stuff off the top of his head – that’s why the columns are so long, even without the bad Vecsey jokes.

    It’s an easy call to trade anyone but David Lee, for O’Neal. He’s only 28 and along with everything else is a great defensive player, who would change everything on that end of the court. (Hollinger picked him as DPOY, although I’m not sure I’d go that far). God willing Indy would take Curry and and another vet, instead of Marbury.

    Owen and I had a long debate here last month about whether it was worth trading Lee for O’Neal. I think he convinced me that it’s not… mainly for youth and $$ reasons… but it’s a close call.

  6. p.s. With all due respect, I don’t think we’re remotely close to the “add key vets” stage. With Curry, Marbury, Francis, Crawford, Q, Jeffries & James eating up the salary cap and more (literally eating it, in JJ’s case)… we are stuck in the middle of the league, unless we can move some of those deals, or – more likely – luck out with Morris, Balkman or another late pick turning into a big-time player to go with David Lee.

  7. “his tendency to personalize negotiations & his penchant for falling in love and overpaying for talent.”

    So true. Isiah has overpaid for the mediocre (Taylor, J.Rose, Jeffries, James), the young (Curry, Crawford), and good but not great (Marbury, Francis). He’s tried to build a team around two players that aren’t ideal to build around (Marbury & Curry), so it would be nice for him to finally get a great player that you can build around (O’Neal).

    However, as good as O’Neal is, it would be destructive for the Knicks to part with too many of their young players with good potential to get him (Lee, Balkman, Frye, and Robinson).

  8. Hopefully J O’Neal pulls an “Iverson” and we can get him for 10 cents on the dollar (meaning Frye, Nate, Morris, and our pick this year and possibly Francis, but that is a huge stretch)

  9. In fairness to Isiah, he only overpays in dollars and draft picks, not current players. Considering this wouldn’t be a sign and trade and the Knicks don’t really have any draft picks to trade, I’m not sure he’ll make this trade.

  10. Plus, if we have to take more salary on, who cares? It isnt our money anyway and we are already heavily over the cap! Who cares about the cap! But, at the same time, could this trade scenario turn them into contenders/playoff bound? See Bulls, Suns, and Magic.

  11. JO is a great player… but him being 29 does that really give this young core enough time to play as a team together to be a championship team?

    The bulls core is at their 3rd try at the playoffs… and they will still get knocked out by Detroit most likely.. and they have an early pick in this years draft. With our current assets/cap situation/draft picks we are still a few years behind the Bulls in terms of development.

    In my opinion, we’d be getting JO primarily to help Marbury have the feeling for getting deep into the playoffs. But with the way our team stands, we still are not in position for a championship for another 2 years… and that’s assuming Isaiah can draft out of his mind.

  12. I don’t think O’Neal is that great.

    He is a fantastic defensive player, probably one of the best in the League. I just don’t think he is very good on the offensive end. I mean, we’re talking about a big man who has never managed to shoot 50% from the floor and typically shoots somewhere around 45%. That’s what you expect from a shooting guard, not your big man. He’s in love with that mid range jumper that he rarely hits. Plus, the guy just can’t stay healthy. Unless he comes dirt cheap I wouldn’t bother.

  13. i still believe the knick will get deep in the playoffs next season..
    with or without JO.
    GO KNICKS!!!

  14. “I don?t think O?Neal is that great.

    He is a fantastic defensive player, probably one of the best in the League. I just don?t think he is very good on the offensive end. I mean, we?re talking about a big man who has never managed to shoot 50% from the floor and typically shoots somewhere around 45%. That?s what you expect from a shooting guard, not your big man. He?s in love with that mid range jumper that he rarely hits. Plus, the guy just can?t stay healthy. Unless he comes dirt cheap I wouldn?t bother.”

    I agree with you man, but it is not the “offensive prowess” that we need, we need his D! If Curry can learn how to pass out of double teams and hit 65-70% of his FTs, I could honestly say he is in the top three dominant centers on the “offensive” end in the NBA. On D, he is probably the worst! He is just god awful! We need someone who can play 1 on 2 b/c ECity is absolute bum on the D end. but honestly, we do not need O’Neal to score. If he could put up Frye numbers 12 pts/game with say 10 bounds a game, we can give Curry a mulligan b/c hopefully with J O’neals help, Curry D deficiencies can be overlooked by Oneals contributions. Also, a guy like Drew Gooden wouldnt hurt either…We could probably get him cheaper and he could be just as effective as ONeal would be.

  15. “I don?t think O?Neal is that great.”

    i totally agree with you!

    He whines about every single call nor do I think he is the type of leader you can build a team around(even less so than KG!). I see him as another overpaid, injury-prone, fake-superstar veteran we don’t need.

    I think there was a time when you needed a face to front your organization so GM’s threw money at a player who had the potential to fill that mold. The successful teams in the N.B.A. are going away from that mode of thinking, ie. Detroit, PHX., Nets(they have a superstar in VC but the team is built around Kidd), Utah(Kirilenko is the un-superstar), chicago(same with Ben Wallace)…vs. teams like, Dallas, Houston(2 superstars), Toronto(bosh), Lakers, Orlando(howard), Cavs…just a thought.

    Which is why I think JO would be a mistake since the frontcourt is already young and primed for the future.(i hope Isiah is reading this)

  16. According to ESPN bio, he’s 28 until October…

    I agree that JO has offensive limitations, but he’s still pretty good, is a solid rebounder and a real difference-maker on defense, which is a gaping need as we all know.

    Agree that salary is not a vital issue – we are so far over the cap it barely matters. We’d be shipping out as much salary as we bring in, and if it doesn’t work out, O’Neal has far more trade value around the league than anyone on our roster now, except for the rookie contracts.

    A decent negotiator could pull off this trade without taking Tinsley – after all, it would help Indy as much as anyone to clear JO off their cap – but of course Isaiah is not a decent negotiator.
    Luckily, if Peter Vecsey is to be believed, Isaiah hates Tinsley from his days there…

    I’d be thrilled to offer one of our good young bargaining chips (Frye or Balkman), plus an ok chip (draft pick, Morris or Robinson) plus any vet(s) on the roster that Indy would take. If they pick Curry, we’re set.

    The only guy I’d be reluctant to part with is David Lee, and even then… If he plays like he did this year, it’s a mistake to trade him. On the other hand, it’s only a sample size of 50 games so I’m not convinced he’s quite as valuable as he was this year. Durability may be an issue, too.

  17. I don’t think O’Neal is a solid rebounder either. If I recall correctly, the Pacers rebound the ball better without him on the floor, and at best he plays his man to standstill on the boards.

  18. I’m not sold on J. O’Neal. He’s gonna be 29 when the season starts (and it’s an OLD 29 considering he entered the league at age 17) and seems to be getting more and more injury-prone with each passing season. If the Knicks trade for him, we’re not gonna get the 20 – 10 PF/C of recent vintage, more like 15 and 10 (especially if Curry is still the main focus in the low post). Honestly, I think Lee can give us the same numbers at a 10th of the price (although O’Neal’s 2+ blocks/game would be nice).

    Granted, that was the rationale for holding onto Frye last year (He’s going to be at 18 – 8, just below all-star status, etc.). If you can package Frye to move up in the draft, do it. Otherwise, keep this group together.

  19. JO is good but not that good. No way they should give up much youth or draft picks for him. Any limiting injury to JO and we will be in this hell of mediocrity for years and years more. I’d be happier to see the young guys play more, use the potentially high draft picks in 2008 and 2009 well and if things go well the team will look good by 2010. I don’t believe in an easy fix.

  20. The thing I like about KG with the Knicks is his on-the-court leadership ability. Besides interior defense, KG would help greatly in this regard. Does JO display those same on-court leadership abilities?

  21. “If they pick Curry, we?re set.”

    My goodness could you image a front court of O’Neal, Lee, and Balkman? That would be quite stout defensively. Good shot blocking and strong rebounding. You’d almost have to sign a SG from the D-League that can do nothing but hit jumpshots, but at least we’d be returning to the traditional Knick winning teams -> strong defense.

  22. 5. Finally do the Knicks have enough assets to trade for Jermaine?

    I don’t really think that the Knicks have any veteran players that Indiana would want. We would need to match O’Neal’s $19.7 million salary next year, but don’t have any expiring contracts. Who among our vets are desireable? I can’t see the Pacers taking on the contracts of Francis ($33.5 mil/2yrs), Q-Rich ($26mil/3yrs and injury prone), Rose ($14.7 mil/2 yrs), Jefferies or James. Unless we package either Marbury, Curry and/or Crawford with young talent, this will only result in the Knicks getting dumped with Dunleavy, Tinsley, or Murphy’s heavy 5 yr. deals. ugh.

  23. I think the deal will get done. The only competition will be Kevin Garnett, but I have read that Garnett does not have the personality for NY. The same article also mentioned that O’Neal is a better fit because he does not take losing lightly. He actually gets into players faces.

    The probably can do it for the 23rd pick, Randolph Morris and Nate Robinson.

  24. I’m not put off by JO’s age. He logged a grand total of 2537 regular and post season minutes in 4 years for Portland, or about equal to Jared Dudley’s total over the last 2 years for BC.

    If Frye or Curry is the main asset/only significant asset (meaning not one of them plus Lee/Balkman/future 1st) given up to acquire JO I think it would be a no brainer. I’d probably even give up Curry and Frye for JO.

    JO is kind of like Frye on steroids. Same mid range shot to complement Curry’s low-post game, better passer, much better defender, and better rebounder.
    I’m not a Curry fan, so I’d take JO for him in a minute. Curry is 5 year younger than JO, but to me all that means is 5 more years of having the worst rebounding, passing, and defensive center in the league.

    I’ll be interested to see what JO fetches if he’s moved. Clearly some teams, like Chicago and Dallas, could outbid the Knicks if they wanted, but will they break apart their strong cores for O’Neal? Will they take back a Tinsley?
    I agree that the Knicks might have an advantage over other teams if they’re willing to take Tinsley. I’m sure Isiah is (even if he doesn’t like him) and I don’t think he’ll have to try very hard to convince Dolan. Unfortunately, Tinsley brings almost nothing to the Knicks as he’s basically a poor man’s Marbury. If the Knicks are going to eat a salary in this deal I’d like to see it be Dunleavy’s: he’s got a high basketball IQ, creates for teammates, and has shoot a high 3-pt % at times (an unremarkable but decent .341 on his career to go with a .489 eFG%, but his career high was .388).

    I’m especially interested to see how much O’Neal’s reorted wish to come play for Isiah in NY effects the whole situation (obviously I hope a lot).

  25. “JO is kind of like Frye on steroids. Same mid range shot to complement Curry?s low-post game”

    he doesnt have Frye’s mid-range jumper at all! He’s a better shotblocker, rebounder, defender, probably a worse teammate and costs 10x as much.

    “The probably can do it for the 23rd pick, Randolph Morris and Nate Robinson. ”

    how does that equal $19mil per?

  26. Does anyone really think that Larry Bird is going to give JO and Isiah what they want? Peace in the Mideast will come sooner.

  27. I read that Haywood wants out of Washington b/c he can’t get along with the coach. He makes 5 million per, has 3 years left on his contract and Washinton wants to get a big man back. How about Jerome James for Haywood. Salary matches. A change of scenery would do both players good. Would that help the Knicks?

  28. Frye is not remotely comparable to Jermaine O’Neal – CF is a jump-shooting 7-footer who offers no defense and very little rebounding, and who couldn’t even hit the jump shot this year. We’d be lucky to get a first-round draft pick for him, considering he only has two years left on his rookie deal.

  29. O’Neal’s contract runs through 2010, which definitively ties us down through then, true. But… the only way we’ll be under the cap before then anyway, is if we somehow trade Curry for a shorter contract. Does anyone think that will happen? Even if it did, we’d still be close to the cap.

    If you assume that Curry is here for the duration, I don’t think we’ll have the opportunity for a bigger upgrade than Jermaine O’Neal. It’s not a question of picking betweem him OR Amare Stoudamire OR a big-time free agent, or a top 5 draft pick. It’s whether you’d rather have O’Neal, or Frye/Francis/Crawford, etc.

    I wouldn’t be too worried about tread on the tires – even when that contract runs out, he’ll only be 31. And while he got hurt at the end of this year, and his offensive #s were down, he had a spectacular defensive year. His main problem was that the quality of his teammates took a faceplant.

  30. It’s really interesting how last year everyone felt Frye was a future All-Star, and now after one bad year he’s a complete bum not even worth a first round pick and David Lee is suddenly a clear cut future All-Star on this board. I somehow don’t think NBA executives have that short a memory. If he gets into a structured offense where the focal point isn’t one of the worst passers in the NBA, the leading shot taker isn’t one of the worst shooters for his position, and he can return to his natural center position on offense I think he’ll regain his rookie form (not that he’ll be an All-Star, but a solid starter).
    Even after this past season, on his career Frye’s posted a .454 fg%, 13.3 rebound rate, and 6.7 assist rate (.477, 14.5, and 5.9 his rookie year). Jermaine O’Neal’s career numbers are .461, 15.9, and 8.2. So while Frye is clearly a far inferior defender, I think the rest of his game is comparable to a poor man’s JO.

  31. Ted, I agree that Frye could bounce back (not rebound), and that he could become a reasonable starter in the league. That’s what you hope for with, say, a #20 pick. Except the draft pick still comes dirt cheap for four years.

    The problem with Frye is that he’s pretty one-dimensional. The player he reminds me of most is Troy Murphy. I don’t mean that as an insult; if Murphy wasn’t so overpaid he’d be a nice role player on a good team.

    Jermaine O’Neal? He may not be a top 10 kind of player, but when he was Frye’s age he was a two-time all-star. He’s a great defender. And how would that career comparison look if Frye had played against NBA’ers when he was 17, 18, 19, 20, etc.?

    I agree with you about caution re; David Lee. He was truly awesome this year, but it’s only 50+ games.

  32. I never thought Frye was going to be that good. He came into the League with a pretty polished game and with little room for improvement; he doesn’t have the frame to bulk up and become a low post scorer, he doesn’t have the natural timing to be a shot blocker and rebounding is something that a rarely shows significant improvement over time, especially for a player who comes into the League at the age Frye did.

    I never thought he was a future all-star but I don’t think he’s a bum either. He’s a solid NBA player who will probably have a nice long career.

  33. I’m not saying that Frye is equivalent to JO: I said JO is like Frye on steroids and that Frye is like a poor man’s JO. As you point out, Murphy is probably a better comparison. However, in the context of my post, what I was trying to say is that Jermaine O’Neal would replace Frye’s major contribution (scoring and a decent mid-range shot) and do almost everything better.

    “JO is kind of like Frye on steroids. Same mid range shot to complement Curry?s low-post game, better passer, much better defender, and better rebounder”

    As far as trading for draft picks, you have to consider the risk involved. That #20 pick may be “dirt cheap,” but his chances of being a good NBA player are less than 50%. Even at numbers 13-15, since 2000 the list reads like this:
    Courntey Alexander
    Richard Jefferson
    Marcus Haislip
    Marcus Banks
    Sebastian Telfair
    Sean May
    Thabo Sefalosha
    Mateen Cleaves
    Troy Murphy
    Fred Jones
    Luke Ridnour
    Kris Humphries
    Rashad McCants
    Ronnie Brewer
    Jason Collier
    Steven Hunter
    Bostan Nachbar
    Reece Gaines
    Al Jefferson
    Antoine Wright
    Cedric Simmons

    Besides RJ, who else are you dying to have on your team before Frye? Maybe Al Jefferson, Troy Murphy, Luke Ridnour, or a young guy like Sefalosha, Simmons, Brewer, and much less so Wright or May. Maybe Nachbar or Steven Hunter if you don’t think Frye will bounce back. In the best case that’s about 33% of those guys who are better than Frye (and 66% who are worse).

    Of course a lot of GM’s are going to feel they have the skill or the one prospect to beat the odds. Other GMs whose teams just missed or just made the playoffs might look at their odds of taking a player who can contribute immediately, and rather get Frye if he fills a need and they think he fits on their team.

    Even if you look at picks 9-11, they read:
    Joel Przybilla
    Rodney White
    Mike Sweetney
    Andre Igoudala
    Ike Diogu
    Patrick O’Bryant
    Keyon Dooling
    Joe Johnson
    Caron Butler
    Jarvis Hayes
    Luke Jackson
    Andrew Bynum
    Saer Sene
    Jerome Moiso
    Kedrick Brown
    Jared Jeffries
    Micka?l Pietrus
    Andris Biedrins
    Fran Vazquez
    JJ Redick

    That list is significantly better, but still, if we assume Frye will be a solid starter/3rd bigman on a good team I count Joel Przybilla, Rodney White, Mike Sweetney, Ike Diogu, Patrick O’Bryant, Keyon Dooling, Luke Jackson, Jerome Moiso, Kedrick Brown, Jared Jeffries, Fran Vazquez, JJ Redick, Saer Sene, and maybe Jarvis Hayes as guy who have yet to acheive that level on a sustained basis (some of them are, of course, still young). That’s roughly half, although a few of those guys will probably develop.
    Then again, 2007 is supposed to be a deep draft, but 2003 was also a deep draft and 9-11 reads Sweetney, Hayes, Pietrus. Hayes has been ok, and Pietrus has come on in his 4th NBA season.

  34. For what it’s worth, I think NBA GMs really DO have that short of an attention span, which is why players get big contracts based on how well they play in the playoffs, no matter what they did for years before that.

  35. Brian – NBA Gm’s systematically overpay for scoring with little regard for shooting efficiency. The metric that correlates most closely to compensation is actually the NBA Efficiency rating, a genius metric which give equal weight to a fg attempt and a ft attemot. That is one undisputed conclusion of the WOW.

    They also I think reward short term performance rather than long term performance, which is stupid, since in the NBA past performance generally is a very accurate indicator of what a player will do in the future.

  36. Brian,

    You’re right: ” I somehow don?t think NBA executives have that short a memory” was a poor choice of words. NBA exectutives often do seem to have a very short memory.
    All I meant to say is that I don’t think Frye will be judged entirely on this past season. Teams saw what he is capable of his rookie year. Not that this past season doesn’t hurt his value, but I would think there must be at least a few teams who are still pretty high on Frye.

  37. While I can’t speak to JO’s health – and 55 games per year is not a great number but how many of those were lost to the suspension -assuming you get comfortable with his health I like him on the Knicks (like that matters to anyone). He would be the fourth option on offense behind Curry, Marbury and Crawford (partially because Crawford shoots when he get his hands on the ball rather being a designed option) and with Q you have a balanced offense.

    Marbury played inspired defense (for him) and Q is okay. Adding a real player to the mix rather than a stiff would help.

    The question is what you have to give up and what Indiana would want. Marbury and Curry are untouchabe and Indy has a SF. I am assuming Bird is going to play Dunleavy and Diogu (so he the GS trade doesn’t look so bad) so a big and PG would be the focus. the salaries work (I think) but the following makes sense to me:

    Frye (no role with Lee, JO, Curry, Q and JJ2)
    Malik Rose (salary needed)
    Francis (takes minutes from Tinsley replaces D. Armstrong)
    Morris or first rounder.

    Troy Murphy (salary needed to balance trade)

    Murphy and JO have 4 and 3 year deals while all the Knicks have 2-year deals (but Morris) so Indy does save some $$.

    I am assuming that diogu replaces Oneal so Frye becomes backup to Diogu and the center (whose name I can’t remember). Rose becomes bench fodder/veteran presence/trade bait. Even with Francis, Pacers become younger as Armstrong is 38. The problem is that you trade your best player and don’t get a starter – but two players will become key rotation guys and one guy with upside.

    Knicks get JO, Lee becomes backup PF with JO subbing in at center with Murphy providing extra depth. Clearing Frances allows Mardy to play and well Nate still belongs in the “and one” league (where even here his shot selection would still be questioned)

    Of course it wont work because Larry and Isiah probably can’t get together. I think this works by the rules and helps both teams configure their talent, then again I could be a complete idiot.

  38. Zeke is the worst executive of all time and with his new extension, worrying about any particular player aquisition is pointless. His ego is massive and he counters every positive contribution with a bad decision that usually stems from his inability to understand the relationship between risk and reward. Trade for JO or not, Zeke will find a way to negatively affect the team. I have no hope until he is fired.

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