Phoenix Suns: Why Jermaine O'Neal Is a Risky Signing

Andrew WallockContributor IAugust 16, 2012

(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns look vastly different than they did at the end of the NBA regular season. After losing superstar Steve Nash to the rival Los Angeles Lakers, they've been able to bring in a number of different players in Michael Beasley, Goran Dragic, Wesley Johnson and Luis Scola. 

All of these signings and trades are bound to pay off in the long run, with every single one of those players looking for a new and fresh start, and each with their own points to prove as NBA players. 

But their most recent signing is not one that fans should expect to pan out in anything less than disappointment. Jermaine O'Neal, a former All-Star and 16-year NBA veteran, was recently signed to be the primary backup behind starting center Marcin Gortat. The position, recently held by Robin Lopez, is open for O'Neal now that Lopez has been shipped to the New Orleans Hornets.

This was a great signing, but only if the Suns aren't expecting to get much production from the veteran center. As a locker-room leader and all-around veteran presence, O'Neal should be a valuable commodity.

But as an actual player? Those days may be far behind him.

Don't get me wrong. I've always loved O'Neal as a player, but the guy is truly a shell of his former self after struggling with numerous injuries over the past couple of years with Boston.

Keep in mind, in the last eight years O'Neal has missed 39 percent of games due to various injuries. 

Signed to a one-year, veteran minimum contract, O'Neal claims to have an extra spring in his step. One of the reasons he chose Phoenix was because of its awesome training staff, one that was able to help Nash avoid the hands of time. 

This training staff will definitely be needed by O'Neal while he recovers from a spring wrist surgery, and the famous Regenokine knee procedure in Germany (the same one Kobe had). 

If anything, O'Neal plans on making an impact. Talking to the Arizona Republic, he said:

I have a different type of lift right now.I have a different type of quickness right now. A lot of people may say it's the procedure, but I say it's the work I put in.

It's definitely a risky signing on the Suns' part, a franchise desperate to find an identity and return to prominence. With a number of younger, hungry centers in the free-agent market or even as trade options, O'Neal is a risky deal.

It could pay off with a more agile, youthful O'Neal. Or, more than likely, it will pay off with a Jermaine who never gets off the bench.