Jermaine O'Neal's Impact on the Heat So Far

Allen LevinCorrespondent IIFebruary 28, 2009

Six games have been played since Jermaine O'Neal and Jamario Moon arrived to Miami in the deal that sent Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to the Toronto Raptors. And after six games, the Heat are 3-3 with their new pieces. Perfect? Far from it. But, the Heat have made strides and the team is finally beginning to display some chemistry.

Although the Heat are starting to look better with their new players, they have yet to establish any consistency. Since the trade, it has been loss, win, loss, win, loss, win. They are 3-1 at home since the trade, and 0-2 on the road. And two of those losses come against the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks, both teams with better records than Miami. 

So, the Heat really haven't been a bad team since the trade, they just haven't found a rhythm yet. But, this is to be expected when your starting lineup receives a major shake up that inserts a true center into the rotation with only one day of practice before his first game.

O'Neal has been decent for the Heat so far, averaging 12.6 points per game, six rebounds per game, and 1.5 blocks. While this is far from spectacular, he has had a major impact in all three of the Heat's wins with him on the roster. He is averaging 16.3 points and 7.3 boards per contest in Miami's three wins compared to nine points and 4.6 rebounds in Miami's three losses. It is clear that O'Neal has become a major factor in Miami's success and that his performance  can make the difference between a victory and a defeat.

So, the question becomes...was this is good trade for Miami?

Overall, I would say it is still too early to evaluate, but so far it has been a decent acquisition for the Heat. The Heat are now a mere two games behind Atlanta for the coveted fourth seed in the Eastern Conference with 24 games to go.

But, the major concern since the deal has been whether or not the Heat can knock off the NBA's elite teams. So far, it hasn't looked good, with two of the three wins coming against sub .500 squads and two of three defeats coming against playoff bound teams (Orlando and Atlanta). But, Miami's victories also must be further examined. They beat Philadelphia and Detroit, who make up the East's sixth and seventh seed, respectively. The Heat hold the fifth seed, so to gain ground on two teams directly behind them in the playoff race was crucial. It could even be argued that those two victories are more important than getting a win against Orlando.

The loss to the Hawks is a little worrisome though. The matchup against the Hawks in Atlanta was the Heat's first huge test of the season and they weren't able to pass it. But, no panic buttons are being pushed just yet. The team is still trying to mesh and still trying to establish some consistency. Once those two things happen, everything will start to fall into place for this young team.

Tonight's victory against the New York Knicks provided some strong hope that those two things will happen. Both of Miami's new players were major factors in the win tonight with O'Neal posting 18 points and seven boards and Moon putting up 17 points and 12 rebounds in his first double-double as a member of the Heat. They meshed well out there together and looked good in the team's system.

So, if Dwyane Wade continues to play at a ridiculous level and if O'Neal can play how he has in those three victories, then the Heat should have no problem getting to that fourth seed and becoming a major player in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

And after tonight's win, I am not doubting the Heat's odds at becoming a dangerous team come playoff time. Hopefully, tonight's victory proved that Miami is ready to turn up the Heat.