What Jermaine O'Neal Actually Means to the Toronto Raptors
There definitely hasn't been any shortage of analysis on what Jermaine O'Neal may or may not bring to the Raptors this year.
However, there is a common theme in most of the analysis I have come across that simply baffles me—the idea that JO would only have a major impact on the club if he is able to return to 20-10 form.
I got news for ya. If JO returned to 20-10 form the Raptors would be the odds on favorite to win it all, not just improve slightly. Nobody—and I mean nobody —has two 20-10 guys in today's NBA. I went back to 2001 (as far back as ESPN has readily available) and NOT ONE team has had two guys even average 10 rebounds in the same season, let alone 20 and 10 each.
I'm going to focus on the rebounds portion of this analysis because there are numerous teams that have had two guys average more than 20 points a game with little correlation to overall success.
The closest teams to having two 10 rpg guys were as follows:
'06-07 Suns: Marion and Amare averaged just under 10 rebounds each. That team, won 61 games—and had a rough (and questionable) playoff exit.
'05-06 Clippers: Brand was right at 10 boards a game, with Kaman slightly under at 9.6. That team won a respectable 47 games in a year where there were two 60-win teams and a Suns team that put up 54 wins in the same conference. They also lacked a true point guard, which the playoffs exposed.
'04-05 Heat: Shaq pulled down 10.4 and Haslem added just over nine. This team won 59 games that year, and won the championship the following year with basically the same team.
'04-05 Suns: Marion pulled down 11.4 that year, with Amare right around nine. That team won 62 games and made the West Finals.
So basically, in the last eight or so years, there have been four teams that have come close to having two guys average 10 boards a night. All four experienced a great deal of success (except maybe the Clippers) in the regular season, with other deficiencies eventually killing them in the playoffs.
The thing I take from this is, that even if JO where completely healthy and in his prime, it would be nearly impossible for two guys on the same team to put up 20-10. That's not to say they both don't have the ability to do so, just that there isn't enough ball to go around on a nightly basis for both guys to average this over the entire regular season.
If this ever happened, I am quite confident that we woudn't be looking at just a good team or a great team, but a once-in-a-lifetime team. I just don't see the precedence for any conclusion to the contrary.
So for people to yap their mouths about how O'Neal needs to put up 20-10 beside Bosh for them to be legitimate contenders—well, that just doesn't stand up to logic.
Personally, I think the Raptors could be extremely competitive with a simple 12 ppg, 7 rpg and 1.5 bpg stat line outta JO, and if he were ever able to put up 15 ppg, 8.5 rbg and 2 bpg, I think their win total would easily be in the mid 50s, and Toronto would become serious contenders to come out of the east.
In my opinion, people are just overstating what he needs to contribute to the Raptors for them to really take a step forward. In the NBA, you are typically only as good as your "big three" will let you be.
Everyone is crowing about how the 76ers are a sleeper in the East this year, with a big three of Brand (peaked equally with JO, with just as many health questions this year), Iguodala (most people consider a complimentary player and not "the guy") and Dalembert (so far a one-year wonder, with that one year coming with an otherwise bare frontcourt).
I think the Raptors have a much higher probability of being the sleeper team in the East with potential, if all goes right, to really wreak havoc in the playoffs. They have a big three of Bosh (coming off a life-altering Olympic experience and poised to take it to the next level), Calderon (a consensus top-five point guard who takes care of the ball better than anyone) and O'Neal (a former All-Star and 20-10 guy who has lots of questions around him but is only being asked to be the third fiddle).
So I just wish everyone would quit spewing this dribble about JO needing 20-10 to have an impact. It just isn't happening, whether he's healthy or not—and I'm here to tell you it won't be the end of the world.
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