Jermaine O'Neal Possibilities

With Rick Carlisle in the building, Bill Ingram over at Hoopsworld floated the possibility of a Mavs trade for Jermaine O'Neal of the Pacers during the summer. The centerpiece of his article was that the Mavs would trade uneven Josh Howard for oft-injured O'neal. Ingram doesn't go into details on how such a trade could work in terms of parts, but the guys over at Indy Cornrows took a whack at the possibility (with a hat tip to Caught in the Web) and found it unlikely for a few reasons.

First of all there is the salary issue of a $10 million difference in salaries. That's a large amount to fill in. Another player or players would have to be included to make it work.

Next up, and perhaps more importantly from Indy's standpoint, there is Howard's comments about smoking marijuana:

Josh Howard is a great player and no doubt a good guy, but the Pacers can't take a risk of having another player suspended for drug use and Howard would definitely constitute a risk.

These are compelling points. However, the article makes one key point that I think makes this trade distinctly possible:

...combined with Dampier, it might be as good a deal as the Pacers could find for J.O.

And that deal--Dampier and Josh for O'Neal--is a compelling one for the Mavs. It's a risk, of course. The Mavs are trading two starters for one, but there is a significant upside in that the Mavs would have an extremely strong two-way center to pair with Nowitzki and Kidd. With Kidd on the court the Mavs could certainly use Terry as a small 2 guard sniper. The real problem would be the hole that Howard leaves at small forward. Could Bass fill that position? These are the kind of intriguing questions and risks that make this deal interesting.

But there is an evern more compelling reason to make this deal: O'Neal's contract. Howard and Dampier have three more years on their deals than O'Neal, who would come off the books--guess when? Yes, the exact same year that Kidd comes off the books. That puts the Mavericks in a spectacular salary cap position, while still having a Dirk on the roster.

So Jermaine O'Neal for Erick Dampier and Josh Howard is similar to the Jason Kidd deal in that it is a "win now" risk with fantastic long-term prospects for the team to build on if it doesn't work out (and even if it does work out!).

Note what the Indy Cornrows guys said, as well: "...it might be as good a deal as the Pacers could find for J.O."

The real wild card here is the relationship between new Mavs coach Rick Carlisle and Jermaine O'Neal. O'Neal doesn't have a problem with Carlisle, but he is far from a fan. When Jim O'Brien replaced Carlisle at Indiana, O'Neal was very public how he liked O'Brien's offense more than Carlisle's (even though his production went down). O'Neal also found Carlisle aloof, a common criticism of Carlisle. All told, Carlisle here isn't going to make O'Neal enthusiastic about joining the team, although it isn't a deal breaker either. The interesting thing is that the opposite doesn't seem to be the case: Carlisle use O'Neal very effectively in Indiana, and it is quite possible that Carlisle would be enthusiastic about such a trade.

In the end, this is one of the real intriguing possibilities for the summer and one that makes a lot of sense for both teams.

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