Jermaine O’Neal Rumors: Can He Help Dallas Mavericks Rebounding Problems?


How much could a 36-year-old center coming off of knee surgery help the Dallas Mavericks in their rebounding woes?

Dallas knew this would become a problem once it traded Brandan Wright, and it was even before Wright was shipped to Boston. But the Mavericks, in desperate need of improving their 29th-ranked defensive rebounding percentage, are hoping Jermaine O’Neal can fix that.

It’s not like the Mavericks are incompetent when it comes to rebounding. Bringing back Tyson Chandler was a must after Samuel Dalembert was having his own difficulties of grabbing a defensive rebound. But even with Chandler back, controlling the paint and being a defensive anchor, Dallas is still having trouble against teams with size.

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The loss to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday was a prime example. Yes, Detroit came into that game the hottest team in the NBA. But they also have two post players in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond who can rebound and can pose mismatches offensively for Dallas’ front court as currently constructed.

So the best available option is to get someone who is 36 years old and is coming off knee surgery.

Dallas has targeted O’Neal the day Rajon Rondo was traded to the Mavericks. It makes the most sense. O’Neal lives in the Dallas area and the Mavericks need some sort of big man.

This isn’t to take away from the fine job Greg Smith has done with his increased role. He’s been seeing the most consistent minutes, even by default, since the trade and has made the most of them. While this team is the best since 2011, that team also had three capable centers that could rebound and protect the paint.

The Mavericks don’t have that luxury beyond Chandler. While Smith is playing well, he also hadn’t played much basketball since coming into the league. This is the first time Smith is playing a full season, and also healthy at the same time.

That’s where a guy like O’Neal comes in.

Plenty more teams have jumped into the O’Neal sweepstakes. Teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Clippers all could use some sort of frontcourt depth and rebounding presence, just like the Mavericks.

O’Neal, as he’s gotten older, obviously isn’t the same player he was when he was averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. He’s struggled to stay healthy for the last few seasons. Thankfully for Dallas, having one of the best medical staffs in the NBA plays to its benefit.

This is the same team that was interested in Greg Oden and the likes of Andrew Bynum. Taking a flier on a veteran like O’Neal, who is still looking for his first championship, is not a surprising risk.

But the Mavericks, with how thin free agency is in regards to big men, might not have a choice to go with O’Neal. That’s not a knock on him, but it was the same ideology when Dallas went after Oden and Bynum. The Mavericks needed front court depth in the worst way possible, knowing that the risk of injury was there, regardless of how talented Dallas’ medical staff is.

O’Neal was with the Golden State Warriors last season before eventually injuring his knee in the playoffs and ending his season. He only played 44 games with Golden State last season and started 13, averaging 7.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in 20 minutes per game.

Per 36 minutes (which would more than likely not happen if he played for Dallas right now), that’s 14.2 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game.

So while the rebounding is a must, Dallas could be looking to O’Neal to be an offensive option in the post that they lost with Wright. He’s very capable of being an offensive weapon if needed, so that would be the best of both worlds for the Mavericks.

O’Neal helps with the rebounding problems, but it’s hard to look at this and think it’s not a last resort for Dallas. It’s a risk Dallas needs to take. The Mavericks are 27th in rebounding margin, and just gave up 60 rebounds to the size of the Pistons.

Dallas needs all the help it can get, and it’s unknown whether O’Neal could help in that regard. But it would be an upgrade, nonetheless.

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