O'Neal deal: Shot in arm or foot?

June 24, 2008
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If the Indiana Pacers pull the trigger on a deal to send Jermaine O’Neal to Toronto for guard T.J. Ford, center Rasho Nesterovic and possibly the No. 17 pick in this year’s NBA draft, several NBA insiders think they’d be shooting themselves in the foot.

Pacers officials have been mum on the possible trade, and that may be because there isn’t much to say, suggested one league source.

“This story has been out there a while, and it’s mostly coming out of Toronto,” said ESPN senior writer Pat Forde. “The Pacers can do a lot better.”

Forde said T.J. Ford’s physical condition is a big question mark, adding that his career is one hard foul from being over. Ford missed the entire 2004-05 season with a neck injury. He missed 10 games during the 2005-06 season and seven in 2006-07. Last year he was benched for 31 games due to injury. Ford is a major gamble given the Pacers’ history with oft injured point guard Jamal Tinsley.

Besides, ESPN’s Forde pointed out, the team has its eyes set on drafting a point guard, Texas’ D.J. Augustin, who has solid basketball skills, and just as importantly for a team plagued by a number of off-court issues in the last few years, is a solid citizen. The NBA draft is Thursday.

It’s true that there’s an insurance policy in place that would pay a large chunk of Ford’s remaining contract if he is injured to the point where his career is ended, but that still could leave the team in a hole at point guard. If Ford is injured enough to miss games, but not call an end to his career, the Pacers are stuck in an even more difficult situation.

The biggest upside to the trade is unburdening the team of O’Neal’s contract, which pays $21.3 million this coming year and $22.9 million in 2009-10. But ESPN’s Forde said that’s not big enough reason to jump at just any deal. “O’Neal is still an all-star,” he said.

What do you think the Pacers should do?
  • To land a solid PG, a servicable C, AND the 17th pick makes this a trade worthy of consideration. A hobbled TJ Ford is still less risky and more manageable than a $22 Million dollar Jermaine watching from the sidelines for 3 years. Plus that 17th pick in addition to the 11th almost makes this a steal. I'd say still draft DJ Augustin and maybe Lopez or Hibbert. Trade Tinsley and call it a day. Ford/Augustin, Dunleavy/Daniels, Granger/Williams, Diogu/Murphy, Nesterovic/Foster/Hibbert... watch out. That sounds like a positive step forward if you ask me.
  • Jermaine is injured most of the time and he makes over $20 million a season. Sayonara.
  • You can't stumble over an answer by standing still. Do the deal, do something.
  • This is a difficult deal to contemplate. On one hand we would be freeing up cap space and getting rid of JO's extremely high salary, we would aquire another first-round pick in a draft packed with talent, and we would get a PG who is semi-proven if he can be healthy. On the other hand, JO was more proven than TJ Ford when he was healthy and he hasn't exactly been in the best team enviornment lately. Nesterovich would be a non-factor but he would only be eating up cap space for one season.

    I think this is a very good question, and I can't come up with a great answer either way - which is why I think the deal will ultimately fail.....uncertainty from both sides.

    What I will say the Pacers should NOT do is draft DJ Augustin. I admire and respect him as a player but he is simply too small to guard bigger guards. We realize that this may be becoming a PG run league, so we can't draft someone that can't guard the other teams' stars. I think we should take the best available with our first pick and then enter the trade market to address needs. I would even give up our 2nd round pick this year and a future first rounder.
  • I think this whole trade is a figment of the Indy Star's imagination. I heard the Larry Bird yesterday called out the reporter who first 'broke' this story, and told him he was wrong in his reporting. JO for #17 and a broken down point guard. Please!

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