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Will Jermaine O'Neal make the Celtics better?

Jul 27, 2010, 2:51 PM EDT

It’s something you don’t see every offseason: Jermaine O’Neal had one of the worst playoff series in recent memory when the Heat met the Boston Celtics in the first round of last year’s playoffs, going a combined 9-44 from the field in five playoff games. Then, after the Celtics learned Kendrick Perkins will need surgery and the Heat went on a spending spree, O’Neal ended up signing a two-year deal worth approximately $12 million with the very team that shut him down last April. 

On the surface, O’Neal appears to be a downgrade from Kendrick Perkins, but Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub is optimistic about what O’Neal will bring to the Celtics:
The Celtics are essentially trading the most turnover-prone center in the league for the least turnover-prone center in the league.
Among 27 centers who played at least 1,000 minutes last season, only one–Tyson Chandler–turned the ball over on a higher percentage of possessions than Perk, according to Basketball-Reference. Perk turned the ball over on 20.4 percent of possessions on which he was involved with the play that ended the possession, an unacceptable mark for a point guard, let alone a center.
The scary thing? That turnover rate was the lowest of Perk’s career…

Zach is also excited about O’Neal’s ability to stretch the floor:

[O'Neal] attempted about 60 percent of his shots last season from outside 10 feet, and he made those shots at a career-best rate. For instance: O’Neal made about 44 percent of his shots from between 16 and 23 feet (i.e. long two-pointers), one of the best marks in the league among centers or power forwards, according to Hoopdata. Perspective: KG, one of the very best big man shooters ever, hit 46 percent from that range last season; Ray Allen hit 45 percent.
O’Neal knocked down exactly 40 percent of his shots from that range in both ’08 and ’09, so while 44 percent is his career high, it’s not wildly out of line.

Perkins is limited offensively, but he always knew what his role was in Boston’s offense. O’Neal is just as good of a finisher as Perkins is (he made around 70% of his shots at the rim last season, according to Hoopdata), and also has the ability to step out and hit the pick-and-pop jumper. The question will be whether O’Neal has the discipline to only take shots around the rim and wide-open mid-range jumper; O’Neal is skilled, but he shouldn’t be taking possessions away from KG, Pierce, and Allen. If O’Neal can accept the fact he’s a role player on the Celtics, he could potentially take a lot of the sting out of Perkins’ injury. 

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