The Suns were in desperate need of a backup big man to Marcin Gortat this offseason after they traded Robin Lopez to the New Orleans Hornets. The young 7-footer always showed promise, but due to numerous back injuries and his inability to reach his potential, his time in Phoenix was bound to end sooner than later.
To fill the gap, Phoenix came to an agreement with journeyman center Jermaine O'Neal on a one-year, $1.35 million contract. O'Neal, 34, has been in the league since he was 18 years old and during his 16 year career, he has averaged 13.7 points and 7.4 rebounds.
The thing is, much like Lopez, O'Neal finds himself sidelined quite often with various injuries. Last year with the Celtics, O'Neal played in just 25 games before sustaining a wrist injury. He has never played in a full 82 games during his whole career. With little options behind him, the Suns will rely on the magic of Aaron Nelson and the rest of their training staff to keep him healthy.
Phoenix's training staff has often been heralded as not only the best in the NBA, but as a miracle worker for athletes that seem to be on thee downhill. Players like Grant Hill and Michael Redd have revived their careers in Phoenix, due in part to the wonderful care they received off the court.
With Jermaine O'Neal, the Suns will need him to return to his All-Star status and give Gortat some much needed rest throughout the season. Channing Frye will be unavailable for some time after having surgery on his right shoulder, so he will not be able to fill in.
What the Suns really have lacked is a big man that can come in and grab rebounds for the second unit. Lopez was always a subpar rebounder and Frye only averages around 5 rebounds per 24 minutes. O'Neal will be called upon to do rebound the ball both on the offensive and defensive sides of the floor.
If O'Neal can even look like a semblance of what he once was, the Suns will have yet again found a veteran that can be productive for their team. If not, they will need to turn to plan B and find someone that can give them some quality minutes off the bench.