Not sure if this has been posted yet, but here it is anyway
Who's worth more:
Garnett or O'Neal?
Prep-to-pro stars at top
of games this season
With additional firepower added to the roster this season, T-Wolves star Kevin Garnett has made it a point to work more inside.
While Kevin Garnett was an instant star in the NBA, Jermaine O'Neal took awhile to develop. But both of these prep-to-pro talents have been at the top of their games this season. Which leaves us with an intriguing question: Who is the better value?
What the Market Says: Garnett and O'Neal were the big winners in this summer's NBA contract extension derby. Garnett, who is in the final year of a $126 million deal that had him averaging $21 million per season, was lauded for accepting less money than he could have gotten on the open market when Minnesota signed him to a five-year, $100 million extension.
After flirting with the idea of jumping to the Spurs, O'Neal swore eternal allegiance to then-coach Isiah Thomas and signed on for seven more years with the Pacers to the tune of $126 million. Thomas, of course, was fired by new GM Larry Bird and is now performing the same duties as Bird with the Knicks in New York, but O'Neal has still played at an All-Star level for the Pacers, who go into the break with the best record in the Eastern Conference.
What Salary Guy Says: The question of whether they're worth the long extension green will remain an open one until they achieve significant playoff success, but from a performance standpoint, Garnett and O'Neal both embody the versatility of the new breed of NBA big men. Scouts argue about whether O'Neal is a four or a five, but regardless of whether the Pacers put him on the floor as a power forward or a center, O'Neal's combination of length, strength and quickness makes him virtually unstoppable in the size-challenged Eastern Conference.
Brett Coomer / AP file
Jermaine O'Neal signed a seven-year, $126 million extension with the Pacers during the offseason.
Garnett, meanwhile, remains the most unique seven-footer in the game, and his game continues to grow each year. With Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell on board to help with the scoring chores, Garnett has taken more responsibility for rebounding and playing in the paint this year. But how many big men can step in and play the point when their floor general gets in foul trouble, which Garnett did when fouls took Sam Cassell out of the equation in a Minnesota game a few weeks back?
As good as they are, though, both big men come with some baggage. Garnett still faces the stigma of early playoff exits, in part because of his unique frame -- as versatile as he his, Garnett lacks the wheelbase of a true post player, and his relative inability to play with his back to the basket is especially costly in the West.
O'Neal, meanwhile, jumped straight from high school to the NBA and proceeded to languish on the Portland bench during his salad days. His slow start at Indiana caused many to wonder if he'd ever be a top-flight big man, but O'Neal has more than rewarded the Pacers for their patience.
The Bottom Line: Despite Garnett's MVP numbers, O'Neal remains the better value, largely because of the lack of dominant post players in the league. O'Neal's skills make the Pacers a virtual lock to make it to the NBA Finals despite the lack of a quality point guard. And with a core talent base that includes Ron Artest and Al Harrington as well as a talented management team of Bird and Rick Carlisle, Indiana is poised for a long run at the top of the Eastern Conference.
But when push comes to shove in playoff time, the worth of both O'Neal and Garnett will be defined by their ability to overcome what their clubs don't have. Given the injuries and disappointing performance of new center Michael Olowokandi, Garnett will face the task of muscling up against the West's heavy-duty front line talent, and even with Sprewell and Cassell it's unlikely that the Wolves can win three straight rough-and-tumble series and make it to the Finals.
O'Neal faces a much easier road to the Finals, but the lack of a point guard in Indiana will make the Pacers playoff run an ongoing roller coaster ride.
Unless Bird goes out and deals the likes of Jonathan Bender or Austin Croshere for a solid floor leader to replace the inconsistent Jamal Tinsley, the Pacers will have to wade their way through postseason opponents with a shaky, often stagnant offense.
They should get to the finals, but the prospect of running into a dominant point guard like Stephon Marbury in a seven-game series has to terrify Carlisle and Bird, and as constituted right now the Pacers would have little chance of defeating the Kings or the Lakers if they did make it to the final round.
The final postseason verdict? If Garnett can somehow get Minnesota to the Finals, he eclipses O'Neal as the better value. If O'Neal can find a way to help his club get past the Lakers or Kings, his stock goes up accordingly. And if they should happen to battle in the Finals, hoops fans will be treated to one of the most unusual battles between big men that's taken place on the hardcourt in a long, long time