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How close is Jermaine O’Neal to being a Hall of Famer?

09.08.11 at 1:31 pm ET
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When former Boston College and current Suns forward Jared Dudley tweeted on Wednesday, “Jermaine O’Neal look like J.O. from the Pacers,” it got me thinking: He’s no Bill Russell, but just how close is O’Neal to being a Hall of Fame player?

Now, this is not an argument for O’Neal’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Repeat: This is not an argument for O’Neal’s Hall of Fame candidacy. It’s simply an examination of how surprisingly close the 32-year-old center is to knocking on Springfield’s door.

THE PROS

  • His six straight NBA All-Star appearances from 2002-07 are more than Hall of Fame centers Bob McAdoo (5), Wes Unseld (5) and Walt Bellamy (4).
  • His 0.425 NBA MVP Award shares ranks No. 55 in history, higher than 42 Hall of Fame players — including former Celtics center Robert Parish (0.286).
  • He has ranked in the top 10 for a single season in blocks seven times and rebounds four times.
  • His 1,659 blocked shots (since 1973-74) puts him No. 24 all-time. Of the 15 Hall of Fame eligible players with more career blocks, nine made it. Of the six that didn’t, only Larry Nance had more than 7,000 points.
  • His career defensive rating (since 1977-78) of 99.93 ranks No. 44 in history, placing him higher than defensive stalwarts Dennis Rodman (100.26) or Scottie Pippen (101.51) on that list.
  • His career player efficiency rating of 18.23 places him No. 117 in history, between surefire Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd (18.25) and Hall of Fame Celtics guard Bill Sharman (18.18)

THE CONS

  • His 12,381 points ranks No. 197 in history, behind surefire NOT Hall of Fame centers like Joe Barry CarrollBill Cartwright, Rik Smits and Wayman Tisdale.
  • His career average of 14.0 points per game ranks No. 229 in history, behind guys like Rasheed Wallace, Happy Hairston, Vin Baker and Tom Van Arsdale.
  • His career offensive rating (since 1977-78) of 102 does not rank among the top 250 players of all-time.
  • His career average of 7.44 rebounds per game only puts him ahead of one Hall of Fame power forward or center: Kevin McHale (7.33).
  • His 6,591 career rebounds are fewer than all but one Hall of Fame player at his position since the 1950s: Bill Walton (4,923).
  • His Hall of Fame probability of 0.0511 ranks lower than all but one HOF player: Calvin Murphy (0.0405).

For the sake of argument, let’s say O’Neal played until he was 35 or 36 years old, accumulating 2,000-some-odd more points, 1,000-and-change more rebounds and 200-plus more blocked shots and assists over the next three or four seasons. That would put him at nearly 15,000 career points, 7,750 rebounds, 2,000 blocked shots and 1,500 assists.

There isn’t another player out there with that resume who isn’t in the Hall of Fame. If he were to achieve those milestones, he would join Hakeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan and Robert Parrish as the only players to reach those heights. That’s some rarefied air right there.

Of course, that’s probably a pipe dream for O’Neal, as all signs point to the 2011-12 Celtics season as his last. He hinted as much after the playoffs. In that case, he should finish his career with somewhere around 13,000 points, 7,000 rebounds, 1,750 blocked shots and 1,350 assists. That would put him in a class with borderline Hall of Famers Nance (15,687-7,352-2,027-2,393) and Alonzo Mourning (14,311-7,137-2,356-946).

In all likelihood, J.O. would remain on the outside looking into the Hall of Fame, contemplating a career worth of “What if?” scenarios. What if it hadn’t taken four seasons on the Blazers and a trade to the Pacers before he got more than 15 minutes a night? What if he hadn’t been suspended for 15 games as a result of “The Malice at the Palace” during a season in which he averaged 24.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.9 assists? What if injuries didn’t keep him from nearly 200 games between the ages of 26 and 32 over his last seven seasons?

What if he won an NBA championship? Well, I guess there’s still something he can do about that last one.

Read More: Alonzo Mourning, Boston Celtics, Jermaine O'Neal, Larry Nance
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