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Daily Babble: A Must-Make Move for the Nets

Word is the Nets have a chance to dump Vince Carter and bring in a post scoring threat in the process.  And even better for Rod Thorn, the pundits are worried that the move doesn't favor the Nets enough.

As reported by The Record's Al Iannazzone:

Acquiring All-Star power forward Jermaine O'Neal remains a possibility for the Nets, but could cost them their own All-Star, Vince Carter.

The new proposal would send Carter, Marcus Williams and Jamaal Magloire to Indiana for O'Neal. But O'Neal has a bone bruise in his knee that will sideline him at least two weeks.

Nothing is imminent, though, as O'Neal's health and $64 million salary through the 2009-10 season are real deterrents for the Nets.

Plus, the Nets would become a luxury tax-paying team.

Concerns about Jermaine O'Neal's contract and health status are certainly viable.  But when one considers the downside associated with keeping Carter in town and what a healthy O'Neal's presence could do for this team, the upsides make this trade far more appealing than not for the front office boys in the Swamp.

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The downside to keeping Vince Carter in Jersey is simple enough for the Nets: They aren't going to win with him.  Carter has been and remains a spectacular individual physical talent.  On any given night, he has the potential to be the best player on the floor.  But too often, he isn't.  He has long been known for his tendency to monopolize the ball (although the growth of Richard Jefferson has prevented that to an extent this season) and for his tendencies to start settling for off-balance, contested shots, which leads to a fair number of very poor shooting nights.  He doesn't exactly have a sparkling record as a teammate, hustler or gritty player either.  VC has been known to loaf since his Toronto days, and the somewhat widely held belief around this team is that Lawrence Frank has long since stopped getting through to him.  Carter can play on teams that get to the playoffs and get a couple of rounds deep, but he has never shown that he has the mettle to be the star of a truly contending squad.

Furthermore, with a lead trio of Carter, Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd, the biggest knock on the Nets is that they are nearly a completely perimeter-oriented team.  While Sean Williams and Josh Boone have both been productive additions to the starting lineup, neither is a major presence on the offensive end, and on most nights, if the Nets aren't hitting shots, they aren't going to win.  Currently, the Nets are locked in to pay VC $61.8 million between now and the end of 2011, and the opportunity to pay a few luxury tax dollars to move Carter and his 'tude for a certifiable post presence while Jason Kidd still clearly has something left is not one to be taken lightly.

Jermaine O'Neal is just that certifiable post presence.  As we discussed a week and a half ago in this space, JO has worn out his time in Indiana on a number of accounts.  Long story short, O'Neal doesn't fit well into the Pacers' new fast-paced system under Jim O'Brien, and while he is still largely a good character guy, some of his comments last summer regarding his murky future with the Pacers may still be a sore spot with many around the team.  That said, O'Neal remains an excellent defensive player, and if he can remain healthy, at 29 he still has the time and the skill set to recapture his dominant offensive game in the post.  Playing for the team that plays the twentieth quickest pace in the league rather than the Pacers' frenetic style could help accelerate that improvement of JO's game.

No, it isn't a guarantee that O'Neal will regain his old form in Jersey.  But it has been clear for some time now that he needs a change of scenery if he is to have any hope of doing so, and that finding his 'A' game once more certainly isn't out of the question.  A Nets team that uses either Josh Boone or Sean Williams with O'Neal and has one of the neophytes to bring off the bench in the front-court, with Richard Jefferson as the team's lead perimeter scorer and Antoine Wright stepping into the starting lineup gives the Nets a far better chance to contend in the long term than the team has as currently constructed.

With VC, RJ and Jason Kidd, the Nets can make some faint noise in the Eastern Conference given a favorable match-up or two.  They won't win in the long-term.  It simply isn't going to happen.  With a healthy and re-improved Jermaine O'Neal in the front-court to go with Jefferson and Kidd, they could be become a conference force once more.  That alone makes this move worth making.

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