Wednesday 26th November 2014,
The Hoop Doctors

4 Big Reasons Shaq Makes Cleveland the ‘Team to Beat’

Anklesnap June 25, 2009 Blogs 16 Comments

June 25, 2009 – Dr. Browntorious

You are going to read a TON of articles over the summer speculating on whether or not the Cavaliers are a better team having acquired Shaquille O’Neal from the Phoenix Suns for Sasha Pavlovic, Ben Wallace, and a second round draft pick. My first thought regarding most of the articles i’ve already read is: “Are you F$%*ing kidding me?”

I’m not talking about who is getting the better end of the trade though. That would require you to consider a million variables, such as; Will Shaq play more than one year?, Will the Cavs have to pay the penalty?, Do the Suns blow it up and rebuild?, Do the Cavaliers win the title?, Do the Suns make the playoffs?, Does Ben Wallace retire giving the Suns more financial relief?, etc. etc. I’m straight up talking about the Cavaliers being a better team in 2009-10 on the basketball floor. As tough as it is to do, given they had the best record in the league come playoff time this season, the answer is a resounding YES, they are much better! Here are some initial thoughts to consider:

1. Second Line of Defense
You are going to be bombarded by people comparing the statistical output of Shaq to that of Zydrunas Ilgauskas. They will look at the numbers and productivity per minute played, and say that Shaq is barely an upgrade over Big Z. Those are the people ‘pretending’ to be paying attention. You know the types. The guy that reads to box score after the game and thinks he knows as much about what happened during the game as the guy that actually watched the game. I’ve had to say this countless times, what Shaq brings to the table defensively can’t be measured statistically. And if it can, maybe you should look at things like the percentage of opposing shots that come from outside the paint. Maybe take a look at percentage of shots that come late in the shot clock. Sure Shaq has respectable numbers of blocks and good defensive rebound numbers, but where he really helps you defensively is just in his presence. The guy’s size and strength, even as he ages, is unparalleled. He makes Dwight Howard look like a skinny kid trying to play with the grown-ups. The number of times I see great opposing scoring guards drive the ball past their man, only to see Shaq waiting for them, then either throw up a bad shot, kick the ball out, or dribble out to the corner is astounding. In those cases Shaq doesn’t always even get the opportunity to attempt a help-side block to pad his numbers, but has dramatically affected the offense with his presence.

2. On the Ball Defense
Phoenix traded for Shaq to stop Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs, as up until that point the Spurs were the only team that stood in the way of them and the Championship. Did Shaq succeed? You are damn right he did. Every single time the Suns met the Spurs, Shaq played great. Every time Shaq was on the floor, Duncan played very poorly offensively and the Suns were consistently outplaying the Spurs. One small glitch. Shaq’s brand of physical defense these days is nit picked by referees to the point where he is in foul trouble in almost ever game his team plays against a team with a highly talented offensive Center. The Suns forgot something in putting that roster together. The back up center. Instead of putting in a quality back up center to defend Duncan, the Suns most times slid Amar’e Stoudemire over to the Center position. Memo to Suns staff incase you haven’t figured it out yet. Amar’e Stoudemire is probably the single worst on-the-ball defending big man in the league. He just can’t stop anyone, let alone an all-time great like Tim Duncan. Shaq goes out with foul trouble = Duncan goes on tear and kills the Suns. So is Cleveland similarly bringing in Shaq to stop Dwight Howard? Most definitely. How is it different for Cleveland’s success then? Um, a little fella off the bench by the name of Zydrunas Ilgauskas. People rode the Big Z pretty hard in the Orlando series this year for being weak defensively. And that he was. But let’s be clear about something, the Big Z is a more than adequate defender in this league, and is a many octave improvement over Amar’e Stoudemire for when Shaq needs rest or is in foul trouble. Take one of the best ‘team defenses’ in the league, and add Shaquille O’Neal to improve their on the ball defending of big men. You have a very credible and potent defense.

3. Consistency
When Shaq was traded to Phoenix, everyone was questioning his consistency. They probably had every right to do so at that time given how he finished out his days in Miami with lackluster effort after lackluster effort. But sometimes when people repeat themselves too often, they start to believe their own words to be insurmountable fact. Let’s look at the big picture here, when it comes to winning, Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most consistent players this league has ever seen. And during his time in Phoenix, specifically this past season, Shaq was by far the most consistent player on that ball club. Shaq brought it every time he stepped on the floor. He was far and away better than Stoudemire, Nash, Hill, or J-Rich. He was the vocal and physical leader of that ball club. Sure they missed the playoffs, but there are two things to consider. The first is they barely missed the playoffs in another one of the tightest races in league history out West. The Suns had 46 wins and a 56% win percentage and still didn’t make the playoffs! The second factor to consider is that if anyone was to blame it certainly wasn’t Shaq. He had a solid season on both ends of the floor, and even brought his notoriously bad free throw shooting percentage up to a personal career high, 60%. If Shaq plays anything for the Cavs next year, like he did for the Suns this past year, Cleveland will be extremely tough to beat by anyone. He’s built to dominate in a slow half court game. And Mike Brown’s whole system is built around a grind-it-out style that Shaq may flourish in more than any other system he’s been a part of. Think about spacing. With Lebron James breaking down defenses with ease, and the litany of shooters that Cleveland has, think about how much room the Big Diesel will have to operate in the low-post.

4. Team Chemistry
The Cleveland Cavaliers this year had the best team chemistry in the entire league. They were having fun, joking around, and winning ball games. Remember the Lebron’s Cavs vs. Shaq’s Suns competitions with the pre-game intro’s? C’mon, if there is a common thread among Lebron and Shaq team’s it’s having fun and building a team chemistry that comes from their leadership abilities and general likeability. You put two great leader’s with fun loving personalities like Lebron and Shaq on the same team. How can you go wrong with team chemistry? If i’m a free agent this summer, i’m begging to play for the Cavaliers next year. Heck, if I am well off enough, I may just do it for the good times and fun atmosphere. No one wants to go to work under such tense and serious conditions that they perpetuate poor play. Shaq is a guy’s guy. He’s already got a great relationship with Lebron. I’m excited already to see what sort of fun they bring to the pre-game’s. And before long I have a feeling Shaq will have convinced Lebron to get on Twitter to interact a little more with joe public.

My prediction, the Cleveland Cavaliers next year walk away with the league’s best record. Dominate the East in the post-season. And then we’ll see who wants that fifth title more. Kobe or Shaq?

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  • Ronin

    I see what you are saying about the aspects that make the Cav’s better next year with Shaq. I would also like you to think about the negative aspects that can make the trade a bust for the Cav’s.

    Basically, Shaq is not a center that is going to work very well in the motion offense. He’s not going to be very useful in the pick and roll either. The one thing that he will bring to the Cav’s, offensively, is a go-to center that will demand the ball. Shaq is also a great passer. But this means that the Cav’s will have to completely renovate their offense. The necessary shift in an offense to incorporate Shaq will mean that the ball will have to be fed through Shaq. This will not go over very well with young LeBron. His “complimentary” players are supposed to hit shots when he decides to give up the ball.

    Another reason why Shaq’s presence will destroy the Cav’s offense is because he will clog up the lane for LeBron. Or, they will have to clear him out of the lane and then he will not be useful on the offensive boards.

    The Cav’s problems are much more extensive than the big men. Basketball is a team game and if there are two or three positions that disappear when it is crunch time, then that team will lose.

  • http://neswsports.com Ethan Jaynes

    I hope he has a little in the tank, and LeBron wins a ring next year. I am a huge fan of both. Mike Brown … not so much.

  • http://thehoopdoctors.com/online2/ Dr. Browntorious

    @Ronin – Those are all very good points. You meant to say Shaq can’t ‘defend’ the pick and roll though right?

    I feel what you are saying but offense was never Cleveland’s strength to begin with. Whatever Cleveland gives up in the motion, they gain in the ability to get points against good defensive teams when no one on the floor is helping Lebron score. When the game slow’s in the post-season and every possession is a grind, that is when you want to run the ball through Shaq. Lebron and Shaq are both amazing passers for their size. Also, Lebron wants a title pretty bad. I’m sure he’ll be flexible with Shaq and make it work.

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  • supsup

    @Ronin

    The CAVS only have one offense when it comes to crunch time. Feed the ball to Lebron. Bronbron does 5v1 and kicks out if he gets trapped. Any offense that helps bronbron out is better than what they did in the post season at this point. Shaq will make a great add. ^^

  • http://bellybuttons.tumblr.com Tyrone

    Shaq is already one of the most experienced players in basketball. And his tweets on Twitter confirm that he has one of the sharpest minds in the game as well.

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  • baller

    “Every single time the Suns met the Spurs, Shaq played great.”

    Umm….no. I was at the Phoenix-San Antonio playoff series, and Shaq was absolutely abused on defense.

    Duncan’s offense numbers were down not because of Shaq’s good defense, but because Shaq’s defensive weaknesses meant Duncan had less touches off the pick and roll. Tony Parker had wide open layups and 17 foot jumpers every time he wanted it — he had a career series not because of Nash, whom he had abused, but not as badly, in the past, but because of Shaq. Shaq was an indifferent pick and roll defender in his prime; now he busts his butt, but is simply unable to get the job done.

    Howard will score less against the Cavs this year, but Jameer Nelson is going to get 35 without breaking a sweat.

  • kazam92

    Tim Duncan shut down by Shaq? Did you not watch the 08 playoffs?

  • http://thehoopdoctors.com/online2/ Dr. Browntorious

    @kazam – Did you not watch them? Are you trying to say this one play by Tim Duncan of a last minute three pointer means he dominated Shaq? At least make an attempt at being objective. Take a look at the head to head numbers when both Duncan and Shaq were both on the floor at the same time in that series.

    Shaq’s defense thoroughly shut down Duncan.

    - Doc Brown

  • baller

    If the Doctor cares to look at the numbers, you will see Duncan obliterated Shaq in one game (Game 1), beat Shaq badly in two others (Games 3 and 5), had one so-so game (Game 2), and one game (Game 4) where Shaq got the better of him. 99% of the NBA would love to be “shut down” like that.

    Even in those “bad” Duncan games, the Spurs went away from Duncan because whoever had the ball on the wing — usually Parker or Ginobilli — had open shot after open shot, due to poor pick and roll defense from Nash/Shaq, Bell/Shaq, or Barbosa/Shaq.

    So the numbers are against you, but, worse, pick and roll “assists” for Duncan and pick and roll “failures” for Shaq do not show up in the stat sheet. Most of Parker’s 41 in game 3 and 31 in game 5 were scored off of poor pick and roll defense by the big fella. Even if we ignore the numbers and pretend Shaq “shut down” Duncan, “shutting down” your man by letting the other guy score at will is useless, and is the surest way to lose.

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