Shaquille O’Neal signed with the Boston Celtics this offseason. Many seem to be of the opinion that it won’t be a significant signing. Those who think so are fooling themselves. O’Neal is now on a great team that complements him perfectly and he improves the Celtics’ chances of winning an NBA championship.
Don’t be fooled by O’Neal’s 12 points per game and six rebounds per game with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season; those numbers were the byproduct of a clueless coach who had no idea how to implement O’Neal’s talents properly. Those numbers were also the byproduct of a less aggressive O’Neal who deferred to LeBron James on a mediocre team which tried to force-feed the ball to James all the time.
Upon deeper observation of O’Neal’s 2009-10 numbers, you would see O’Neal averaged 24.6 points and 13.7 rebounds per 48 minutes played. These numbers are in spite of O’Neals 56.6 field goal percentage (his lowest since 1996-97).
O’Neal played 75 games for the Phoenix Suns in 2008-09 and was an all-star that season (and deservedly so). While he may only be a shell of his former self, he is still one of the more talented centers in the NBA today. Nobody can guard him one-on-one deep in the post.
Coach Doc Rivers and the Celtics will use him properly and give him the minutes he deserves. They run a slow half-court offense which suits O’Neal perfectly. They have a tough and organized defense on which O’Neal doesn’t need to be the best player. Look for O’Neal to prove his doubters wrong this season. He is still a tremendous player when used properly. Health permitting, I would not be surprised to see O’Neal average 28-32 minutes, 18-22 points and 10 or more rebounds per game with the Celtics.
The numbers I project are not what make O’Neal a very dangerous player on the Celtics; it is what he brings in addition to those potential numbers. The Celtics not only acquired a monster who cannot be guarded one-on-one in the post, they also acquired a superb passer. O’Neal simply does not get enough credit for his vision of the game and his passing ability.
O’Neal stretches out the defense and opens up the floor for his teammates. In O’Neal’s first season with the Miami Heat, virtually every player on the team set what were career-highs in field goal percentage at the time. Look for O’Neal to have a similar effect on the Celtics this season. This may be the easiest season Ray Allen will ever have in shooting three-pointers.
While the Heat and Orlando Magic might be seen as the Eastern favorites in many eyes, you would be a fool to overlook the Celtics in 2010-11.