The Pros And Cons Of Signing Shaq
Is the top 10 player of all-time worth adding?
by Sam Cadet
The Big Aristotle, the big Shaqtus, Superman. These nicknames and more go on to describe Shaq in his more formidable days. Nowadays, Shaquille O’Neal is known more as the big two-year mid-level question as teams bide their time on signing him. It’s quite easy to harp on O’Neal as he’s often criticized as being a shell of his former self. Then again there are tons of variables, good and bad, to judge when you’re playing couch GM with Shaq. Would you take a chance on Shaq Diesel? Take a look at what he has to offer before you go with your gut.
-Still demands double team—sometimes: You’d think clubs would finally lay off Shaq since he’s cooled off on being a wrecking ball in the paint. But, for whatever reason, teams still double up on him in the post. Honestly he doesn’t get doubled as much as he used to. But Shaq is still adept at kicking the ball out in time to shooters on the wing more often than not. That’s a valuable asset on a team with perimeter shooters like Atlanta or, to a lesser extent, San Antonio.
-Clogs the lane: Getting around Shaq for a layup or a dunk still isn’t an easy feat. His sheer size and intimidating presence makes slashers think twice about going Waka Flocka hard in the paint. This could be complemented well with a team already outfitted with strong perimeter defense; especially since interior D is in short supply in today’s NBA.
-Low post defense: Shaq can still defend the league’s best big men straight up. Only a few of his peers can say that since doubling power forwards and centers is the current trend. That could prove valuable on switches and help whatever team he ends up with play more man to man. Quicker power forwards will get the best of him. However his ability to keep bigs off the low block will prove valuable when the likes of Dwight Howard come to town.
-Health: Shaq has never played a full 82 games, and 70+ game seasons aren’t exactly the norm for the center in question, either. Then again, Shaq thinks of this as a plus, as he’s stated he’s missed enough games (four-plus seasons worth at that) that he can theoretically play in the NBA until he’s 41. You want to take his word for it. But history will tell you to smarten up when you look past the all star break and envision Shaq sitting out due to injury.
-Running on Fumes: This is a downside that must be put into perspective since big men play less minutes across the board. Additionally Shaq split his time with Z at the 5 when he was healthy. But I’m not sold on Shaq’s ability to start and play 30 minutes a game as he’s on the downside of his career. To counteract this point, he’d fit in well on a team with another capable center that can play up to 20 minutes per matchup. He hasn’t shown much interest in coming off the bench, either. The chance of that happening is slim since he’s been a starter throughout his career. But I’d say there’s a glimmer of hope since he’s willing to put his rivalry aside with Tim Duncan as a potential teammate.
-Slowed Down: Let’s be real. Shaq was never a lightning bolt on the court. And now he’s definitely lost a step and it’s noticeable. His gradual decline in scoring is considerable. With that in mind it’s arguable that his drop rebounds and block shots over the years are more alarming since those aspects are vital for any big man. What’s more, he’s physically tailored toward half court ball. For instance, the Shaq experiment failed in Phoenix partly because he couldn’t fit their full court play style. Even then he’s not mobile enough to defend the pick and roll consistently. That’s a huge point since pick and roll sets are potent half court options for many teams.
The pros are valid, but the cons may make you think twice about dropping considerable money on a dude that’s on his way out. That and the teams Shaq are interested in (San Antonio, Atlanta, Boston and Miami) don’t have enough money to give him a two-year deal above the mid-level exception. Honestly, a two-year deal between the minimum and the mid-level would be more appropriate for what Shaq brings to the table.
So, really, it’s a matter of Shaq’s willingness to play for a smaller check. If that’s not the case, than the teams in question can largely do without him.
Shaq still has some what to offer—for the right price. He can function best on a Playoff bound team with a strong half court offense much like the aforementioned squads. NBA front offices just have to quell their expectations if they’re looking to pull the trigger.