This past Thursday the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired a legendary Big Man, undoubtedly not what he once was, and in the later part of his career. Referred to as The Diesel, The Big Aristotle, Shaq-fu, and the most recognizable of names Shaq, will provide the CAVS with something they lacked in the 2009 NBA Playoffs, a guy who can defend low post players one-on-one.
The 2009 playoffs ended at the hands of the Orlando Magic, whom the CAVS seemed to have trouble defending, and could not fend off to propel them to the NBA Championship. The CAVS struggled defending the low-post, and Dwight Howard. Howard’s size and athleticism, along with his ability to distribute the ball out of the post, when doubled, created problems for the CAVS. The CAVS elected to double him when he would get the ball, and very rarely did he force up shots, but rather would kick the ball out, causing CAVS defenders to have rotate, allowing Orlando to swing the ball around the perimeter and find an open shooter out from their arsenal. This led to the Magic making 62 3’s in the series an average of over 10 a game. When the CAVS decided the double team wasn’t going to work, they elected to defend him one-on-one and he burned them, either by scoring in the low-post or drawing a foul. The Diesel, goes 7’1”, 325 pounds, and will provide the CAVS with the post presence to defend Dwight Howard and other Center’s in the league one-on-one. This addition allows their wing players and guards to not have to help down as much, allowing opposing shooters less open looks, resulting in more contested and forced shots for a defense which was already the top defensive unit, allowing an average of 91.4 points per game, and holding opponents to 43.1% from the field and 33.3% from behind the arc, in 2009 regular season.
Shaq provides the CAVS with a big addition in the middle, the physical presence necessary to allow them to make a run at the NBA Championship in the 2009-2010 season. The Big Fellow also packs a punch offensively, averaging 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game with the Phoenix Suns in the 2008-2009 season. Along with his physical attributes and statistics, Shaquille O’Neal brings a bunch of experience with him to Cleveland, and 4 NBA Championships. In search of his 5th ring, Shaq was brought in to assist Lebron James in providing the city of Cleveland something it has been without since 1954, a professional sports championship.
The move allows the Cavaliers to remain in the same financial condition at years end, allowing them the same flexibility they would have had holding onto the 2 expiring contractors used to acquire Shaq. The risk the CAVS took was low, trading two players, both of which played minor roles in last season’s playoffs, and providing a ceiling if Shaq can stay healthy, for the CAVS to bring home their 1st Championship.