Will Shaq Help or Hurt Celtics' Title Aspirations?

The Boston Celtics have officially made Shaquille O'Neal the Big Leprechaun for the next two years.  Was this a good move?  Well, it depends on who you ask.  Zach Lowe from Celticshub, Henry Abbott of TrueHoop, and Peter May of ESPNBoston are not convinced.  Some of the common worries that I've seen are that Shaq is no longer an impact player, that his personality and ego may be too big to let him play the Big Veteran Minimum for long, that there may not be enough big man minutes if everyone gets healthy at the same time, and that he does not even pretend to play team defense which is a problem on the Celtics.

These are all valid issues.  But I tend to think this was a good move for the Celtics for several reasons.

1) They had to have another healthy, NBA-worthy center on their roster upon entering the year.  With Kendrick Perkins out indefinitely after having ACL surgery in July and Rasheed Wallace claiming that will retire, the Celtics were looking at a big man collection of Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal, and Glen Davis.  And that's it.  There's no way they could have gone into the year like that, with only one 7-footer, no true centers, and a serious history of injury among only 3 bigs.  Shaq was the best big left on the market, and for the vet min it was a no-brainer signing.

2) The Celtics don't need Shaq to be an impact player.  They only need him to be big, to provide short-term post scoring in spurts, and to bang around in the paint against big squads like the Lakers.

3) There are only 23 players in the history of the NBA to have both a league MVP trophy and a championship ring.  Besides Shaq, there are only three others in the NBA today: Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett.  Shaq is larger than life and if he wants to make fuss, he can't really be controlled.  But if there is anyone in the NBA with the pedigree and personality to make Shaq listen, KG is one of only two (Duncan being the other) that might fit the bill.  When you add in the rest of the 2003 All Star Team that comprises the Celtics locker room, this was likely the last best chance to minimize Shaq risk.

4) Shaq's 1-on-1 post defense actually isn't bad, it's his rotations and team defense that suffers.  Well, if there is any power forward in the NBA that could help cover that extra ground it would be Garnett, giving Shaq the chance to make his positive offensive impact without giving it right back on D.

5) Shaq in Phoenix and Cleveland were disasters because both of those teams needed to run to thrive.  The Celtics are a half-court team.  Right in Shaq's wheelhouse.

I don't expect Shaq to make a big difference in the win/loss record of the Celtics this season, but like Rasheed Wallace last season, he is likely to play himself into shape over the course of the season and pay dividends against specific matchups in the postseason.  As such, while adding the Green Monster could lead to some extra drama and headaches for the Celtics during the regular season, I expect them to be very happy with their decision before all is said and done next postseason.


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