Since coming to Cleveland, Shaquille O’Neal has accepted an obviously lesser role than he has in previous stages in his career. He knew that when he came to the greatest city in the world and he embraces his opportunity to play within a system that is constructed around the best player in the NBA, LeBron James.
O’Neal vowed to “win a ring for the King” when he was first introduced to the Cavalier nation but his 11.8 points and 6.8 rebounds a night fall far below his career average of 24.2 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. Though his role, as well as his minutes, has drastically decreased this season, Shaquille O’Neal has makes arguably the biggest impact on any team in the National Basketball Association.
Last season, the Cavaliers ranked near the bottom of the league in points in the paint as they scored only 36 percent of their points in the key. This season, that total is up to 43 percent. The Diesel’s presence has made a greater impact on the defensive end of the floor though. The Cavaliers hold teams to a league-best 37 percent of points scored in the paint (down from last season’s 41 percent). Overall, the Cavaliers hold the league’s best points-in-the-paint differential at +9.4. Last season they ranked 19th with a differential of -1.4.
In ten seasons that the points-in-the-paint statistics have been kept, Shaq’s team has ranked in the top three eight times!
This season, the Cavaliers are 5-1 against perennial Eastern Conference teams (Boston, Orlando, Atlanta) with that only loss coming on opening night against the Celtics. Cleveland has won the points-in-the-paint battle in each of those six contests and have done so by an average margin of +10.3 points per game.
While the Big Fella isn’t lighting up the stat sheet like he did early in his career, he certainly has not gotten any smaller-he is still Shaqnormous. And with Mo Williams and Delonte West both shelved with injuries, Shaqtimus Prime has been Shaqtastic!
LeBron, Shaqalier, and their band of Wine and Gold winners will be back in action on Tuesday night against the NBAs-worst, New Jersey Nets.