Well, well, well. Return of the Shaq!
Shaquille O’Neal is playing astounding basketball in limited time this season and it has helped power the indomitable Boston Celtics to yet another terrific start. Shaq’s incredible Marginal Win Score of +6.06, his streamlined game, and his age, remind one of the magnificently efficient season posted by Wilt Chamberlain for the historic 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (you can read more about that team here). The astounding thing is, Shaq showed no signs that he was capable of such a revival in any of the last three seasons. He’s been all right in his last three campaigns but nothing more. This season, so far, he’s been much more.
A look at Shaq’s performance compared to past seasons indicates most of his improvement has come on defense. He is still the same highly efficient shooter he has been for most of his career, and he is still the same exceptional rebounder, but this season he is not allowing counterpart centers in the lane, and when they come in the lane they are not making baskets, nor are they rebounding. At the moment opposing centers are shooting only 42% when on the court with the Diesel, and they are grabbing a mere 9.3 rebounds per 48 minutes. Those figures are each well below the norm for NBA centers.
Beyond Shaq, the Celtics are of course powered by the greatness of Rajon Rondo. He keeps getting better and better. For the past two or three seasons, he has been the Celtics leader.
The team is also receiving a heightened contribution from veteran Paul Pierce, who has elevated his production so far. Ray Allen is as steady as they get. He shows no signs of decline and is having another solid start.
You cannot say quite the same for PF Kevin Garnett. His numbers, while good, are way off his normal brilliance. Perhaps age and injury are wearing him down.
And Jermaine O’Neal — put a fork in him. He’s been done for years.
Finally, why does Doc Rivers insist on believing that Baby Davis is worthy of starter minutes. He’s a tease and nothing more. So he had a few good games late in last season’s playoffs. Big deal. Season after season he has proven that he is a big time loss producer and this season is no different.
I would also note in closing that the severally underrated bad boy Delonte West was off to a terrific start before his unfortunate wrist injury. Throughout his career he has been an underappreciated win contributor.
The Celtics look like they have at least one more run in them, and a lot of that has to do with the resurrection of the Diesel.