ESPN.com posted a poll Thursday ranking the worst newcomers of the year. A panel of 93 “basketball experts” voted, and Celtics newcomer Shaquille O’Neal ranked third on the list, with six votes. (ESPN.com)
Who will prove to be the worst acquisition of the offseason?
We’re not talking about the worst player per se but the one who will have the most negative impact or the most disappointing season, relative to expectations, price, etc. Or the player who will wear out his welcome first.
Based on any criteria, Shaq is not one of the worst newcomers. But, especially based on a criteria that takes into account price and expectations, Shaq’s inclusion near the top of the list is absurd. Who are these basketball experts that voted for Shaq?
Shaq is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer who signed for the veteran’s minimum of $1.3 million. He is no longer in his prime as a player, but he still had enough skill left to average 12 points, 6.7 rebounds per game last season. No other minimum signee had as much of a statistical impact as Shaq last season. Considering Shaq was reportedly searching for a deal worth about $8 million per year, a two-year deal at the veteran’s minimum seems like a fair price to pay.
As for the expectations, Shaq is expected to be a serviceable back up center to Jermaine O’Neal. The expectations are very low: all he has to do is out-produce Rasheed Wallace from last season and most Celtics fans will be pretty happy. Don’t forget, Wallace receieved the full mid-level exception last year, and played pathetically until the playoffs. He was lazy, out of shape, and he fired up more three’s than Ray Allen. Shaq may be lazy and out of shape, but al least he’ll post himself around the hoop, instead of behind the arc.
I don’t know how the Shaq experiment will play out over the next two seasons. But I do know that we won’t be sitting here next year, lamenting the signing, or praying for Shaq’s retirement like we did with Wallace.
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