Bucks Diary

Monday, April 30, 2007

Has conditioning betrayed Shaq?


With Dwayne Wade at only about 50% productivity, the Miami Heat desperately needed Shaquille O'Neal to step up in their series with the Chicago Bulls. He did not, and as a result they became the first defending NBA World Champions to be swept away in the first round of the playoffs since the '56 champion Philadelphia Warriors were swept 2-0 in their best of three first round series with the Syracuse Nationals in 1957.

How bad was Shaq? In Eff48 terms, Shaq's playoff numbers were barely better than Andrew Bogut's regular season numbers (25.02 vs 24.89). Those are not dominant numbers from a player once considered the most dominant center in the game.

And his numbers during the regular season were way off his career numbers as well (28.26 vs. 37.29).

Is this merely a natural decline in productivity for an aged center? Not necessarily. If you compare Shaq's numbers at age 34 (he is currently 35, but for comparative purposes, he started the season at age 34) with the numbers produced at age 34 by some other elite centers in NBA history, you see that Shaq's overall numbers are the lowest in the group, and the dropoff from his career numbers are the greatest.

Here are the comparative numbers, with each center's Eff48 numbers for the regular season they started at age 34 followed by their career numbers and then the percentage decline from their career numbers:

Production of Elite Centers at Age 34

Abdul Jabbar..........................37.03 (40.34) (-8.2%)
Chamberlain...........................35.33 (43.49) (-18.7%)
D. Robinson............................33.97 (38.08) (-10.7%)
Olajuwon...............................33.24 (36.53) (-9.0%)
Ewing...................................31.61 (32.76) (-3.5%)
Russell..................................30.21 (35.98) (-16.0%)
O'Neal...................................28.26 (37.29) (-24.2%)
Source: databasebasketball.com

Clearly, lack of physical conditioning has hurt Shaq. All those years of neglect have come home to roost. Consider that the best of the elite centers at 34 was Kareem, the master of yoga. He always kept himself in marvelous condition and he was able to extend his years of elite productivity well beyond age 34. In fact, Kareem was 34 when the 1981-82 season began. That means he still had 4 championships he would earn from that point to the end of his illustrious career. By comparison, I doubt Shaq will earn even one more.

1 Comments:

At May 1, 2007 at 10:25 PM, Anonymous paulpressey25 said...

Good thoughts...Shaq's decline doesn't surprise me though, because unlike many of those other centers you cite, his game depended so much on his physical nature.

He was a great, great player, but the refs also let him bully people around in the post. It just wasn't a situation that was going to last....he didn't have a cat quick jumper like Hakeem or the agility of a Russell. So once the bully game ended courtesy of him losing his power and the refs changing how they called the games, his effectiveness has nose dived.

The guy who isn't on your list that I first thought of was Moses Malone. Moses completely died out around the same age...didn't he? I mean he could still put up 18/9, but it was not an effective 18/9 at that point.

 

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