Shaq is here despite my protests so here's the signs I will be looking for that indicate I am wrong and the Shaq gamble is paying off.
Shaq in the low post. In the low post the Shaqtus is still dominate and can use his big body and low post moves to either draw the double and pass out or score with ease. He will also cause both matchup and foul problems in that role. I don't like this type of basketball at all and consider it "anti-Suns" but I get that there are times where it will be very useful. Mostly against teams that manage to slow down Nash like the Spurs, Hornets and on occasion the Mavs. Shaq in the low post also takes some pressure off Nash to carry the offense himself at key moments.
For this to be a success it should be used selectively and not become the focus of the the Suns attack.
- Shaq elsewhere on the floor. This is far more important to me then the above. If Shaq can be successful somewhere other then the low post than I will be both shocked and thrilled. If he can be a threat from the high post and demand at least some attention or if he can be the roll man with Nash then this will be a huge plus.
Shaq setting screens. This might take some time to put together, but Shaq can set some awesome screens to free up Amare or a guy like LB or Hill moving without the ball for a feed from Nash or Diaw. Kind of like Utah's precision passing offense but with a bigger screen and better finishers. This potentially will be deadly and even fun. It won't show up on the stat sheet other then making the players around him better.
This is the Big Kahuna of Shaq success in the Suns offense.
Swiftboats. If Shaq is going to be successful on D he needs to show that he can still move his big feet fast enough to get into position and not pick up too many fast fouls. This is very important against Duncan but even more so on help D so that he can block or impact a shot from a penetrating guard like B-Dizzle, D-Will, Parker, Ellis, Manu, AI, Kobe, etc. I still don't get how Shaq is going to help against Utah, GSW or the Lakers playing Gasol at the 5. I do think he could help against Dallas and the Hornets who have non-scoring centers.
The key stats here are opponents FG% and 3FG%. The Suns were 11th and 3rd in these categories. Will the loss of Marion on the outside be offset by Shaq on the inside? It has to be for this to be called a net plus.
Cleaning the glass. This is the Suns biggest weakness and Shaq can certainly help. But folks around here have been telling me that our rebounding problem isn't about size but about effort and as Hawk42 pointed out (rightly) that our guards don't stay home to get the long bounce. Oh, and we just lost our top rebounder. Will Shaq average more then 9.9/game? I think the way this might work best isn't so much Shaq getting boards as much as him taking up space so Amare, Diaw, Hill and the boys grab more.
Bottom line, I will be watching to see what happens with our league worst -6 TREB Diff and -6.3 FGA's. If the ShaqSuns can cut this diff in half then with our superior FG% we should improve a lot (assuming we don't tank in the opp FG%).
Toughness. This is the one area where I am fairly sure that Shaq can and will help. Remember when Phx played Miami early in the year and Shaq was pissed about their losing streak? He dished out some serious punishment on Amare and even knocked down his buddy Hill and managed to get Shaq-like treatment from the ref's while do so. If he can bring that to this team and lay some wood when its called for it can totally change the character of this team in a way we haven't seen since Barkley's days.
The only measure here is in wins. Playoff wins. And rings.
Post your thoughts in the comments and we will add them to the list above.