Was O'Neal Relied On Too Much?

by Jeff Tzucker
by Conrad Brunner

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

If you'd like to pose a Question of the Day to Conrad Brunner, submit it along with your full name and hometown to Bruno's_mailbag@pacers.com

Conrad Brunner

Q. Did the Pacers go to (Jermaine) O'Neal too much during the second half of the season? While there were several factors that may have contributed to
the slump it seemed like the Pacers decided to give the ball to O'Neal as the first and only option and if he didn't produce, that was it. O'Neal is certainly one of our best players and key to the Pacers, but when teams are double- and triple-teaming him every time down, they need to look elsewhere also. They started the season doing that and it seemed to change to relying on O'Neal too much. (From Paul in Muncie, IN)

A. Putting the calculator to work, there is some evidence to support your argument. O’Neal averaged 15.9 field goal attempts per game prior to the All-Star break. He averaged 16.9 shots after the break. In victories, he averaged 15.5 shots and 19.6 points. In losses, he averaged 17.5 shots and 22.4 points. Look further, though. That doesn’t necessarily mean the team began relying on him too much; it could reflect a decreased productivity from and confidence in the other primary scoring options.

Ron Artest, Brad Miller Reggie Miller and Al Harrington all had substantial declines after the All-Star break. Artest averaged 15.8 points on .450 shooting overall and .378 from the arc at the break; afterward he averaged 15.1 points on .397 shooting and .290 from the arc. Brad Miller fell from 13.9 points and .506 shooting to 11.5 and .468. Reggie Miller fell from 13.8 points and .376 shooting from the arc to 11.2 and .326. Harrington fell from 12.6 and .459 to 11.7 and .401. In the meantime, O’Neal climbed from 20.0 points and .471 shooting at the break to 21.8 points and .501 shooting.

So while O’Neal was shooting a little more frequently, he was hitting at a rate far better than anyone else on the team. The problem wasn’t going to O’Neal too often. More likely, it was that they weren’t going to him enough.