Today the Suns traded Shaquille O'neal to the Cleveland Cavaliers for nothing more then financial relief from this years salary cap.
In a blockbuster deal for the Cleveland Cavaliers they have acquired future hall of fame center Shaquille O’Neal from the Phoenix Suns. The Suns have agreed to send Shaq to the Cavaliers for Ben Wallace($14 million dollar expiring contract, potential buyout), Sasha Pavlovich ($4,950,000 non guaranteed expiring contract), the Cavs second round pick, and $500,000.
Shaquille O’Neal played about a season and a half with the Suns and completely re-vitalized his career. He put up his best numbers in years and stayed healthier than he has been able to the few previous seasons due to the magical medical staff of the Suns. However this only looked good from the outside. He sat the majority of double header games out except for towards the end of the season when they were desperate to make the playoffs and constantly in interviews referred to his touches and what he could do for the team if they work the offense through him.
The first day when he was here in Phoenix and announced locally in the arena at the Suns game he stood up and pointed to his ring finger insinuating that he was bring a title to AZ. Because after all, that is what Shaq says he does, wins titles. Just not here in Phoenix. Shaq has burned many bridges with every team he has left from Orlando, LA, Miami, and now the Phoenix Suns possibly? How will fans feel about his quick departure and lack of wins or a championship to show for it?
Many fans were very bitter about the original trade that brought in Shaq for Shawn Marion two seasons ago. Marion was a fan favorite and crucial piece to the Suns success due to his defensive ability and athleticism. The Suns franchise hoped that the Shaq trade would bring in the missing piece and finally allow them to get past the San Antonio Spurs and compete for a title. As we all know this deal did not work out exactly the way the team had hoped and instead put an end to an exciting style of play called the "run and gun". It brought the offense to a stand still and did nothing but clog up the middle for Steve Nashand Amare. It actually made the Suns worse defensively because of Shaq’s slow speed, he is completely unable to guard the pick and roll not to mention the hack-a-Shaq routine where he would repeatedly go to the free throw line and miss his shots. This created many changes of possession for the Suns that really hurt them down the stretch.
The next question is how does this trade make Cleveland better? Sure you have a great potential story line for next years playoffs with Kobe and Pau vs. Lebron James and Shaq. Can’t you see all the commercials and media endorsements that will come from this? David Stern probably had a side deal with Sarver for this one, You give shaq to Cavs and I will fix the draft for you next year ... Some sort of deal had to have taken place right?
What Clevelandhas failed to realize is that this is not a good deal for their team. Sure it gives them a much stronger inside presence and a tough guy that can foul the !@#$ out of anyone who crashes to the basket. But it makes them a much less effective defensive team in guarding the pick in roll or guarding any center that can spread the floor. One of the great things the Cavaliers had working for them was their chemistry. With Zydrunas Ilgauskas the current starting center, the Cavs can spread the floor to make room for Lebron James to take his defender to the rim. Big Z could stand out about 20 feet, wait for James to hit him with the pass and drop the jump shot. Do you see Shaq hitting 20 foot jump shots for this team? I sure don’t. He will create a dominant post up presence but do the Cavs really need that? Isn’t James a better post player then Shaq? What small forward can guard James posting up on them? There will also be the issue of who’s team is it? Even with Lebron James MVP of the league on his team can’t you see Shaq demanding more touches if he is not getting his points? This could be a disaster deal for Cleveland and we will have to wait to find out what happens.
So as a Suns fan you ask yourself, how does this trade make the Suns better? Short answer, it does not. We were told repeatedly by Suns owner Robert Sarver and Steve Kerr that the team would not trade away their assets for financial reasons. Everything included in this move points to nothing but financial freedom. Neither Wallace nor Pavlovich will help this team next year. All signs lead to a buyout with Wallace and a non-guaranteed contract for Pavlovich. What if Ben Wallace will not accept a buyout, then the Suns will be stuck with his large salary and a player that can contribute less for the team then Shaq did. A few years ago this might have been a good trade but for the last couple years Ben Wallace has played worse each season and is steadily declining. He has also had a lot of injury issues late is his career and has struggled to stay on the court. He was nothing more then a bench warmer in Cleveland during this years playoffs. The second round pick that they are acquiring more than likely will not lead to any star player being selected. Then there is the little $500,000 bonus attached to the deal. This has financial freedom written all over it.
Unless the Suns are tracking a free agent this year, this deal makes no sense for the rebuilding Suns. They get nothing in return that they would not have expiring anyways. They were better off keeping Shaq and letting his contract expire next season in the biggest name free agent frenzy we have seen in years.
So in the first of hopefully many of the Suns rebuilding trades, Steve Kerr and Robert Sarver have lied to Suns fans and traded Shaq away for nothing more than financial relief. This trade in no way makes the Suns a better team. Hopefully the franchises next trade will actually benefit the team, not set it back.
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