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Exploring the Shaq trade options

The finals are over. The bad guys won (again). Now it's time to officially turn our collective NBA-related attentions to the draft and the free agency period including the inevitable trade rumors, speculations and random ideas.

Leading off the so-called "silly season" are once again a few big names from the Phoenix Suns. What are Suns fans going to do with themselves in a year or two when we don't have all these big names to discuss trading?

Not surprisingly, Shaq and Amare are the two names most discussed with Amare getting the rumor run early but Shaq making a recent surge.

Today we will recap and explore the three main Shaq-related rumors with the Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Prepare to get your trade rumor fix on.

Presented in order of appearance:

Shaq to Dallas for Dampier and Stackhouse

When it first surfaced around the time the Suns were choking away their playoff chances I scoffed at this rumor. Why would the Suns take on two years of Dampier's contract when Shaq only had one year left?

Turns out Dampier's contract along with Stackhouse's are more favorable then they first appear. Combined they are are on the books for almost $20m this coming season with Dampier under contract for an extra $13m in 2010/11. But Damp's final year isn't guaranteed unless he plays over 2,100 minutes this season. Not only is this unlikely, it is fully controllable by the Suns or any other acquiring team. Erick played in 80 games for the Mavs last season and logged just over 1800 minutes. So basically, Dampier's $12m for 09/10 is an expiring contract.

Add to that Jerry Stackhouse and his $7.2m with only $2m guaranteed and you have a potential net savings of just under $7m for the Suns this season and no commitment going into 2010. Of course, that $7m is in salary which would have to be matched since the Suns (currently) are projected to be over the luxury tax. That turns $7m of salary savings into $14m in cash savings. $14 million dollars. Think about it.

On the court, this deal blows. Dampier is slow, can't defend the pick and roll, can't create his own offense and only shows up every 5th game or so. He averaged 6pts and 7 rebounds for the Mavs in 23 minutes per game. There is no possible scenario in which replacing Shaq with Dampier makes the Suns a better basketball team without other players involved and the Mavs don't have any other young players that the Suns would covet.

Upon further review, this deal still isn't good for the Suns. It doesn't save enough money to justify sending Shaq to a Western Conference rival without Mark Cuban making the deal sweeter somehow. A lot sweeter.

Shaq to New Orleans for Chandler, etc.

This is a deal that appeals to more Suns fans for basketball reasons. Chandler, assuming he can return to full health under the highly skilled hands of head trainer Aaron Nelson, is a solid center in this league. He is mobile, blocks shots and most importantly he crashes the boards and scores without having plays called for him.

If you told me we could trade Shaq for Chandler straight up I would probably be happy with it. The problem here is the contracts.

Chandler is slated to make about $12m next season with a player option for another $13m in 2010/11. That's not a bad deal but to make a trade work the Hornets would have to throw in another $7m or $8m worth of contracts which would mean the Suns would have to take on a guy like Mo Pete or even James Posey. Perhaps you can make the case that Chandler and Posey are worth it but with James signed through 2013 this deal doesn't save the Suns any money. At most about $3m this coming season and it reduces the long term flexibility as well.

There are a few other possible variations on the deal that might make it more attractive to Phoenix like Julian Wright and Rasul Butler instead of Posey but the big stumbling block here is likely to be the Hornets. When they tried to trade Chandler to the Thunder they were looking to unload salary. The Suns are also looking to unload salary. How do two team looking to reduce payroll make a deal that satisfies both needs? I don't see it happening.

Shaq to the Cavs for Wallace and Pavlovic

The latest deal to pop up is a rehash of the almost trade from the deadline in February. We explored this trade in depth a few weeks ago concluding that the Cavs should have pulled the trigger then when the Suns wanted the expiring contracts of Wally Z and Sasha P but the Cavs wanted to unload Ben Wallace instead. At the time, the Suns made the right decision by not taking the Cavs offer. Now it is time to re-examine this trade.

As we know, this deal as it currently is being discussed would send the expiring and possibly retiring contract of Ben Wallace along with the valuable (as trade filler) contract of Sasha Pavlovic to Phoenix. Assuming Wallace plays out his final $14m season, the Suns would save about $5.5m in salary which comes to about $11m in cash savings taking the luxury tax into account.

If however, Wallace is going to retire and would agree to some kind of buy out at say 50% of his salary then the Suns could save another $7m on top of that making this potentially the most financially attractive deal. Depending on what Wallace does.

It goes without saying that on the court the Suns are a worse team with Wallace then Shaq and without Wallace the only way this makes sense is IF Big Ben retires and IF he accepts a reasonable buy out and IF all that happens in time for the Suns to use some of that savings to sign a free agent to the MLE. That's a lot of IF's.

The latest word from KTAR is that this deal isn't actually being discussed by the two teams, although other reports insist that it is being discussed. Or was being discussed anyway. Regardless of the state or non-state of discussions, the Suns seem to be signaling their desire to make this deal sweeter with the inclusion of a 1st round pick or perhaps the young (cheap) JJ Hickson.

I like the idea of Shaq going to Cleveland. I think he does help that team and as far as I am concerned that's a plus for Phoenix fans. The Suns aren't going to contend for a ring next season so we might as well help an Eastern Conference team try and take down the Lakers. Let Shaq and LeBron go nuts with their skits and puppets. I don't have any problem with that and would even enjoy watching that team play.

Shaq stays in Phoenix

This is clearly the least interesting option but in the end, so far anyway, might be the best.

Let's first remember that the Suns luxury tax bill won't be calculated until the end of the season so there will be lots of opportunity to make deals at the trade deadline that save money if the Suns aren't looking like a playoff contender. In other words, there's no rush to do something now unless it is part of a move that gets the Suns a higher draft pick and so far no such rumor exists. (Maybe we should start a Shaq and the #14 pick to Minnesota for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes and the #6 or something just as ridiculous?)

The wild card in this discussion is Steve Nash. Nash indicated a few weeks ago through his agent that he wants to wait and see what the Suns do this summer before deciding if he wants to stay. Put that another way, if Nash wants Shaq gone before agreeing to an extension then that would have to figure into the Suns thinking. Or perhaps Nash wants Shaq to stay. Or maybe he wants Shaq to sing and dance in an up-coming movie production? Who knows. That's the point, we don't know what Nash really wants but we can assume that Steve Kerr does and will take that into account when deciding which if any of the Shaq deals to pursue.

[Note by Phoenix Stan, 06/15/09 12:43 PM MST ]

Update from the Four Letter network. Portland and the Knicks are also reported to be interested in the Shaq. No details from the Blazers and the Knicks reportedly were looking to dump Eddie Curry on us. Ha!

At this point I still think a lot of these rumors are designed to a) drive up demand and therefor the price for Shaq and b) to keep the Suns in the news despite being a lottery team.

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