The MVP of recent NBA coverage, Adrian Wojnarowski (aka Woj for obvious reasons) is reporting that the deal we've been waiting for is done.
Shaq to the Cavs for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, the Cavs #46th pick and cash ($500k according to ESPN)
Before we break this down, let me just say that there's a good chance the Suns aren't done. And I don't mean just some picks swapped. I am hearing that this could very well be the beginning of a full blow up that could include Amare and Nash gone. I am not going to go into details. You can take it for what it is...another rumor. We will know soon enough anyway.
For now, let's stick to what we know. There will be plenty of time tomorrow if more goes down.
I feel like I need to begin with some kind of obituary to the Shaq era and I can't help but go to my ego-stroking "I told you so" place.
I hated the idea of Shaq coming to Phoenix from the start and always felt that a) there were other options for trading Marion and b) Shaq wouldn't fit in the Suns system.
We will never know what could have been if Shawn had finished the season in Phoenix in 08 and what else we might have got for him in the way of mobile big men. That ship has sailed.
What we can say for sure is that bringing Shaq into Phoenix and pretending he could play along side Steve Nash in an up-tempo offensive system was a colossal mistake. Period. They tried to change the system to suit Shaq's game and Nash and Amare rebelled. They changed back to to the run and gun and at that moment when Gentry replaced Porter, Shaq's fate was sealed.
I will say this though about the Big Fella. I have a lot more respect for him now as a person and as player after what he did last season for the Suns then I ever thought possible. Other then Grant Hill, he was hands down the most consistent Suns player through out all the coaching turmoil. He came to play every night and was mature and professional in the way he dealt with everything that went down. Contrary to what some fools in Dallas claim to know, he helped keep the locker room together.
I am still not a big fan of his game in general and obviously I think bringing him here was a mistake, but I wish him well in Cleveland. I think that's a great fit for him and the Cavs are a much better team with Shaq on the roster.
On to the deal itself
What's most depressing and telling about all this is what the Suns got back for a guy coming off an all-star MVP season where he was the 3rd best center in the league and is reported to be working his ass off to come back even more fit.
The Suns tomorrow are going to try and spin this three ways from Sunday just like they did when they brought Shaq to town. This deal is about one thing and one thing only. Money.
That's not to say it doesn't have it's merits because saving money isn't a bad thing and I certainly don't like (have never liked) the idea of paying Shaq $21m. Here's how the numbers break down from a previous post exploring this trade:
The latest deal to pop up is a rehash of the almost trade from the deadline in February. We explored this tradein 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 Wallaceinstead. 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.
Still a lot of IF's out there huh....
One has to wonder what the Suns know about Ben Wallace's intentions. To me the value of this deal really hinges on that. If Wallace accepts a 50% buy out then the Suns end up saving another $7m which gives them enough money to actually go out in the free agent market and sign someone decent. Gortat and David Lee are options for that kind of money. What are the chances the Suns know right now what Wallace is going to do? I have no idea but it's a HUGE piece of this puzzle.
If Wallace stays, the Suns save about $11m to $13m* which gets them right around the luxury tax line. They are not likely to use that savings to go out and sign another player and pay the luxury tax again. They said all along that bringing Shaq in was a roll of the dice to try and get over the hump and win a ring. Instead they won one playoff game in two seasons with Shaq. Paying the luxury tax (and the 6th highest payroll in the league) for a lottery team is not just bad business. It's dumb.
I am not even going to get into the possibility of Wallace playing and what he might do for the team on the floor. It's just too soon to get into that. Sasha is going to be cut to save that $5.5m as well so we won't see him ever take the floor as a Sun unless perhaps he resigns for the minimum. I would guess his next uniform will be overseas somewhere.
In this deal the Suns also get the Cavs 46th pick giving them a total of three late second round picks. There is no way they aren't going to try and package those somehow to move up in this draft. Can three late 2nds get you a late 1st? We'll know soon enough
And of course all of this really is impossible to sort out if in fact the Suns go ahead and move Amare and Nash too. By this time tomorrow night we very well could be talking about an entirely different Suns team then what ended the season.
For now though, we have a few hours at least to say our farewell's to Shaq.
*Note: According to Eric Pincus of Hoops World this deal saves the Suns $2m more then I calculated. That discrepancy is based on when the luxury tax is calculated. According to Salary CAP FAQ, it's based on the payroll of the roster on the last day of the season. According to Eric's sources at the NBA it's based on that roster as of June 30th. Seems like a minor point except it's the difference between the Suns saving $11m and $13m. That extra $2m will fund two D-league teams. But who's counting.