Shaq Headed to Phoenix?

February 06, 2008

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Mick Ciallela

Shaq Headed to Phoenix?

Apparently the Miami Heat and the Phoenix Suns have agreed on a trade that would send Shaquille O'Neal to Phoenix in exchange for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks. I believe this is simply a knee-jerk reaction to the Los Angeles Lakers' acquisition of Pau Gasol (a brilliant move by L.A., by the way) and do not see how this trade can make sense from the Suns' vantage point.

Shaquille O'Neal did what was asked of him in Miami - he brought them a championship. But in looking at the numbers and having seen more than a few Heat games this season, it appears to me that not only are O'Neal's best days behind him, but that he is no longer truly a force to be reckoned with. He still has the ability to put up a 20-10 once in a while, but so does John Salmons. Meanwhile Marion has averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds per game this season despite the fact that Phoenix never runs a set play for him.

I understand that Marion has complained about the way he was being used in Phoenix and that Marcus Banks was never a favorite of Coach Mike D'Antoni. But to acquire a player who turns 36 next month, has not proven he can remain healthy in quite some time, still has two additional years on his contract at $20M per, and who might possibly be the worst fit for a team's philosophy (D'Antoni stresses getting a shot off within seven seconds; I don't think Shaq can run from one end of the floor to the other in that time) just doesn't add up to me. And Marion won't be a free agent until after the 2008-09 season. I think they should have given this squad a chance to win a championship as is, then next year consider trading Marion. Marion to me is one of those players whose impact truly will not be felt until after he is gone. The Suns do have the best record in the Western Conference for a reason, you know.

Another thing to consider: suppose Shaq is healthy enough to contribute. How willing will he be to accepting a much diminished role in the offense? From what I have read, he didn't seem too thrilled with the idea of being the second option in Miami. Will he even be the third option in Phoenix? How will he react to this blow to his pride? I think this trade will do a lot more harm than good for the Suns, which is a shame because they have truly been a joy to watch the last few seasons.

I'm guessing Phoenix does not feel they can match up against the tandem of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in the paint come playoff time. And perhaps they are correct in that belief. I just don't see Shaq as the answer. I think he does not have the athleticism to defend quicker players anymore and could also quite possibly cause the Suns' potent offense to become stagnant by demanding the ball in the post too often.

I'm no GM, but in messing around with the ESPN Trade Machine, I came up with a trade I think would suit Phoenix much better. In my deal, the Suns would acquire Samuel Dalembert from the Philadelphia 76ers for Boris Diaw and Marcus Banks. The deal would also require a swap of Sean Marks and Herbert Hill to make the money work. To me this would make a lot more sense from the Suns' perspective. Dalembert is a legitimate center who can rebound, defend and block shots. He could defend Bynum on the interior and wouldn't disrupt the flow of their offense by demanding too many touches. The Suns would then have a starting five of Steve Nash, Raja Bell, Marion, Amare Stoudemire and Dalembert to go along with a bench consisting primarily of Leandro Barbosa, Grant Hill and Brian Skinner. I think Diaw is a nice player but is much easier to replace than Marion will be. I believe the Shaq trade is one that Phoenix will live to regret.

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