Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Big Shaqtus to Join the Lebronnaires

The Big Diesel just could not let Kobe hold the limelight any longer...

The Phoenix Suns have agreed to send Shaq to Cleveland in exchange for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, a second-round draft pick, and cash.

On paper, this trade would seem to benefit both teams. The Shaq experiment in Phoenix resulted in missing the playoffs last season, and sending him to the Cavs allow them to save a ton of money (Shaq is on the books for 20 million next season). Shaq has always been somewhat of an awkward fit in the Sun's up-tempo offense. Now at an age when running the floor looks evermore burdensome, Shaq's diminishing athleticism has been highlighted that much more by the freakish play of the man across the paint, Amare Stoudemire. Though they're not back at square one, ridding themselves of O'neal was a necessary deal Phoenix needed to pull in order to move on. Nash isn't getting any younger; Amare isn't getting any happier. Steve Kerr and his buddies up top because the door of opportunity is almost completely closed.

Now in Cleveland, Shaq will settle more comfortably into Mike Brown's plethora of half-court sets. From the Cav's point of view, Shaq provides the muscle they didn't have to contend with Dwight Howard during this past conference finals. As if Lebron weren't enough, O'neal adds another dimension to the marketability of the team, and also gives Cleveland fans a new hope - a hope for a championship next season, and a hope that Lebron will stick around in 2010. With Shaq on board, I expect the Cavs' traveling camera show to only get kookier. I'm genuinely excited to see what sort of pre-game routines LBJ and the Diesel will pull out next year. But if all fails, this is only a one-year experiment. Nice move Danny Fe...

...wait. Let's be real; Lebron and Shaq holding the Larry O'Brien trophy together next June is far from a sure thing. There are plenty of potential negatives to this deal for Cleveland. Shaq's size and lack of speed might hinder Lebron's attack-the-basket game. If Brown positions Shaq low on block (and we expect him to), some of Lebron's cutting lanes and precious space are bound to be chocked up. As a result, Lebron defers to shooting jumpers. While his mid-range game isn't bad, 16 footers are not what you want LBJ throwing up. Defensively, Shaq can muscle people around in the paint, but will have trouble defending quick guards at the basket. Shaq's outgoing personality, while fun to be around, may end up distracting the rest of the scrubs in Cleveland from the one thing that matters - basketball. It'll be up to Lebron to keep his team in check, but we've still yet to see if Lebron can do that.

So let's say the Cav's make the playoffs again next season, but fall in the 1st or 2nd rounds. Lebron has the bitter taste of defeat once again, encouraging him to bolt during free agency. Shaq's contract is up, and upper management is sure not to sign him again. Where does that leave the Cav's? screwed. Acquiring Shaq is one of Danny Ferry's last attempt to persuade Lebron to stay in Cleveland. Miami didn't want him a couple of years back; Phoenix didn't want him after last year. Cavs fans, are you okay with tossing 20 million at a post-prime big man as your last move to keep one of history's best players?

Fantasy Implications

The Suns can now return to their running and gunning ways without the gigantic hole in the middle. I expect Nash's numbers to rebound a little, and more contributions from Barbosa, Hill, and Barnes. Amare put up some ridiculous numbers with Shaq on the court last season, and his production might dip a bit if he's forced to play the five. However, he's in his prime so I expect him to continue to put up fantasy monster stats.

The Cavs weren't abundant of fantasy-roster-worthy players beyond Lebron to begin with. Lebron will continue to be the stat beast he is, but everyone else will be a question mark. Shaq is simply too old and injury prone. I know he surprised many last season, but do you think he can do it again? Ilgauskus's role is also unknown. Is Cavs' Management planning to ship him out? Or have him come off the bench. Any fantasy relevance he once had is now gone.

1 comment:

Jay said...

I am so happy. I know one of their new draft picks, Danny Green. The Big East is now complete. Sorry Knicks, it looks like you are out of luck.