Shaq Now, Cry Later
By now you have probably read about the proposed, but not-yet-finalized trade that will send Shaquille O’Neal to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the partially guaranteed contract of Sasha Pavlovic, the possibly soon-to-be retired Ben Wallace, the Suns 46th pick in the draft and $500,000.
You’ve probably also read an impressive amount of hyperbole about what the Cavs can now accomplish both offensively and defensively with a bonafide center who averaged 17 points and eight rebounds last year for the Suns. Shaq, who will be motivated to push his title count to five, now that Kobe has caught up to him, will combine with reigning MVP LeBron James, to win the NBA title that Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic denied them this year.
This particular Hoops Addict writer is here to tell you its not going to happen and I will tell you why.
First off, O’Neal played in 74 games this year, and he started in 73. Both totals represented his highest since the ’04-’05 season when he played and started in 73 games, and he was 31 years old. O’Neal never missed an opportunity this season to tell any and everyone, that his prolonged health was in direct correlation to the wonderful trainers and staff of the Phoenix Suns. Now that O’Neal has left them behind, will his healthy days follow suit? That’s a huge question mark.
Secondly, anyone who watched the Magic/Cavs series could point out that Dwight Howard was not the reason the Cavs lost. Yes, Howard had an amazing Game 6, but the majority of the damage done by the Magic was by Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, who are primarily perimeter players. Aside from LeBron James, no one on the Cavs roster could guard them in the post, outside the three-point line, or in the mid range region, and this led to their downfall.
If you’re the Cavs, why not add a taller, athletic perimeter player who can guard shooting guards and small forwards of all sizes, especially since you’re in a conference with Turkoglu, Lewis, Paul Pierce, Caron Butler, Josh Smith, etc. Sure, James can hold his own on defense, but he needs help out there on the perimeter defensively, and O’Neal simply doesn’t offer that type of assistance.
The third major reason this trade is average has to do with the long term. It is no secret that James is a free agent at the end of next season, and although he has yet to come out and say it, I’m sure his decision will be swayed by the moves the Cavaliers do or do not make for the long term. Trading for a 37-year-old center whose personality is bigger than his game at this point, reaks of the win now mentality that a veteran team like the Celtics or Spurs should have. Not a team with a 24 year old superstar who has yet to hit his prime. Why not go after a perimeter player in his prime like Richard Jefferson or Vince Carter? Why not try to move up in the NBA draft to select a player with top 10 talent? Why not go after a player like Charlie Villanueva who is also young and versatile? These moves say, we are serious about winning now and later. Shaq’s arrival doesn’t have that versatility.
Of course I could be totally wrong, and the Cavs could roll through both the Eastern and Western Conferences en route to a 2010 NBA title. It just isn’t adding up that way so far.