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As there have already a few articles written about this, I realize this may be overdoing it. But reading the other articles, I realized that one fact was largely ignored and not explained in detail: that of money. MannyStiles touched on it but to me, that is the single most baffling part of this trade. The article bybehigben is kind of skimpy, but he's even a few years younger than me so he gets a pass. I am not a Heat or a Suns fan, though I do root against the Heat and for the Suns (or rather, root against the Heat's style of play and for Phoenix, Golden State, etc..). I am a die-hard Raptors fan so I am unbiased. Here are some of the aspects of the deal and my take on them. Obviously, I won't be right about everything, and Jalen Rose has an article on ESPN.com that is pretty neutral but seems to force the fact that it is a good deal for Phoenix. Either he is not a good writer or he has a good relationship with his last team, the Suns, or Shaq, and didn't want to step on any toes.
Reasons for Miami to make the deal:
Shaq's contract was killing them. He makes $20 million this year and the following two years, and the team is in shambles. it would have been nearly impossible for them to rebuild while paying O'Neal.
Injuries to O'Neal: This year, Shaq has only played 28.5 MPG. The Big Aristotle has only played in 32 of the team's games, starting all 32. Phoenix plays at a pace of 99.5 possessions per game, where Miami plays at 93.8 per game. The Suns play the 4th fastest game in the NBA, where Miami plays the 14th. Since they only have 9 wins, alot of the possessions probably come when Shaq has been injured or at the end of a blowout when it turns into a circus. These stats come from ESPN's Hollinger stats, a very good base for numbers. In conclusion, Shaq would have to run more in Phoenix's style, whether they say they'd slow it down or not. He would be pressed even harder to stay on the floor, since he is already fragile in their slow-down attack.
O'Neal and Pat Riley were about to come to blows. Marion comes with his own character issues, but he can opt-out of his contract at the end of the year. He would seem to become a good player on a bad team, taking alot of shots but playing good defense. They would better be able to speed the game up.
The Matrix is making $16.4 million this year, no small salary. However, it is $3.6 million less than O"Neal (though they do take Marcus Banks with Marion). He is not a huge injury risk, is much younger, and is a different position. He can opt-out at the end of the year, so they either sign him to an extension, or more likely, let him walk and have the cap room to re-build the team. No matter how O'Neal fares in the desert, Miami got extremely lucky and walked into a perfect situation with this surprise suitor.
Reasons for Phoenix to make this trade:
This is where it gets tricky, but I definetly see the logic.
Marion had become disenchanted with the franchise and the city. He was unhappy and had expressed his desire to leave during the summer. He was going to leave the team at his first chance, and the front office may have figured that he is a talent that they can't just let walk away for nothing. Usually when a team trades someone away before free agency, it's for picks and/or young players, though.
The Suns have been very good thje last few years, always one of the league's top teams with loads of talent. Steve Nash has 2 MVPs under his belt and Amare Stoudemire has developed into a superstar. Marion was a great defensive player and is perfect for their breakneck style, while Boris Diaw, Grant Hill, and Raja Bell have become very good bit players. However, they have not been able to get over the hump in the playoffs and make the finals. It could have happened if not for the questionable technical foul assessed last year, but that's water under the bridge. Shaq is great for a clubhouse when he's on a good team. Stoudemire and Nash are good teammates who are unselfish. He has had great playoff success, including 3 titles with the Lakers and one with the Heat in his first year in Miami.
In the playoffs, the game slows down, and that's been the reason people knock the Suns style. They had a decent defensive team, but not one suited to cover a Yao or Duncan down low. If they could keep Shaq on the bench for half the game or more during the remainder of this season, he would be fresh for the playoffs and be able to bang when needed. If they happen to play the Spurs in the first round and need a counter to Duncan, he can be called on. Or if they think that they can not outrun Golden State or Denver, they can go with Shaq and Stoudemire up front and try to beat them up.
Stated above, I tried to give some unbiased reasons as to why Shaq-to-the Suns is a good deal. He will help them in the playoffs and in situations that they need him. I still, as a whole, do not think this deal makes any kind of sense.
Take these trades into account...
Last July 20th, they traded serviceable big man Kurt Thomas, along with 2 first round picks (2008 and 2010) to Seattle for a 2010 second round pick. Obviously, this deal was not made for basketball reasons. They needed to clear cap space and wanted to steer clear of being responsible for first round prospects in the future. 2010 is a long way away, and 2nd rounders don't make the team much of the time. It was essentially, no, obviously, a salary dump.
They traded the rights to first round pick and big-time prospect Sergio Rodriguez to Portland for cash on draft night in 2006. Rodriguez was a year or two away, but he would have fit nicely in their system.
These trades illustrate how cost-conscious the team was, with their 3 big salaries of Nash, Marion, and Stoudemire, the 3 players most essential to their style of play. Diaw also has a fairly large contract. The trade of Thomas and the 2 first rounders seems to be for nothing now (though they used the cap space to sign Grant Hill). O'Neal's salary just makes the payroll bigger and adds around $20 million to the payroll for the next 2 years, money that otherwise could be used for a young player or signing their own draft picks.
Okay, so there is the financial part of the deal, the aspect that is going largely unnoticed and not written about enough. Phoenix has made a concerted effort over the years to trim payroll to add flexibility and not increase the amount of luxury tac they must ante up. Now, the Suns are locked into the big salaries of the Diesel, Nash, Stoudemire, and Diaw for the next few years. Rising young player Leandro Barbosa, a crowd favorite and important to the hectic pace, is signed at $6million per season for the next 4 years.
There is no doubt the Suns needed a big man down low to muscle the big men in the West. Playoff basketball, at least the common perception of it, is that you need to be able to dominate the paint with a real center. Amare Stoudemire can play "center" in their style, but it takes him out of his game when he must be entrenched down low. However, why trade for Shaq?
The idea is that Shaq will provide rebounding down low with his 7'1 , 320 pound frame. He will, too, more than they do now just because of his sheer size and him being revitalized (possibly). He currently is 59th in the NBA in Rebounds per 48 minutes, at 13.2. He is a big body, true, but he is not sturdy any more and has a hard time leaving the ground. Here are some players that stand ahead of O'Neal is rebounds/48 mins (this is kind of a joke, these guys obviously are not as useful as Shaq)
-Jerome James is first at an astounding 31.5 (he's played 2.3 MPG in 2 games)
Here is a list of guys with comparable stats RP48-wise who would seem to be better fits and come at a much cheaper (monetarily and trade) price than O'Neal.I am not counting some of these 6-7 scrappy guys like Reggie Evans who get rebounds, but rather real aircraft carriers who could hold their own.
-Jeff Foster- At 6'11 , Foster is a very good athlete and a tough guy. He plays outstanding post defense and rebounds well, at a rate of 17.4 rebounds per 48 (good for 8th in the NBA, 3rd amongst players who play over 20 MPG). He would have come at a much cheaper price than O-Neal and fit their running system better. He probably could have been had for Marcus Banks and another piece.
- Nick Collison- He is a big body at 6-10 and is a better rebounder than O'Neal. He is a decent passer and spot-up shooter, and plays in a similar system in Seattle. He is not known for his defense but would be a good complement to Brian Grant and Stoudemire.
- Jamaal Magloire- Expected to make a push for a starting role and career resurrection in New Jersey, the big man has fallen out of favor. When he plays, he is a solid rebounder and scorer, and God knows he has a center's body.
-Nazr Mohammed- Even after switching teams, he still plays good defense and is an above average defender.