Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers from the Phoenix Suns today in exchange for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, the 46th draft pick in potentially the worst NBA draft in years and $500,000 in cash. The trade could potentially make the Cavs more of a threat this year, but it definitely makes them more dangerous in the following season provided that the Cavs can convince King James to stick around.
Starting with next year. Fans in Cleveland are divided on whether or not this was a good move for the Cavs – which is somewhat understandable given that there are a lot of unknowns with Shaq. Yes, he is a dominant presence. From a sheer size and strength perspective alone, he is a formidable opponent. But he is no spring chicken. He will need to take off games that are back to backs. He’s a terrible free throw shooter. He will clog up the middle of the lane making it more difficult for Lebron to drive in to the hoop. As much as Shaq can present a problem defensively for those looking to score in the paint, he has a hard time defending the pick and roll which is the weapon of choice for many Cleveland opponents. And let’s not forget that Shaq was unable to bring Phoenix a title even when surrounded by talent like Nash and Stoudemire.
Still, the trade is loaded with it’s plusses for Cleveland. For one thing, they basically got him for nothing. They gave up Ben Wallace (who will likely retire) and Sasha Pavlovic. No big deal. The Suns may even wave Sasha to pocket the savings and he could end up returning to Cleveland. One major implication in this trade is cap space. This trade puts Cleveland as a contender for potentially at least the next two seasons IF (it’s a big if) they are able to keep Lebron beyond this upcoming season. Shaq in Cleveland provides Lebron with some legitimate help for this upcoming year and if they are unable to get it done, it allows the Cavs’ top execs to let Lebron choose who he would like to play beside him. With Shaq’s salary coming off the books at the end of next season, the Cavs would not only be in a position to pay Lebron, they would also be in a position to make a play for another major free agent (like Bosh or Wade). This could make Cleveland very dangerous post Shaq.
And it doesn’t hurt them at all this year. Aside from the fact that Shaq does have some legitimate drawbacks, they essentially gave up nothing to get him and he’s certainly an upgrade from what they had last year. He gives them a post game that they were lacking in the playoffs versus Orlando and he can at least cover Howard. He also allows for some unique marketing opportunities for Cleveland. Having two of the most dynamic personalities in the league on one team is a major bonus. Cha. Ching.
Not to mention that the Lebron vs. Kobe Nike commercials will take on a whole different twist. Can you imagine how the league and national media will drool over a Kobe vs. Lebron AND Shaq finals? You couldn’t make this stuff up!