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In an offseason that has already seen some big moves; Richard Jefferson to the Spurs and Randy Foye and Mike Miller to the Wizards for the 5th pick in the draft, the Cavaliers have just made the biggest, literally and figuratively.
The Cavs acquired Shaquille O’Neal from the Suns in exchange for the artist formerly known as Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavolvic. With this trade the Suns are apparently conceding that their Shawn Marion for O’Neal swap two seasons ago was a complete failure and are now trying to right the ship. The Cavs made this trade in hopes of appeasing LeBron James and addressing their greatest weakness, their big men.
How does this trade affect the Celtics?
Before this trade, the Cavaliers were not a huge threat to a healthy Celtics team. Yes, they were a good team. Yes, they won the most games in the regular season last year. Yes, LeBron is a freak of nature and one of the two best players in the league. However, when it came to the playoffs, the Cavaliers just didn’t have enough horses to beat the good teams.
The supporting cast for LeBron was mediocre and overrated. I never felt that a team which relied on the likes of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao to cover Kevin Garnett could really beat us. Mo Williams was supposed to be the second star that took some of the load off LeBron, but he is just a streaky shooter with a penchant for forcing bad shots. I’m still more concerned with the Magic competing with the Celtics next season than the Cavs.
Now, however, that changes. Shaq addresses the gaping hole in the middle for the Cavaliers and gives them a legitimate big man whom they can throw the ball into in the post and expect him to score. While Shaq is not the player he once was, he does cause some problems for the Celtics. Shaq will make it much harder for the Celts to focus the whole defense on Lebron. He will also challenge Kendrick Perkins and KG down low, possibly drawing them into foul trouble.
On the defensive side of the ball, Shaq will have a hard time covering KG if they are matched up. He will clog the middle effectively and will challenge shots a little bit. Another thing Shaq brings is a veteran presence that the Cavs have lacked. He has championship experience that will be valuable to a young team.
However, the Cavaliers still have some serious holes on their team. Shaq tires easily these days and the rest of their big men are still a weak bunch. If Shaq and Big Z are on the court together it will be extremely easy to beat them down the court on nearly every possession. One would be hard pressed to find a slower tandem in the entire league. The Cavs are still going to have to rely on the likes of Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak, and Daniel Gibson as their other wingmen.
The Celtics are still a better team than the Cavaliers. While this certainly makes things more interesting in the East, I am still confident that when push comes to shove the Celics, when healthy, are the best team in the Eastern Conference and the entire NBA.