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|It looks like Shaq is headed back to the Western Conference. (Courtesy of NBA.com)|
It’s looking like the Suns and Heat are about to make a very unlikely trade: Shaquille O’Neal will be going to the run-and-gun Suns while Shawn Marion and former awful Celtic Marcus Banks will be heading to the Heat.
First, WHY! The Suns have the best record in the Western Conference at 34-14, and they have gone deep in the playoffs running with Steve Nash for years now. But, the buck stopped there. They never could overtake the Spurs or even the Mavericks to get to the NBA Finals because they were too small.
Amare Stoudemire is playing out of position at center, and Shawn Marion is completely unhappy with his situation in Phoenix. He was going to opt out of his contract with the Suns anyway and leave them with nothing for his loss. Now they have a 2-year, $40-million contract with 35-year-old Shaquille O’Neal. There are concerns about his health and if he’ll ever play again. So why does this deal make sense?
Now, I see the Suns philosophy. Their team chemistry could be better and life is easier when you rid yourself of a distraction (Marion) and a bad player (Banks). Shaq will now give the Suns much needed size, and someone to finally offset Tim Duncan, Yao Ming, Tyson Chandler, and Dirk Nowitzki. The one big problem is that Shaq is really slow and can’t even think about running with Steve Nash.
The key with Shaq is his defense. He definitely won’t score 20 ppg anymore but he can still grab 10 rebounds and block a few shots per game. The Suns are usually shooting outside anyway, so a slow Shaq running up the court takes away an option, but Nash can still pass to Leandro Barbosa, Amare Stoudemire, or someone else. When you’re running, usually you’re on a fast-break advantage anyway. As long as it’s not Shaq running, the Suns can still run. Shaq will just meet them upcourt a few seconds later.
The Suns are going to the playoffs with or without Marion, and now have a 7-foot, 300+ pound ally to help counter Duncan and Dirk. Amare Stoudemire can now move to his natural position of power forward, and will probably begin to dominate. Boris Diaw will take over some of what Marion used to do as well. The Suns needed to trade Marion and hopefully get a big man in return, and they did that.
The Heat made the trade because they need to get younger and change their philosophy. I doubt they’ll attempt to resign Marion as they will try to rebuild around Dewayne Wade.
As far as how it impacts the Celtics? Well, the Heat are now just another team that will remain at the bottom of the conference for a couple years unless they plan on signing any free agents. They will enjoy being without Shaq’s bloated contract but will also be missing the playoffs. Unless the Heat sign anybody, the East just got weaker and will help the Celtics that much more in the coming years.