This trade reeks of desperation for Phoenix and seems very reactionary to the Lakers’ heist of Pau Gasol. In their first two meetings this season, with a healthy Andrew Bynum in the lineup, Los Angeles was clearly the better team. The Lakers won both contests, averaging over 120 points as a team and Bynum alone averaging 21 points and 12.5 rebounds. Throw in another dominant, offensive minded seven-footer in Gasol and subtract only Kwame Brown, and Phoenix simply didn’t feel that they could compete in the Pacific–or the Western Conference–any longer without a dominant, traditional, low-post presence.
A strong low-post presence has always been the Suns’ Kryptonite. They have trouble adjusting to the half-court game on offense, struggling to create the open looks they get when running the floor. On the other end, Steve Nash is one of the worst defensive point guards in the league and can’t stop any kind of penetration. Down low, despite his considerable athleticism, Amare Stoudemire can’t stop anybody. There’s also tremendous pressure to win now because they have a small window of opportunity with Steve Nash still healthy and effective. Nash turns 34 tomorrow, his defense is getting worse every year, and at some point his body will start to break down. So the Suns hit the panic button.
Of course, Shawn Marion has not been a happy man this year. He came into camp disgruntled, and there have been indications all season that he’s upset with his role on this team and the direction they’re going in. He wanted out, and he was going to opt out of his contract after this season, so Phoenix wanted to get something in return. I spoke this morning to Henry Abbott of TrueHoop, who mentioned that Phoenix didn’t think it was possible to have Marion and Stoudamire co-exist any longer. Both of these guys feels like they should be more involved, and both think they have the skills and the game to be an MVP-type player if they were only utilized properly.
For Marion, we’re about to find out. I’ve read offseason interviews where Marion says that he could be a big ballhandler and passer if he was asked to, but Phoenix doesn’t call on those skills. Marion is a great help defender, he can knock down the open shot, and he’s extremely efficient in the Suns uptempo offense and defense as a vulture in transition, but I’m not convinced he’ll thrive away from Phoenix. He’s never been one to create his own shot, and he’s going to learn that playing with Dwyane Wade is a lot different from playing with Steve Nash.
Unfortunately, Shaq isn’t the answer. I just think Shaq’s days as an impact NBA player are over. He might be able to come in and give this team 15-20 reasonably effective minutes a game, but I think expecting anything more from the big man is dreaming. I can’t imagine him running the floor with this team, or co-existing with Amare in the post. The theory is that Phoenix rarely runs a five-man fastbreak, so Shaq may not slow them down much, but I’m not buying it. There’s absolutely no way he can earn his contract, and his chronic health problems will continue to be a major issue on a day-to-day basis.
From Miami’s perspective, this has to be considered a major coup. They rid themselves of Shaq’s albatross contract. They bring in another guy closer to Wade’s age who could either be a huge part of their rebuilding process, or who could give them major cap relief and let them make a run at a player like Elton Brand in that juicy free-agent class of 2010, which could also include Wade or even… LeBron James. Miami wasn’t going to compete for another title with Shaq, and now they have a lot more flexibility to build around Wade.
Finally, let’s keep in mind that this trade is still PENDING. Shaq will have to pass a physical today before this can become official.
– Andrew Thell
More reactions to this head-scratcher after the jump…
– “Marion has been pining for an exit stage left from Phoenix since the end of last season, and with his wish finally granted now has the opportunity to do what so many good players on bad teams do: put up big stats in a losing cause. And it seems like that’s a welcome scenario for the versatile forward, who is hell-bent on getting the recognition he feels he deserves in terms of individual accomplishment, not of team success. Sure, a title would be great, but only one team gets it every year, so why not strictly focus on stat-padding as a summer approaches when he can opt out of his contract and cash in?” – Brian Spencer of, ya know, ETB
– “Let’s consider the situation again: Shawn Marion is likely not just willing but in favor of going to the worst team in the league. To a team with a superstar who is quickly becoming an injury liability, plenty of washed-up veterans and a very confusing future. Given his past issues in Phoenix, the odds are vastly in favor of this being a quest for more individual respect.” – Steve Weinman, CelticsBlog
– “In every way, this trade is an indictment of these D’Antoni glory years with the Suns. If Suns president Steve Kerr is thrusting Shaq onto his coach, he never bought into his coach’s system. If D’Antoni is going along with this, you have to wonder whether he ever truly believed his way could win a title.” – Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports
– “I don’t know whether to laugh or throw up.” – Comment on Ballhype
– “News of the pending trade sent shockwaves through a Western Conference landscape still shifting after Gasol’s trade to the Lakers. League executives were stunned the Suns even would seriously contemplate such a move, let alone agree to it, given O’Neal’s declining production and enormous contract. Said one West executive: ‘I truly thought this was a joke.'” – Johnny Ludden, Yahoo! Sports
– “When I first heard this one, all I could think about was what sort of crack the Suns have been smoking. The Suns want to give up one of the best all-around players in the league and a seldom used, but talented PG. This they want to give up for possibly the most overpaid player in the league.” – FanBoom.com
Shaquille O’Neal Photo Credit: Icon SMI
– “I can’t imagine why the Suns wouldn’t either take their best shot with the guys they have, or else try to find a better fit for the system. Change is good, but unless I’m seriously missing something, this change seems just plain nuts! On the bright side, I guess if this goes through there should be no more talk about Robert Sarver being cheap or Steve Kerr lacking cajones.” – Bright Side of the Sun
– “For the Heat, it’s like Christmas. Only if the Super Bowl was being played that day. And HoverBoards really existed. They immediately improve their team and dump their most detrimental cap issue in Shaq’s 40 large over two years. Again, taking the “smart” angle here, but at 10 games out, I’m not calling off the 2008 playoffs just quite yet (and will boast outlandishly if they make it). But let’s say they keep not being good and Marion doesn’t work out. No harm, no foul as he opts out and they lure one (or more?) stud free agents to South Beach.” – Will Brinson, AOL FanHouse
– “Marion is a huge asset you can use to obtain multiple pieces to augment your team. That does NOT mean you should completely abandon what brung you, and acquire a 35 year-old overweight, out of shape center who’s a liability in any aspect you examine. What the hell is going on?!” – Hardwood Paroxysm
– “I think this move is a mistake. Phoenix came within one Robert Horry shove of making the Western Conference finals last year (and does anyone doubt that they would’ve accounted for the Jazz?), and whilst this year hasn’t been as fantastic as they hoped, changing your entire basketball philosophy mid-season is an exercise in idiocy. Done. Dusted. Phoenix rides off into the setting sun.” – With Malice…