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Shaquille O’Neal: The NBA’s Biggest ‘Contract Killer’ for Hire

If you want a championship - Shaq's for Hire

The rumored Shaquille O’Neal to Phoenix deal is done.  The big question now is what does this trade mean for Shaq, the Phoenix Suns, the Miami Heat and the rest of the NBA? 

First let me start by addressing all the critics that say “Phoenix will not be as good (if not considerably worst) having aquired O’Neal.”  I don’t know about you, but whenever you get a guarenteed hall-of-fame center while he can still play at an above-average level (18.16 PER), your team can’t get worse.

Is this an over reaction to the Lakers move getting Pau Gasol?  Maybe.  I tend to think it’s Phoenix doing exactly what Miami did two seasons ago, which is take advantage of an opportunity to win now while Shaq can still run and jump (albeit slower and not as high).   Shaq looks to be the new (and largest) “contract killer” for hire.  Meaning you bring him in for a short period of time to get the job done – get to the NBA Finals and play for an NBA championship.  Something the Phoenix Sun team has not been able to do as previously constructed.  Clearly O’Neal can no longer lead a team at this stage of his career, but he definitely can and has proven to be successful as a hired gun to get a good team over the hump (2006 Miami Heat).  Yes, Dwyane Wade led that team, but does anyone believe they get to the Finals let alone win without O’Neal in the lineup?

What this means for the Phoenix Suns

While 70% of the United States (according to ESPN Sports Nation’s poll) thinks this deal doesn’t make sense for the Phoenix Suns here’s why it does.

The Suns becomes a more well-rounded basketball team.  How? We already know the Suns can run and gun better than most teams in the league.  And they do so very effectively with Steve Nash at the point.  That won’t change as much as people seem to think with Shaq in the line-up.  Rather, I envision O’Neal igniting the break with his rebounding and freeing up the younger, faster and more agile Amare Stoudemire to get out and run the break, taking Shawn Marion’s old role.  Will Shaquille be running up and down with Nash, hell no.  But whenever the fast break falls apart and the ball is turned over you now have a defensive safety net in O’Neal who likely will be lagging behind.  Also, I expect Mike D’Antoni, an offensive guru, to implement a secondary break that incorporates the late-coming Shaq at the top of the key, very similar to what Roy Williams runs with his up-tempo UNC squad.

What you get is a more stable and diversified half-court offense.  This is especially crucial come playoff time when fast-break points are harder to come by and it becomes more of a walk-it-up, half-court game especially against the better teams in the West.  Phoenix can play high-low with Shaq and Amare.  Can Gasol, Bynum, Oberto, Duncan or any other big in the West guard Shaq straight up?  I don’t think so.  Post O’Neal up where he is surrounded by some of the best 3-point shooters in the league and his passing ability is strong enough to pick doubling defensives apart.  The pick-and-roll can be run with Shaq as well.  He has never been known for having bad hands.  With Nash’s passing ability and basketball IQ he will get the rock to Shaq in optimal scoring position.

Defense and toughness has always been a concern for this team, especially inside.  Inserting 7-foot, 1, 325-pounds clogs up a lot of lanes to the basket.  Will Shaq be blocking shots left and right or be as dominant on the defensive end as he has in the past? No, but where he doesn’t block shots he still alters many of them.  His motivation to do so will be at a high level with the needed change of scenery and drastically better supporting cast.

Maybe most important of all is that Shaq will inflict some pain on the guys guarding him all while getting some players in foul trouble.  And you can be damn sure he will use up his 6 fouls – hard.  That provides an inside intimidation factor that was always lacking with Amare in the middle.  So what if he fouls out?  The Suns will just revert to their more up-tempo, wide-open style of play on offense.  But last year’s playoff Steve Nash in Game 1 of the '06-'07 playoffs vs. the San Antonio Spurs.disappointment definitely played a role in this deal.  Phoenix got beat up and hit in the nose – literally – by the San Antonio Spurs.  O’Neal provides a presence to eliminate that soft image and weakness.

One final note on the Suns – moving Marion now gets value for him and eliminates another summer having to deal with the disgruntled forward.

How this impacts the Miami Heat?

Pat Riley has positioned his team to make a run the second half of the season.  Getting Shawn Marion, a 18 and 10 guy to play along side Dwyane Wade is huge.  Miami becomes younger, more athletic and maybe most importantly healthier by swapping Shaq for Marion and Marcus Banks.  Miami has also sured up the point guard spot, at least temporarily, with the addition of Banks.  He has been rotting on the Phoenix bench the last two season and now will finally get an opportunity to play extended minutes.  He played a stretch with Minnesota where he scored 12ppg, got 4.7apg, shot 48% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc in 30 minute per night.  I expect more of the same from him in Miami, if not better.

Cap flexibility.  Riley has unloaded Shaq’s enormous $20M per year contract which completely opens up the possibilities for this franchise going forward.  Marion’s $16.4M with $17.1M option adds more production and puts Miami in a better position financially.  Picking up Marcus Banks is also a big deal considering Jason Williams will be a free agent this summer.  I don’t expect the Heat to resign his erratic and, as of late, injury-prone Williams.  They may actually use him as trade bait for teams looking for expiring contracts.

No matter how you look at, this deal is solid gold for the Miami Heat.

What Shaq to Phoenix means to the rest of the League

First off, Dallas, San Antonio and Denver are officially on notice.  Another team in your conference has gotten bigger and better and standing pat might not be good enough now.  Phoenix has filled a need for size and physicality that has been lacking the previous years. 

In the next few weeks before the trade deadline (Feb. 21st) I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dallas pump up their efforts to get Jason Kidd or Denver make the Ron Artest deal happen.  The West is just a beast right now.  Detriot and Boston need to be weary if they have to face the Suns in the Finals because Kendrick Perkins damn sure can’t guard even a 35-year-old Shaq.  And in no way is Sheed looking forward to that match up.

Best of all, as fans, we are guaranteed one of the most anticipated, exciting and competitive NBA playoffs in a very long time.  It is a great time to be an NBA fan.

Make sense now?  What do you think of the deal and how it will impact the rest of the NBA season?


20 Responses

  1. I dont get how the suns will pay $40 million for shaq, but were trying to trade Amare and Marion in the offseason so they dont have to pay them?

    if Shaq is in shape and healthy, this a good move – but I just don’t see that happening.

  2. Shaq couldn’t guard Sheed 4 years ago, he isn’t doing it now. Last time Shaq played Duncan this year he exposed on multiple possessions and was forced to guard Oberto. Shaq picks up easy fouls cause he doesn’t move as well. You’re obviously referring to Shaq from last year. This years Shaq is Oliver Miller.

  3. I don’t think the Suns were trying to move Amare just to dump salary. Most of the talks involved getting KG for Amare.

    Marion on the other hand I do think they were looking to get some value out of him if they could because they don’t want to extend him for big money. I think they did that by getting Shaq.

    I don’t think the Suns will play Shaq that much until right before the playoffs with some tune-up games. That’s really that is all that matters. We will see. Good for fans, I love it.

  4. Nick – who said anything about Shaq guarding Duncan? Amare will be guard Duncan PF vs. PF. And Shaq was always on Oberto and only guarded Duncan on switches. If you want to based your thinking on 3 plays feel free. Sheed can’t guard Shaq and Sheed would be ineffective if he tried to post up Shaq. Likely he will just stand on the 3-pt line which he does most of the time now anyway.

    Comparing Shaq to Oliver Miller at any time is just ridiculous. Time will tell.

  5. You know what this smells like? Motumbo coming to the 76ers, yeah, yeah we were told, he’ll add that special defensive edge the Sixers need to compete with the teams in the West, besides getting swept in the finals it turned an exciting 40-10 teams into a plodding mess.

    It might work, it just seems highly unlikely. That said the Suns knew they couldn’t get to the finals the way they were, so they’re willing to take a big risk.

  6. Last I checked, Oliver Miller had neither a killer instinct nor four rings.

    Kerr is not stupid; if Shaq wasn’t capable of getting healthy, he wouldn’t have pulled the trigger on this deal. Marion was leaving (one way or another) after this season anyway. And the pre-Shaq Suns were not going to get to the Finals, period. It’s been proven that run-and-gun is not going to beat the Spurs in a 7 game series. The window is closing on the Suns… they have to win a title this year or next season, after that there’s no telling how much more can be gotten out of Nash. Phoenix has the best trainers and strength conditioning in the league, and you bet Shaq is motivated.

    I think three months from now Kerr will be vindicated in spades, and finding people who thought the trade was a bad idea will be like finding people who will admit to having voted for Nixon.

  7. Watching the Suns play NO tonight, they don’t seem to be missing Marion that much…

  8. I agree 100% with the analysis of Shaq and his potential to help the Suns in the short-run (a.k.a. This year and next year at most).
    The problem with too many people such as some of the above posts is that they are unable to picture a team any other way than how they currently play. There is no reason why the Suns can’t tweak their offense to use Shaq in a more effective way down the stretch when he is healthy. Kerr knew from past years and this season so far that the current team couldn’t run through the playoffs like they were. Losing Marion hurts, but it is a worthy price to pay if it allows them to go to the Finals and face Bos / Det.

  9. I think the Suns blew it and were just reacting to the Lakers trading for Pau Gasol. If the Suns GM was really being proactive he would have traded for Gasol himself. Memphis was looking for expiring contacts and Marion fit the bill. Gasol is a seven-footer that fits the Suns’ style. He could have played center and moved Amare to PF. That was the smart trade for the Suns.

  10. I’ve seen every Suns playoff game and 90% of their regular season games the past 2 years and the truth is they DON’T run during the playoffs. The amazing sky alleyoop dunks to Marion and the touchdown passes to Barbosa NEVER happen in the playoffs against Popovich, Jackson, or even Dunleavy once the Clips got Game 1 out of the way. During the playoffs, the Suns expend so much more energy on defense and rebounding, that there’s not enough gas left for running and opponents crank up their transition defense as well. What they’re left with is half-court pick and rolls, kickouts for threes, and occasional slashes to the basket. And unless Marion was dunking, he’s not that great a finisher, certainly nowhere near Scottie Pippen-caliber as Riley is suggesting.

    I have no problem with the Suns dumping the ball into the low post to a 55%-shooting true center for 25 minutes a game and seeing what happens. Amare, who is a much better defensive player than everyone seems to give him credit for, is really getting tired guarding the big 5’s. He will feel liberated and it will show in his numbers. On offense Hill, Nash, Diaw, and Barbosa all can create their own shots far better than Marion could, particularly in the 4th quarter of a Game 6. On defense, Hill, Diaw, Barbosa, and Bell will be pushed to their limits in the absence of Marion which may cause their offense to suffer.

    If Shaq gets healthy and can actually play, the Suns come out way ahead when it counts, in the playoffs. And they’ll still score like bunnies in the regular season.

    If Shaq really can’t run, jump, or shoot anymore, Shawn’s energy will be sorely missed, but he would have ditched us in June anyhow.

  11. As a lifelong Suns fan, I thought this trade must have been a joke when I first heard it. For the sake of my sanity, I’ve been forced to believe these truths: Boris Diaw will thrive in a larger role; the athletic trainers in Phoenix will cure Shaq; Shaq will be motivated and hungry; Shaq will retire rather than accept his huge paycheck if he cannot perform; Shaq’s good personality minus the pouting of Marion and Banks will be great for clubhouse chemistry; Shaq is not needed for the fast break; Shaq will at least clog the lane defensively; Shaq will be great in a half-court game; Amare will thrive in the 4 spot. I’d much rather have traded for Kirilenko this past offseason, or let Marion sign elsewhere in the summer and try to land a similar player (Gerald Wallace) in a trade. As crazy as it sounds, I’d rather lose the Suns way than win the traditional way.

  12. And Shaq will be the one guarding Duncan, as Duncan owns Amare in the post.

  13. Brad – I agree with you in the sense that this was a reaction to the Lakers Gasol move rather than proactive move by Steve Kerr and the Phoenix Suns. That doesn’t mean it was a bad reaction or move either though. At the time Phoenix probably thought they were good just standing Pat really only having to deal with Duncan in the playoffs. Once the Lakers got Gasol everyone in the West needed to react. Phoenix was the first and in a big way.

    Also Marion is not necessarily an expiring contract he has another year (player option) at $17.8M next season and he was looking to be extended. If he couldn’t get at least $15M or get picked up by a title contender at a above average salary I see no reason for him to leave that money on the table. Memphis would have no desire to pay that next year at all or deal with the hassle either.

    Also Memphis wouldn’t want Marion coming in and taking minutes from the development of Rudy Gay at SF.

  14. I think this acquisition will help Phoenix in their campaign bigtime.

  15. if the nuggets actually get ron artest they would be extremely dangerous. plus for thos that think lebron deserves mvp if his cavs were in the west they would be tenth seed. also now that the lakers got gasol they are very dangerous.but if they want to win a championship and be dominant they should trade lamar odom for richard jefferson. lamar is good but getting rj would be nasty along side kobe bynum gasol and fisher. as for dallas they wont win.they cant win.heack dirk the retard nowitski is there franhise player. even if they got kidd they wont matchup with the elite teams. Shaq to the suns well sounds stupid at first. in the beginning i laughed my ass off.but later when you think about it he would be a beast.only because there would be no double teams.plus in pheonix he would be in top notch shape. I feel sorry for the warriors.they are on pace for 50 freaking wins and are the 8th seed.wtf hornets are freaking good now. with paul west chandler and peja they have a great starting lineup.

  16. Dannie, nice post. I like your logic. I mean come, what do the Suns have to lose? Not making it to the finals? Again, and again, and yet again. There is nothing wrong with mortgaging the future for now, it just better work. As a die hard Minnesota Twins fan, I have to constantly watch my team reload for the future without ever going for it all “now.” Kerr made a ballsy move that might not work out, in which case, they end up right where they were every previous year–watching the finals from home. This gives them a better chance to bring home a championship, therefore it is a good gamble.

  17. Gargs – We are in the minority my friend.

  18. […] Dannie wrote a fantastic post today on “Shaquille OâNeal: The NBAâs Biggest âContract Killerâ for Hire”Here’s ONLY a quick extractRather, I envision O’Neal igniting the break with his rebounding and freeing up the younger, faster and more agile Amare Stoudemire to get out and run the break, taking Shawn Marion’s old role. Will Shaquille be running up and down with … […]

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