A Closer Look at the Shaq – Marion Trade
Holy life imitating commercials, Batman! On Sunday, Shaq appears as jockey in a TV commercial during the Super Bowl, on Wednesday he’s turned into a metaphorical race horse, being traded to the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns.
In a trade that had just about everybody out side of the Suns and Heat general managers blinking in disbelief, Shaquille O’Neal was sent to Phoenix, while Miami picked up NBA All-Disgruntled member Shawn Marion and guard Marcus Banks.
This is a very interesting trade, and you can’t say that Pat Reilly was solely playing the salary cap game for Miami, either. For the Heat, cap-wise, they traded Shaq’s monster $20M/year salary, running through ’09-’10, for Marion’s $17M contract expiring in ’08-’09, but Banks’s comparatively meager contract culminates in roughly $4.7M all the way out in ’10-’11. So if, for whatever reason, Miami and Marion part company, that’s $23 million off the books (less what they spend on his replacement) and could help Miami be a player in that vaunted free agent class. If they want to cut Marion loose, which should not be a foregone conclusion.
What does Miami really get out of this? Speed and defense. Shawn Marion is the ultimate utility player. He’s really a small forward, but can rebound at the power forward slot if the team is running and can guard anyone on the floor. He can score 18-20 points a game without being the focus of the offense. Blocks, steals, whatever. Oh, and he’s fast and thrives in a full-court.
With Banks, we may be looking at next year’s starter. Yes, that’s a little premature, but consider that Jason Williams, multiple injuries and all, has an expiring contract and hitting 33 years old next season, you’re going to want to start going a little younger. Banks isn’t the most accurate shooter, and Reilly may well be raising his voice while explaining the finer points of defense, but Banks is also fast enough to hang with the Suns back court and promising enough to get a 5-year deal out of them. He’ll be given a shot at the point.
So what we have here from the Miami perspective is adding some speed around Dwayne Wade. Methinks Pat Reilly is aiming for a Showtime revival.
Assuming Reilly intends to move Marion back to the SF, the starting line-up could be:
PG-Williams (possibly Banks, closer to April)
If Reilly really wanted to run, he might try
Pay attention to the rotations between Marion, Wright and Davis. Remember, Davis is an expiring contract, so if Wright’s getting all the minutes, Davis may well be cap-bait.
Pay attention to how well Banks fits in.
Smush Parker’s departure will probably be discussed sooner than later, with Banks bumping him in the rotation.
Really, the most interesting thing here will be Shawn Marion getting a few plays designed for him. He was complaining about being the third-banana and under-appreciated in Phoenix, but he’s solidly the second option here. Let’s see how he copes with losing. Shaq clearly wasn’t working for the Heat this season, and this is an upgrade in style of play, as well as depth, I don’t see them going on any 17 game winning streaks with that bench and Wade not fully recovered from his injuries. Free agency will be quite interesting in Miami, though, and they could be a very interesting team next season. A healthy Wade on one wing and Marion on the other? If they can rebound enough to start some breaks, that’s going to be fun to watch.
Then you have the Suns, who are still holding on to first place in the Western Conference by 0.5 games as of this writing, trading a starter and their main defender. Now, I’ll grant you that the Suns are also 5 games away from the lottery, in a conference where you currently need a .600 record to make the post-season. (Houston and Portland, both in lotteryville at .583 would be tied for the 4th seed in the East.) Do you really want to shake up a team like that when you’re leading your conference and have the third-best record in the league? Apparently so.
This is either a realization that they need more size for the play-offs, or Marion’s pouting, and he was demanding a trade at the beginning of the season, was starting to affect the locker room.
The biggest question is how much running can Shaq handle at this stage of his career. Please remember, Shaq’s always been fairly quick for a guy his size. This wouldn’t have been that much of a question 5 years ago, but given the rash of hip injuries, it’s a question today. On the defending Shaq side of things, his field goal percentage was still about 58% this season, he just wasn’t getting the shots. That said, pretty much everything else was down. Less talent around him? A little banged up? That’s what Suns GM Steve Kerr is obviously gambling on.
Here’s the deal: if Shaq can get the rebound and the outlet pass, they don’t need him to finish the fast break. The Suns have plenty of guys who can get out and run, though Marion may have been the best at finishing. They need Shaq to eat up space in the paint, block shots, rebound (or at least keep Duncan/Yao/Pau/Tyson/etc occupied while Stoudemire goes after the ball), and if the other team gets back in time to stop the fast break, at that point he’s an offensive option. How high on the option list remains to be seen, but I think Nash is capable of getting him the ball a couple times.
Can Shaq do this? Theoretically, and if he’s not hurt, the Suns are going to view him as a bigger version of Kurt Thomas, with a low-post scoring threatas an added bonus. The Suns did alright with Thomas, who isn’t exactly Carl Lewis for speed, as a rebounding/break-initiating center. But this is going to boil down to how the team chemistry solidifies.
That’s not chopped liver. The bench rotations could get a little screwy, and the question in my mind is whether Brian Skinner sees a few more minutes.
C – Skinner/some Stoudemire minutes/Diaw in an emergency
PF – Diaw (doing a Marion imitation)/Skinner
SF – Diaw/some Bell
SG – Barbosa
PG – Barbosa
Nobody else is getting off the bench. The next question is who fills the empty slot this trade opened up and is Sam Cassell available (and not going to Boston if he gets away from the Clippers). The Suns could use a good back-up point guard or an additional veteran swingman.
Kerr is realizing his window of opportunity with Nash will be closing in the next couple years and he’s going for broke. Was this deal too much of a knee-jerk reaction? We’ll just have to wait and see. If Kerr thought he was going to run into a twin-towers of Gasol and Bynum in the play-offs and thought he was going to get killed on sheer size, I can totally understand the trade. However, if Shaq’s injuries linger, especially if he’s missing a lot of games, this trade could knock the Suns down to the lottery in that cutthroat Western Conference.