By Bryan Jeon
Just five days after the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol from the Grizzlies for virtually nothing, the Suns felt they needed to acquire an All-Star player as well, to keep their Pacific Division rivals at bay. On Wednesday, they pulled the trigger on Shaquille O’Neal, giving up Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to the last-place Miami Heat.
Marcus Banks was making $4 million this season to put up 5 points in 13 minutes. That’s a ridiculous $3,752 per minute he’s on the floor this year so only good things come out of giving up Banks, for Suns GM Steve Kerr.
Shawn Marion is no cheap player, either. He currently makes $16.4 million this year and can opt out of $17 million next season, which is the final year of his contract. After that, you know he’s looking for a big contract, which the Suns don’t want to agree to for several reasons. Marion constantly complains that he is third fiddle in scoring on the team to Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. (He was fourth in scoring on the team this season behind Leandro Barbosa as well.) It has been over a year that the Phoenix front office contemplated trading either Marion or Stoudemire to eliminate the disruption of team chemistry, and I’m sure most would choose to retain the Suns’ big man over the versatile forward. And as well as the Suns are playing this season (they currently own the Western Conference’s best record at 34-15), the same story will arise in the playoffs. They’ll get pushed around down low and lose to the Spurs, right? They proved that they couldn’t win with the roster they had and so a change was necessary. Getting something in return for Marion rather than letting him go for free then is a no-brainer.
Of course, Marion’s defense will be missed, as evidenced by the Suns’ total of one steal in their double-overtime loss to the Hornets in their first game post-Matrix. And all the doubt is on whether O’Neal can even perform to a level that will help the Suns rather than hurt them.
The Suns won big on this trade and here’s why. We’ll deal with the money first. While the Suns would have had to pay up on a Marion extension, they’ll free up $20 million owed to Shaq in the final year of his contract next season. O’Neal has recently said he would play out his contract, and then hang them up to pursue his post-NBA career patrolling the streets in Scottsdale.
It’s pretty simple the Suns acquired the position they needed the most, and they ran the much-warranted risk of seeing if O’Neal is the final piece to their postseason puzzle. On that note, the Suns, much like the Celtics, are in a semi-desperate mode of wanting to win a championship now. The last thing Phoenix wants to do before Steve Nash retires is to give the 34-year-old two-time MVP a much-deserved ring, and so a shakeup was due.
At the very least, if the two-year O’Neal experiment fails, they’ll have $20 million a year to re-build around a still, very solid Phoenix team. The big man should rest as much as he needs to in the regular season, as it now just remains to be seen how well he can gel in the Suns’ run-and-gun offense.
Interview of the Day
LeBron James, after practice on Wednesday in response to hearing about the stunning, megastar deal.
When asked if being paired with Jason Kidd could win the Cavs their first championship, James said, “Yeah. It’s that easy.”
He went on to say, “As long as I’m healthy, we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win. No matter who is out on the court with me.”