Monday, June 15, 2009

Shaq to Cleveland Makes Sense ... Today

There are two parts to the perception of NBA trades. What happens right after it and what happens down the road. There is no better example of that when the Lakers dealt Shaquille O'Neal to Miami.

The Heat got the best of it in the immediate. They won a title in Shaq's second season there while the Lakers missed the postseason in 2005 and exited the first round in 2006 and 2007. Now, it looks as if the Lakers did okay. The deal meant they could keep Kobe Bryant, the deal brought Lamar Odom and Caron Butler (who turned into Kwame Brown who turned into Pau Gasol).

That's how I'd see any deal Cleveland may make to get Shaq. It seems like a good idea but it has a lot of risk.

First off, this would look like a must-win-title season for the Cavaliers. Shaq's contract has just one more year on it and LeBron can opt out next summer. Both could be gone for nothing in 2010, so that means it is do-or-die in Cleveland. Plus, Shaq's $21M deal with LeBron's nearly $16M deal means that the Cavs don't have a ton of money to play with for other parts. Anderson Varejao will probably opt out of his contract to get paid somewhere else (he signed an offer sheet with Charlotte a couple years ago that the Cavs matched) while Ilgauskas will most likely not opt out of his remaining season that will pay him $11.5M.

Add in Mo Williams' $8.8M salary for next season and the Cavaliers already have $57M invested in just four players. They would have the mid-level exception and the bi-annual exemption to bring in guys, but it will be a hard sell for someone to make that plunge if they don't know if LeBron will stick around in Cleveland.

Still, the 2010 season could be special. The Celtics and Magic would have a tough time dealing with Shaq and LeBron and it could be the missing piece that puts Cleveland in the NBA Finals and, possibly, a championship. I think LeBron needs somebody who has been there before and teach him how to be the winner he thinks he already is. Also, I don't think Shaq will cow-tow to LeBron as much as everyone else (*cough* Mike Brown) does.

But what if there is no championship? Will LeBron figure that the franchise has maxed out its potential and decide it's time to move on? Yeah, Shaq's albatross contract will go away in the offseason and allow the Cavs to go after a Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudamire or Dirk Nowitzki. But none of those will come if LeBron leaves.

For the Suns, this will facilitate their rebuilding phase so it makes all the sense in the world. They'll save money on fielding a team that has no immediate title prospects. Something Cleveland could be facing in 2010.

No comments: