I love the NBA off-season. Whether it’s the draft, free agency, trade rumors, or summer league – I love it all. In fact last summer I made it a habit of watching games from the Orlando Summer League on my computer. I’m not sure what level of pathetic it is when you are watching Pacers-Heat at 2 in the afternoon on a Wednesday but I think it’s somewhere between creepy cat lady and Sgt. Zim’s dating life.
This off-season one of the more interesting subplots (particularly on a local level) is whether the Suns will dump salary, stay the course with the current roster, or try and make tweaks for one last decent playoff run before Steve Nash rots in the cold ground. I’m hoping Steve Kerr has the good sense to realize that trading a 26-year old All-Star Power Forward with limitless offensive potential is stupid and that Nash has far more value to the Suns than he would in any trade (these are both big hopes) – which leaves Shaquille O’Neal as the prime trade target.
Fortunately for the Suns, O’Neal enjoyed his best season since the Heat title run in 2006 – scoring 17.8 points per game, making the All-Star game, and being selected as 3rd team All-NBA. Hopefully all those hilariously flawed factors will be enough to trick a team into taking on his $21 million dollar salary and thrill a minute antics. The following are just a few of the options and rumors that have recently been floated around:
Chicago Bulls – the reputable site rumorpress.net “reported” that the Bulls and Suns intend on discussing a deal that would send Shaq to Chicago in exchange for Luol Deng, along with Jerome James and Tim Thomas to make the salaries match. Getting Deng – a 24 year old and incredibly skilled small forward – would be a coup for the Suns and fortunately this time Mike D’Antoni wouldn’t be around to trade him for Jackson Vroman. One things for sure, Deng would fit the bill of Alvin Gentry’s running and gunning Suns. Sign me up for this one.
New Orleans Hornets – O’Neal himself started the rumor a few weeks back that he thought he’d be dealt for Hornets center Tyson Chandler. New Orleans clearly has a desire to get rid of Chandler – as evidenced by when they actually tried to trade him to Oklahoma City before the trade deadline – and if they can get the salaries to work (Chandler makes $11.85 million while Shaq makes $21 million) I love the idea. When healthy Chandler (and healthy is a big if) can run, rebound, play D, and be on the receiving end of alley-oops. He can pretty much do everything they acquired Shaq for in the first place, except he isn’t a hundred years old. Remember when Shaq was supposed to catch alley-oops from Steve Nash?
Cleveland Cavaliers – This is an idea that Cleveland and the Suns explored before the trade deadline until ultimately the Cavs refused to give up Wally Szczerbiak’s expiring contract. Obviously the Cavs could have used Shaq against Dwight Howard as shockingly Anderson Varejao and Ben Wallace weren’t enough to stop him. The question is whether or not the Cavs would be willing to make a panic trade for a 37-year old center. If the Suns do dump O’Neal on the Cavs it won’t bring back players but it will clear salary. Is it sexy? No – but it’s helpful to avoid the luxury tax.