Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Shaq For Marion Rumors Heating Up - Bad Deal For The Suns

Yes, you read that correctly, the Miami Herald reports that the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat are in deep trade talks regarding a Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks for Shaquille O'Neal swap.

Why They Do It

Phoenix Suns

This trade makes absolutely no sense from the Suns' perspective. Sure, Phoenix has struggled against the better teams out west this season and is soft defensively but I do not understand how adding Shaq at this stage of his career alleviates those issues.

The key to the Suns' success the past few years has been the up-tempo style being blessed with a point guard like Steve Nash and super-athletic forwards like Marion and Amare Stoudemire allows them to play. The Diesel has been plagued by numerous injuries, most recently to his hip, and simply can't get up and down the court consistently throughout the game. With Shaq in the fold, the Suns can't play nearly as fast and will most likely be forced to run more half-court sets, weakening their offensive game.

In addition, Amare and Shaq will persumably be playing alongside one another and this creates a big problem as both need room to operate inside. Amare has the ability to play around the foul line a bit, but he has never been an especially adept passer or particularly willing to relent to other scorers once he gets the ball in a position to score. Amare's big ego is a key reason why Marion has been unhappy in Phoenix for sometime now. Adding another big ego guy that plays the same position as Amare isn't going to help the cause.

Then there is the whole issue of actually getting Shaq on the court. He has already missed 14 games this year, all over the past 5 weeks, and it doesnt look like his health is improving much. Even when he has played, he is only averaging 28 minutes a night, a far cry from Shaq of old. Conversely, Marion is a warrior who is 5 years younger than Shaq, has missed only one game this year and is playing 36 minutes a night.

Basically, the only motivation the Suns would have to make this trade is if they realistically think Shaq will improve the team by making them tougher defensively. However, I do not see how the marginal defensive gains could possibly offset the loss in offense and on-court chemistry. Thus, I have to suspect things have gotten so bad between Marion and Suns management and/or Stoudemire that they were forced to unload him for 40 cents on the dollar.

Miami Heat

This deal would be an absolute coup for Pat Riley and reaffirm his genius status. The Heat stink right now and Shaq is eating up around 20 million dollars a year for the next 2 season after 07-08, limiting the team's ability to rebuild around Dwayne Wade. With Marion's contract expiring after next season, the Heat will have an extra 17 million to spend on the talent-rich free agent class of 2009 which includes the likes of Gilbert Arenas, Baron Davis and Elton Brand.

In addition, the combination of Marion and Wade immediately make the Heat better in 2008 and appease Wade a bit as the Heat want to keep him happy in hopes he re-ups with the franchise in 2010. Marion could be in line for a monster 2008 campaign as he is in a contract year and has aplenty of motivation to prove himself outside of Phoenix. If Wade can stay healthy and Riley can find a decent point guard a lineup featuring Wade, Marion and Haslem has a good a chance as any to be competitive in the dreadful Eastern Conference.

Fantasy Impact

Phoenix Suns

Shaq's production has dropped drastically this year and he is in the midst of his poorest season as a pro. If he can remain healthy in Phoenix, his scoring should improve playing with Steve Nash and he will maintain a high FG % and contribute admirably in blocks. However, if the number of games hes missed lately is any indicator of his current health, the transition to the more physically demanding style of offense played in Phoenix could be a death wish for the Diesel.

I also feel the presence of Shaq will hurt Amare's game some as he will get fewer inside touches with some going to O'Neal. One guy to watch out for with Marion gone is Boris Diaw, 2006 fantasy darling who went bust with Amare's return in 2007. With Marion gone, he should see additional playing time at the 3 spot.

Miami Heat

Marion should see an immediate increase in his production across the board in Miami as he joins a team with few offensive weapons. Marion will get plenty of touches and stands to improve considerably in scoring and threes while maintaining his excellent rebound, blocks and steals numbers.

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