After the failed Shaq-to-Phoenix experiment, the Suns traded Shaquille O'Neal to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, a second-round pick, and cash.
Don't get me wrong, this was one of the greatest "addition-by-subtraction" trades in the NBA, but hear me out.
What was one of the biggest issues hindering the Suns from taking that next step toward being a championship contender?
Defense, and more specifically, interior defense.
Instead of hanging on to Ben Wallace, one of the NBA’s greatest defensive centers, they bought out his contract along with that of Pavlovic.
The Suns clearly wanted to dump Shaq’s contract and get back to the run-and-gun style after Steve Kerr’s bone-headed trade to acquire "The Big Cactus" failed to work out (I’m sure nobody saw that coming). But why not keep Wallace to provide interior defense to help out Amar’e Stoudemire (who played close to no defense).
This trade was made all the more frustrating when compared with an article by ESPN's Chris Broussard. The headline should tell you all you need to know, "Suns won't trade Shaq just to save cash." Oh really? They won't trade Shaq just to save cash? Well, that's exactly what they did.
Given the fact that the Suns had to compete with a Los Angeles Lakers team that sported offensive big men, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, you'd think the Suns might have thought twice about keeping Wallace as a defensive presence that the team had been missing for years.
Maybe if the Suns kept Wallace, he could have defended Gasol/Bynum and increased the Suns' chances of reaching the finals.
Instead, the Suns lost a hard-fought, six-game Western Conference finals series to the Lakers later that season.