Trade Deadline Madness
By Mike Owens
Talk about a crazy trade deadline. In two weeks, multiple superstars switched zip codes. But there was one that started it all. When Pau Gasol was traded to the Lakers for next to nothing, craziness ensued.
To say the Gasol trade simply makes the Lakers good would be completely undermining how good this deal actually was. This deal makes the Lakers a lot more than merely a second round playoff team. This deal makes them legitimate contenders now, something Bryant has been crying for since signing the biggest deal in NBA history a few seasons back.
By bringing in Gasol, they do two things. They get Kobe something he’s been lacking since being named the face of the franchise. He finally got himself of legitimate second option. It also helps them out with coping with the injury of Andrew Bynum, who looked like a top five big man before he got hurt.
The other aftereffect of this trade is that it has caused two other Western Conference contenders in to making what would have been unnecessary trades, just to keep pace with them. The Phoenix Suns traded Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to land the aging Shaquille O’Neal. Shortly after that blockbuster, the Mavericks made one of their own, sending Devin Harris and countless fillers for veteran point guard Jason Kidd.
While some might wonder whether the Pau Gasol trade had anything to do with these, you would almost be crazy to think otherwise.
Just look at the potential starting lineup of the Lakers when they get healthy. One thing sticks out more than anything else, and that is the fact that they are tall. Their would-be starting frontline of Lamar Odom, Bynum and Gasol go 6-foot-11 and then a pair of 7-footers.
This would have been a nightmare match-up for the Suns. They already had issues shutting down Odom and Kwame Brown in previous seasons; now imagine trying to shut down a much improved Bynum, Odom and Gasol, who is much more talented in the post than Kwame will ever be.
Aside from attempting to shut them down on offense, rebounding would have been very difficult for them. They’re already one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA, and quite frankly, the Lakers dominated them on the glass constantly the last couple years. And no disrespect to Amare Stoudemire or Shawn Marion, but those two just would not be enough to keep the Laker frontline off the glass. They’re all too big and too athletic for Stoudemire and Marion, both of whom played out of position, to shut down.
This is where Shaq can come in and try to help. While he may only be about a third of the player he once was, he can still do one thing very well: take up space in the lane. He also has the ability to be an effective true post player on some nights, something they lacked without him. He may also be able to help with a statistic they’re weak at, and that’s rebounding. As great of one as Marion was, he got his by using athleticism and leaping ability, whereas Shaq will actually be able to clog the lane and get rebounds that way. Not only that, but his size may be able to keep the opponents off the offensive glass, as well as create more second chance opportunities for the Suns.
However, with these positives comes a potentially enormous downside. How will Shaq affect the Suns’ run-n-gun offense? While coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Steve Kerr don’t think it’s going to have a negative effect, you have to think they’re sugar coating the situation a bit.
At 35 years old, Shaq isn’t nearly as quick and nimble as he was in his Laker days. You also have to wonder about his conditioning. He’s been so accustomed to playing a slow-paced, halfcourt game that switching to the free-flowing, run-n-gun style of the Suns could kill his stamina quickly. He was already getting winded pretty quickly this year for the slow moving Heat, so you have to wonder if he’ll be able to hold up in Phoenix.
Speaking of the offense, what if he’s not able to keep up? That leaves the Suns in a pretty terrible predicament. They can either keep their pace and play four-on-five, hoping Shaq catches up. Or, they can switch to a more halfcourt style, which is something their not at all effective at. In fact, outside of the pick and roll, their halfcourt offense is generally non-existent.
The other issue is will his presence in the post actually hurt them. They’re so used to having a lot space down there that this could really change the way they play. Shaq might end up taking up lanes Steve Nash uses to cut through for lay-ups. It might also disrupt Amare’s effectiveness. He’s used to having a lot of space to work with and breaking down his man for a dunk. With Shaq in there, it could be more difficult since the opponent will be forced to guard him, leaving less open space in there.
Amidst all this, you can now bring in the deal that brings Jason Kidd to the Mavericks. You have to wonder though, was this even necessary? Sure, Jason Kidd gives them a great leader and person who they can go to in the clutch, when they’re usual go-to guy Dirk, constantly pulls his disappearing acts. And, despite being 35 years old, he still plays some solid defense and can run an offense better than most any other point guard in the league.
However, look further into this and you realize they did give up quite a bit. They lost a solid post defender in DeSagana Diop. Beyond his solid defense, they also lost depth. Without him, they’re down to Erick Dampier as their only true center. After him, it goes to Brandon Bass, and while he has some solid size, he is by no means a center. At 6’8”, he could very well get abused by the likes of Tim Duncan, Shaq, Bynum, Gasol and any other mostly decent big out West. After him, it would potentially go over to Dirk, a player constantly labeled as “soft”. If you’re the Mavericks, these are a couple predicaments you don’t want to find yourself in, but that’s the risk you have to take sometimes.
The other thing they have to look at is the finances. By bringing in Kidd, they’re more than likely going to give him an extension at close to $20 million per year. They also lost added money when they had to bring back Keith Van Horn because Devean George used his Bird Rights and refuted the trade.
So with all this, you really do have to wonder as to whether or not the Suns jumped the gun because of the Gasol trade. On the outside it does look like a pretty solid deal. If healthy, O’Neal gives them a legit post player who can score down low, take up space on defense, and help keep the opponent off the glass. And then you must wonder how much better the Mavericks are with Kidd, if at all. They gave up quite a bit to get him and are now extremely thin down low. Only time will tell whether or not the Suns and Mavericks made the right moves, but one thing is for sure, the Lakers sure have scared some opponents and these moves most certainly look like an after effect of their blockbuster.