Before the trade deadline there were rumors that the Cleveland Cavaliers were coordinating a move with the Phoenix Suns to acquire Shaquille O'Neal for Sasha Pavlovic, Ben Wallace, and/or Wally Szczerbiak.
At the time the consensus was that the Cavs should be content with their offseason acquisition of Mo Williams—the team had amazing chemistry and the best record in the NBA.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?
Well, while the Cavs were busy taking imaginary snapshots of each other doing Run DMC poses, they failed to realize that they had one short guy, one old guy, and one (really) soft guy in the post.
In this year's NBA Playoffs, the puppet masters behind the NBA's marketing machine have led us to believe that there are only two players worth caring about.
Have we forgotten that basketball is a team sport?
You can throw any stats out there you want; it won't make LeBron James overrated, and there isn't much James could have done differently to get his team to The Finals.
The Cavaliers failed LeBron James.
Mo Williams and Delonte West hit 35 percent of their three-pointers after capitalizing on 42 percent during the season. Cleveland refused to close-out on Orlando's three-point bombardiers resulting in a record-setting performance. And as expected, the Cavs had no answer for Dwight Howard down-low.
I have your answer, Cleveland: Shaquille O'Neal.
To win the NBA Championship you either need two great players or one great player and two or three very good players (2004 Detroit is an anomaly of sorts).
Obviously, "The James Gang" only had one great player, and arguably they had one very good player.
Cleveland lacked depth, size, and experience—three things the O'Neal trade would have greatly improved upon.
With Shaq starting at center it allows Cleveland to use Zydrunas Ilgauskas as a change of pace player; it also greatly reduces the dependency on Anderson Varejao.
Shaq is good for 30 minutes per game. This season he was in great shape and he was one of the most productive centers in the league.
With the added depth, the Magic could have been more physical with Dwight Howard and worked harder to prevent him from getting uncontested dunks.
There is no better way to add size than by acquiring the most massive player in NBA history.
Along with Yao Ming, Shaq is just about the best thing you can put between Dwight Howard and the hoop. Howard will always find a way to get his, but he cannot simply back down Shaq they way he muscled Varejao.
Offensively, Shaq would have made a bigger impact than on defense. Cleveland doesn't have a physical post player, and with James' ability to penetrate and attract defenders, there are few dish-off options than O'Neal.
In the half court you can run the offense through O’Neal, he is a very good passer and you could even play him with Ilgauskas depending on your defensive matchups.
If you want playoff experience it doesn't get much better than six Finals appearances, four championships, and three Finals MVP awards.
Shaq is the reason Kobe has three rings, he is the reason Dywane Wade and Gary Payton have one, and he could have been the reason LeBron James got his first.
The Cavs are LeBron's team, and Shaq wouldn't have tried to become the ruler, but Cleveland needed to put themselves in check.
Shaq knows about pacing himself and he knows how to finish strong; like the Big Aristotle says, he makes them when they could.
The Cavs may only have one more season to win a title, or, what happens between now and this time next year could make up LeBron's mind.
Cleveland cannot hold back; there are young players out there, and Shaq is still on the market.
If they are looking to win a title before the summer of 2010, I suggest digging up Steve Kerr's number again.
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