This year in basketball saw an unfathomed number of moves of players to much different teams.
The Boston Celtics started it all off—setting the bar impossibly high when they got Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in the offseason.
The wild changes would really start when Pau Gasol went to the Lakers and every western team got into an arms race. Dallas would go on to trade their future away for Jason Kidd, and The Phoenix Suns traded one of their franchise players for one that is said to be at the end of his career.
If anyone told you Shawn Marion would go to the Miami Heat for Shaquille O'Neal, you would surely have laughed like I did when speculation of this trade first made it to the media. But when it was confirmed, it seemed jaws dropped in amazement.
It was hard to swallow, especially as a Suns fan, but after some long deliberation, it appeared that those put in charge of the Suns organization after one of the best GM's of the day, Brian Colangelo, left actually had a plan. The way they say it, the current big three of Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, and Marion was apparently not working, and led them to the being eliminated from the playoffs before the final.
They were fed up with not making it to the championship series, and with rumor going around that Marion wanted to be traded, the decision was logical. Trade a young intense small forward/power forward for one of the most recognizable and dominant centers the sport has seen.
Marion is the more talented of the two, but he lacks the defensive mind that Shaq does, as well as the dominant presence.
The Suns guaranteed Marion a six-year $80 million deal, so it would be hard to push on someone and get a fair return for him.
Shaq fit all these requirements, and so the trade was made.
Now we see the results—the Suns are on the brink of elimination in the playoffs and it seems nothing has changed.
Is it possible that the Suns are just choke artists in the playoffs? Or is it that Nash, Amare, and Barbosa have found their kryptonite in Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.
It seems that the defending champs are the real deal, playing some of the most boring basketball one will ever see. Having the rings to back up their play, no one can really say much. The Spurs are a dynamically defensive team, their late season runs and championships mean they are doing something right.
The Suns, however, good they may be, seem to always be on the losing end of the spectrum.
The new slower Suns are good, and if not for San Antonio, they would no doubt be on their way to the championship.
Will they ever beat San Antonio?
Not with this team, the Suns are an amazing balance of talent and size, but their lack of a bench really hurts them.
Unlike some teams who have two confident big men, like the 76ers with Samuel Dalembert and Reggie Evans, or Lakers with Gasol and Andrew Bynum, the list goes on.
The Suns have a weak bench, without Grant Hill, it's even worse.
As long as the Spurs have the outstanding defensive mind that the coach and players have, and the Suns are still looking for a deeper bench that can grab boards and hold a lead, the Suns will never beat the Spurs in a playoff series.
The Suns need to gel a bit better, and find a big man for their bench and find some role players who will not squander a massive lead accrued by the big four.
If they ever want to contend with the Spurs these things have to happen, and until then, they will remain the worst of the best in the West.