Shaquille O'Neal Traded to Cavaliers: What's the Fantasy Basketball Impact?

John LorgeSenior Writer IJune 25, 2009

The "Big Everything" is doing a great job of stealing the spotlight from the 2009 NBA Draft—and anything else NBA-related, for that matter. 

Shaquille O'Neal has been swapped for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, a second-round pick, and a fat wad of cash.

It's time to break down the fantasy basketball impact of the trade.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Don't anticipate Shaq going all 82 games for Cleveland this year. Not only has he never played every game in a season, but he is in Cleveland to win a championship, making him a candidate to play 60-70 games in order to stay fresh.

If and when you draft Shaq, you will have to manage your roster closely, and you will need a center to sub for him when he's going to sit. Expect Shaq to play 25-30 minutes, depending on the importance of the game.

Even in limited time, Shaq will be an effective center. He has the chance to average around 15 points, eight rebounds, and one block per game with a great field goal percentage.

Going to Cleveland also means the Cavs can take it easier on Zydrunas Ilgauskas. I expect his playing time to dip to around 25 minutes or less per game. Big Z won't be as effective as Shaq in equal time, and I anticipate him resting on some nights when Shaq plays. Z is a candidate for around 10 points, seven rebounds, and one block per game.

Drafting both centers is not a bad strategy, as when one sits the other should play more. If you are going to attack this method with two mid-to-late round picks, you will still need one or two other players (eligible at the center position) on your roster, depending on your league's format.

The biggest fantasy basketball question is, what will the acquisition of Shaq do to LeBron James' numbers?

Well, the King will still be King.

James may not have to rebound quite as much, but he should still get close to seven rebounds per game. He may not have to score as much, but he will still break 25 points per game. 

Shaq can still play above the rim, and when James gets in the lane, demanding a double team, Shaq will be waiting to finish. James could break eight assists per game for the first time in his career.

As for Mo Williams and the rest of Cleveland's roster, you could expect the average flux in a couple of points, assists, or rebounds per game. Shaq will also command attention from the defense, which should keep things open on the outside for plenty of wide-open three-point opportunities.


Phoenix Suns

It looks like the Suns will be doing a lot of restructuring this summer, so I am still unclear on their 2009-10 fantasy projections.

Right now, either Robin Lopez looks like he will step in as the starting center, unless the team elects to go small and start Amar'e Stoudemire at the five. But then again, Stoudemire may be gone by next season.

If Lopez is the starting center, I like his potential as a fantasy sleeper. He is active and defensive-minded. If you are looking for rebounds and blocks, he will provide them. Lopez may surprise with some offense too.