This is all still a rumor—despite insiders claiming Shaq's having a physical in Arizona—but it is an intriguing story.
With so many reasons to criticize the deal—age differences, the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" argument, the contract, Shaq's hip, and more—I thought it would be interesting to consider the positives.
And there are plenty.
I think the biggest positive that this deal brings to Phoenix is Shaq himself. The man is an icon, no matter what part of the career curve he is on.
Assuming that Marion picks up his player option for next season, the deal costs Phoenix $10 million more than the Banks/Marion combo over the next two seasons. Having Shaq on the roster must increase the Suns' bottom line $10 million.
Doesn't it also increase the other things like franchise value, brand, etc?
Sure it does.
Second, the media is criticizing the Suns for putting themselves in financial handcuffs. I don't see it that way.
I'll be willing to bet that if Shaq doesn't retire before the '09/'10 season, teams will be climbing all over themselves to take on that expiring contract because D. Wade, LeBron, Bosh, and Melo all hit the open market summer 2010 (assuming they all ditch their player options for '10/'11). Perhaps the Suns keep the contract which comes off the books the same time as Nash's current deal and make a run at the next generation themselves with that handful of cash.
Next, let's think about Marion's option for a little bit. Marion has a player option for next season at $17 million, which he'd be crazy to leave on the table, right?
Well, if he has been hinting with Suns management that he would rather score 30 for a loser than run with a team that's been on the fringe for a couple of years, who's to say he doesn't just leave?
That move would save the Suns $17 million. But, because they will still be over the salary cap, they will be forced to replace Marion with a mid-level exception player. If Marion wants to stick it to the Suns, that's the best way for him to do it.
On the basketball court, this deal has received mixed reviews. Marion's minutes will be taken by Shaq, Grant Hill, and Boris Diaw. Diaw seems to have regained some of his mojo from when he played in Stoudamire's spot while he recovered from microfracture surgery. Grant Hill can flat-out play and does some things that Marion doesn't.
The move changes the dynamic of the team and the offense for sure, but I am confident that Steve Nash can make this work.
Finally, Shaq adds to the urgency factor. Nash and Hill need to win now or next year. Shaq does too. Marion and Stoudamire are young and don't seem to realize that the opportunity to play for a contender should be considered a blessing.
All in all, this deal doesn't seem like such a debacle for the Suns after all.