DEVIL'S ADVOCATE: Why Shaq to the Suns has a Championship Ring to It

Aaron KeelSenior Analyst IIIFebruary 6, 2008

This may be it.

This may the move that finally brings the city of Phoenix and its beloved Suns their first NBA championship.

The move of course, is the Suns’ acquisition of future Hall of Famer and four time NBA champion Shaquille “Diesel” O’Neal in exchange for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks.

Naysayers of this move will say that Suns ownership made a terrible move in bringing O’Neal to the valley.

They’ll say that there is no way O’Neal will be able to keep up in the Suns fast paced run and gun offense because of his age and health issues.

To those people, I say you have no idea what you are talking about.

In the end, this is a deal team management had to make.

They are well aware that the team’s window for winning that elusive title is getting smaller every day.

Not only are there concerns about Steve Nash and just how long he can continue at this pace, the Western Conference itself seems to get tougher by the minute.

The Lakers, with the addition of Pau Gasol, have gone from dark horse to definite title contender.

The Hornets and Warriors are both teams on the rise.

And oh yeah, the two teams that have knocked the Suns out of the playoffs the last two years, the Mavericks and Spurs, are still around.

With the expectations that have surrounded this team, anything else than a Finals appearance and more than a few people could find themselves without jobs come the off-season.

For Phoenix, this deal makes sense for so many reasons.

Monetarily, for a team facing salary cap and luxury tax problems, they get to unload two huge contracts in Banks and Marion, who was widely believed to be gone by the start of next season anyways.

On the court itself, let’s take a look at some of advantages of having O’Neal gives the Suns.

First of all, the team gets the big man in the middle it has desperately needed these past few seasons.

Amare Stoudamire can go back to strictly playing power forward, the position he prefers to play. Shaq gives the Suns an incredible one-two big man punch.

O’Neal’s presence should also help on the boards where Phoenix has been downright abysmal, ranking 24th in total rebounding.

O’Neal can provide help in the middle where Amare’s poor defense has been exposed all season long, hopefully keeping players such as Tim Duncan in check.

Shaq’s underrated ability as a passer will no doubt make 3-point specialist Raja Bell extremely happy.

As for whether or not O’Neal can run with the Suns for the rest of the season, the answer is very simple.

He’s not in Phoenix for the regular season. Let me be very clear about this.

This trade was made for one reason and one reason only, the playoffs.

Or more precisely the O’Brien championship trophy.

Let’s be honest, barring Steve Nash breaking every bone in his body, the Suns will finish the season as a top 5 seed whether Shaq plays a single minute or not.

The problem for the Suns, however, hasn’t been doing well in the regular season.

No, the problem is the Suns have had a very tough time adapting to the slower and much more physical nature that is the NBA playoffs.

But that is where Shaq’s value is at its best.

He brings with him the championship experience, intensity, physicality, and all around mentality that it takes to get to the top, all the things the Suns have been lacking when it comes to the playoffs.

He will provide a voice in the locker room during the playoffs that, as good as he is, Steve Nash cannot provide.

Until then, Phoenix will do the smart thing and, for all intents and purposes, keep O’Neal well rested for the remainder of the season.

Sure he’ll play a little bit here and there to get acclimated to his new teammates, but the Suns are intelligent enough not to burn him out before he’s really needed.

They know that a well-rested and motivated Shaquille O’Neal, even at his age, is not a player to be taken lightly.

That’s all the team needs because in Phoenix, Shaquille O’Neal will never be “da man”.

But if he can once again be that dangerous weapon the team is counting on him to be in the playoffs, he can be the man that gets them to the top.

And for a city dying for a championship, that’s just as good.




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