The Real Deal About Shaq and the SunsIn order to objectively evaluate the deal in which the Phoenix Suns sent Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to the Miami Heat in exchange for Shaquille O'Neal, it is first essential to understand one thing: the Suns were not going to win an NBA title the way that their roster was constructed prior to this trade. Over the past few years, a lot of myths have developed around this team; one of the most popular ones is that were it not for the one game suspensions of Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw during last year's playoffs the Suns would have rolled to the championship. To use legal terminology, that assumes several facts that are not in evidence, namely that the Suns would not only have won game five versus the Spurs if those players had played but that the Suns would have won the series and then beaten Utah in the Western Conference Finals and then defeated Cleveland in the NBA Finals. San Antonio has been known to win big playoff games in adverse situations, so even if the Suns had won game five with Stoudemire and Diaw--which I am not at all convinced would have happened--the Spurs still would have had an opportunity to win the series by taking care of business at home and then winning game seven on the road. Utah and Cleveland both have the kind of big, bruising frontcourts that cause the Suns problems in the playoffs. Suns' supporters also have reasons (excuses) to explain each of the team's previous failures to win a championship during the Steve Nash era but the bottom line is that this team has been weak in the paint both in terms of rebounding and defense and those deficiencies have prevented them from even winning the West, let alone winning a championship. The Suns' gaudy record this season, like their gaudy records in previous seasons, is a mirage in terms of forecasting postseason success; the Suns are 5-10 versus the other West teams that have winning records and those are the teams that they have to beat to win a title. It does not matter one bit if the Suns' running style helps them win more regular season games against bad teams than the other contenders do; a team that is soft in the paint is not going to win an NBA title.
Any Suns fan who is opposed to the Marion/Banks-O'Neal trade needs to read and reread the above paragraph until he understands it and accepts it as fact. Suns President Steve Kerr obviously already figured this out, telling TNT's studio crew on Thursday, "I saw a lot of weaknesses in our game, especially on the low block...I just felt very vulnerable as a team...We have a very good record but I wasn't sure that we were good enough as we were constituted to go ahead and really succeed in the playoffs." By "succeed," Kerr means to win a championship and he is certainly correct: the Suns were not going to win a title without adding some size to their roster. That does not mean that acquiring O'Neal guarantees a championship for the Suns; O'Neal will have to prove that he can stay healthy and be productive enough to make the difference in the playoffs versus the best teams in the West. Maybe he can do that and maybe he can't--but the Suns are more likely to win a championship now than they were prior to doing this deal and that is all that their fans can reasonably expect from the front office; the rest is up to the players and the coaching staff.
posted by David Friedman @ 5:48 AM