So the long rumored trade of Shaq to Cleveland has gone through . The only surprise is that Cleveland got him so cheaply, giving up Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic , a second round draft pick and $ 500, 000. Since Ben Wallace is on the verge of retirement and Pavlovic was a little used reserve, it means that all Cleveland gave up was a second rounder and a little money. One would have thought the Suns would have held out for a first round pick instead of a second rounder. ( On second thoughts Cleveland’s 1st round pick was the 30th and would not have been that much more valuable than the 2nd rounder they actually got).Of course, Phoenix’s primary motivation was to shed Shaq’s $21 million salary since the owner is reputed to be in financial difficulty.By buying out Wallace and Pavlovic, they save themselves a ton of money though, of course, they face a long rebuilding process.
From Cleveland’s viewpoint, the trade makes them THE team to beat in the Eastern Conference and it will worry their two main rivals: the Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic. No doubt, those teams are already figuring out their countermoves to match up with the Cavs.Boston is rumored to be shopping Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo while Orlando is trying to re-sign Hedo Turkoglu. Dwight Howard is still a work in progress and as he develops his offensive game under the tutelage of Patrick Ewing he is going to prove a handful for opposing centers , Shaq included.It should be an interesting summer as the teams reload.It is foolish at this point to speculate who will be best placed to emerge from the Eastern Conference next season.
Shaq gives the Cavaliers the inside presence , low-post scoring , defense and rebounding and will lighten the load on Lebron James. IF he can play like he did last season ( 17.4 PPG , …. RPG) AND IF he can stay healthy through the playoffs, the Cavaliers could be hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy next June. But those are two big IF’s .He IS 38 years old , has creaky knees and doesn’t always keep in shape. I don’t think he can play consistently at a high level but then I also thought he was all washed up when he first went to Phoenix . He proved me wrong by having a stellar 2008-2009 season and playing like a much younger man. Some observers are skeptical of whether Shaq and Lebron can co-exist but I’m not one of them. Shaq certainly will be motivated to train hard and give it 100% ;. Firstly, to pull ahead of Kobe in terms of career championships ,and secondly because he will be playing for one more big contract before he calls it quits. As for Lebron, he is so focused on winning the championship that he will put up with Shaq’s antics short-term in order to get that elusive ring. Whether the Cavaliers win in 2010 or not, I will be very surprised if Lebron stays on in Cleveland. The temptation of the big city and it’s opportunities for lucrative ad-deals will prove too much and I expect that he will sign elsewhere .