With Lebron on the rise, Greg Oden waiting, and Amare Stoudemire returning next year, will Wade have another opportunity if he doesn't get it done this year? Unlike the Heat, the Cavs have been very careful not to mortgage their future with bad deals or rash trades. While you could argue that they overpaid for Hughes, his deal is quite fair when you consider that he plays great defense, he's a good teammate, and willing/understanding that he is not the first or even second option. Hughes is not a bad piece to pair with Lebron James. Compared to other "defensive stoppers," he offers quite a lot on the offensive end. The Cavs still have money to add another piece or two, especially if they let Illgauskas go, and they have plenty to build around with Hughes, Varaejo, and Gooden. Hughes seems to be best suited as a 3rd scorer and defensive stopper. If the Cavs are patient (which they have been), adding one more piece in the middle could put them over the top.
In Phoenix, Nash is not getting younger, but he still has at least 2 years left at an all-star level barring any disastrous injury. While Barbosa is nothing like Nash, he's developing quite well and should be a nice piece for years to come. If Amare comes back healthy, they could be dominating next year and still have a relatively young nucleus with Barbosa, Amare, Diaw, Bell, and Marion (28).
As a side-bar, the Rockets had an awful season, but like Amare, if T-Mac comes back healthy, they still have one of the best young combos in the league plus a nice lottery pick and a very high second rounder coming soon. Additionally, if Greg Oden is anywhere near what people expect him to be, he could give Lebron, Amare, Yao, and Wade a run for their money.
When you look at the Heat, it's now or never. Shaq showed signs of age this year, but he has just enough to play at a high if not dominant level for two months in the playoffs. I was very opposed to the way Stan Van Gundy was let go, but Riley did a masterful job allowing his team to cruise through the regular season and then turning it on in the playoffs. Many criticized him during the year for not cracking the whip, but he's played his cards right. Yet, the Heat won't have enough to make a run like this again. Shaq, Payton, Mourning, and even Walker to a certain extent are past or in the late stages of their prime. Whether the Heat win or lose this series, it seems Shaq is intent on coming back for at least one or two more seasons. If he pulls a Roger Clemens and hangs around for 4 or 5 more years (his contract is up in 5), Wade will be in his late 20's (28/29). At which time, the Heat will look to replace an enormous void in the front-court. It is true that the Heat could try and rebuild on the fly a la San Antonio when Robinson retired, but it would be nearly impossible to duplicate the drafts that Popovich had late in the first round (Parker, Ginobili, etc).
Additionally, the Spurs had a dominant big man, Duncan. In the future, the Heat will have to build around a dominant swingman and finding replacements in the front court for Shaq will be nearly impossible. It is much easier to rebuild in the backcourt, which is why San Antonio was able to reload and stay dominant. The Heat have several big contracts on the books with Antoine (4 years guaranteed at 30 mill, plus 2 team option years), Shaq (5 years at 100 mill), and Haslem (5 years at 30 mill). By the time Shaq's contract is up, Wade will be 29. He is stuck with Walker, Shaq, and Haslem through his prime playing years. It sounds apocalyptic, but we may be looking at the NBA's Dan Marino if he doesn't get it done this year.
Posted by Eddie Huang at 6/5/2006 1:52:00 PM