A friend and I were discussing potential roster moves via instant message last night when he shot me a link to the Shaquille O'Neal/Shawn Marion trade rumor.
My immediate reaction? "That makes no sense."
Apparently Steve Kerr disagrees, because the latest reports all say that the deal is done, pending the results of a physical. After a morning's worth of disbelief in the sports media, I'm now wondering if Kerr will use "The Big Aristotle's" ailing hip as an excuse to put the kibosh on this whole thing.
Assuming it does happen, let's consider the fantasy implications:
Shawn Marion: The Matrix wants out -- and perhaps has been making more of a nuisance of himself in the Phoenix locker room than anyone has let on. It'll be interesting to see if the grass is really greener in Miami, under Pat Riley's demanding and watchful eye. Regardless, this move would seem to be a big upgrade for Marion's fantasy profile, as he'd go from being the third/sometimes fourth or fifth option in Phoenix to option 1a in Miami. We also assume he'd log most of his minutes at power forward for the Heat, perhaps in a smaller lineup with Udonis Haslem in the middle. Marion's numbers have generally been best when he lines up against a power forward; he can out-quick just about any four in the league.
Marcus Banks: Either Banks just never fit in Phoenix, or the 2005-06 season (12.6 ppg, 4.7 apg, 1.2 spg, .479 fg%) that earned him his Suns contract was a complete fluke. There's a good chance that he'll play his way into a significant part of Miami's point guard rotation -- Chris Quinn probably isn't the answer and Jason Williams' contract expires after this season.
Shaquille O'Neal: Here's the rub. It's impossible to know if the Suns are getting the slow and oft-injured Shaq we've seen for most of this season, or if the change of scenery will rejuvenate the big fella. It seems reasonable to suspect that some of Shaq's much-publicized problems this season have been caused by a general lack of offensive threats in Miami. In Phoenix, that will not be a problem. And David Aldridge of the Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that the Suns think their training staff can help O'Neal avoid nagging injuries in much the same way they've helped Steve Nash.
If it sounds like I'm talking myself into this... it's because I am. So let's consider the negatives. Shaq hasn't been a 20-and-10 guy since 2004-05, his first year in Miami. He'll have to adjust to being just another option in the Phoenix offense; the Suns certainly aren't going to change into a halfcourt-oriented, pound-it-into-the-low-post team. And his free throw shooting is legendarily bad.
The net-net? I think the best-case scenario for Shaq is that owners who drafted him this season with realistic expectations about his production should finally start getting some return on their investment. Anyone looking for more than that will be disappointed.
And that includes Steve Kerr.