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Does Shaq Make Sense In Dallas?

Shaquille O'Neal tradeIf you watched Dallas in last year’s playoffs, you know they needed a post player – bad. Dampier (who wasn’t available when Dallas was upset last year by Golden State) is really the Mav’s best post option right now, but he’s still coming back from injury…and let’s face it, Dampier’s not exactly a dominating presence. While Dirk’s post play seems to have improved, he seems a little soft to really bang in the paint. In other words, Dallas still needs a post player.

Dallas knows they don’t quite have enough to get over the hump right now, so they’ve been exploring a trade for Jason Kidd. While I’m a huge fan of Jason Kidd, I don’t think he makes Dallas a championship team because he doesn’t help them in the post. But what about Shaq? Riley has hinted that he might be available saying that a contending team would “value Shaq’s production” (then quickly denying a trade is possible – ya right).

The downsides to trading for Shaq are numerous – Shaq is getting kind of old and kind of fat (at least by NBA standards – no disrespect), his contract is huge ($20 million a year), and he just isn’t the dominant player he once was. But that doesn’t mean Shaq isn’t still effective – he’s a reliable post presence that would probably still command a double team in a playoff game. Dallas could use his skills, and owner Mark Cuban isn’t afraid of spending money to win. Playing for Dallas, Shaq gets at least one more chance to show just how dominant he can be.

Shaq in Dallas would be an upgrade.

The big question – what would Dallas have to give up to get Shaq? Jason Terry seems to be a likely candidate – he’s not a primary option in Dallas any more, but his ability to dish combined with his excellent shooting (39% career behind the arc) makes him a good back court compliment to Dwayne Wade. Miami isn’t going to be satisfied with taking back just a 30 year old PG – they’re probably going to want to get a big back (Diop), an expiring contract (George), and Miami is probably going to try to unload Smush Parker as part of any deal. Dallas might have to surrender a draft pick or two, and Dallas would also need to include a fourth player (probably Trenton Hassell) to make the numbers work.

So Dallas gives up Terry, Diop, Devean George, and Trenton Hassell and they get back Shaq and Smush. Sounds sort of one-sided until you consider that Dallas will have Shaq’s $20 million a year contract. Dallas will be hog-tied by the salary cap for the next two years. However, I think owner Mark Cuban would live with that if it meant winning a championship or two. It’s hard to imagine that Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, and Shaquille O’Neal aren’t enough to challenge Phoenix and San Antonio for the western conference title, especially considering they’ll still have Stackhouse and Devin Harris.

In this scenario I’ve created, Miami would only have 8 players under contract next year with a total salary of less than $45 million…that’s a lot of cap space. Miami rebuilds around D-Wade and Terry, with the ability to try and sign un-restricted free agents in the summer of 2008. Shawn Marion and Antwan Jamison will both be available, as well as Ron Artest. Most importantly, trading Shaq gives Miami a chance to rebuild now that it’s clear they’re not a contender in their current make-up. If Miami can pick-up Shawn Marion in the summer, they’re right back in the playoff mix next year.

The big problems with this trade:

  • Riley would have to admit defeat by trading Shaq.
  • Dallas would lose some key players that won’t be easy to replace.
  • Shaq’s ability to get up and down the court in Dallas will be limited.
  • Dallas will miss Terry’s bench scoring.

This trade probably won’t happen – it’s too risky for Dallas (especially if Shaq gets hurt), but it’s a neat idea…

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