Are the Cavs missing a Big Sidekick?

If this thing goes down all of Cleveland will be dancing .... and Suns fans should be, too.

If this thing goes down all of Cleveland will be dancing .... and Suns fans should be, too.

Shaquille O’Neal has spent his entire career winning big as the dominant big man on a team featuring a sidekick stud wing, from Penny to Kobe to D-Wade.

As Shaq gets up in age, it might make perfect sense for the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers to get together on a deal that would add LeBron to that illustrious list.

Yes it would be very strange to see Shaq playing the Big Sidekick role to LeBron’s megasuperstar, and you’ve got to wonder how Shaq’s ego would play in such a position, especially after he made a point to come up with a better pregame intro than LeBron’s camera intro.

But Shaq desperately wants that fifth ring to pass Duncan among big men this era, and LeBron badly needs a sidekick better than Mo Williams, as we saw during the Orlando series. And could you imagine how fun a LeBron-Shaq partnership would be for the rest of us to watch?

Those two are the most gregarious stars of this era off the court, and allowing Mo to be the No. 3 guy and everyone else to become a solid role player would make the Cavs the preseason favorite to win it all.

That means it’s time for the Suns and Cavs to revisit a deal that was in the works around the deadline: Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic for the Diesel, which works according to ESPN’s Trade Machine.

Yes, the Cavs offered this same exact proposal at the deadline only to be turned down by the Suns, who wanted Wally Szczerbiak’s Expiring Contract in the deal.

At the time, I thought any Shaq to the Cavs talk was dead for good, but two crucial happenings of the past few days change everything:

The Cavs must win it all next year

After being knocked out in the East Finals Saturday night, there’s no ifs, ands or buts about it, the Cleveland Cavaliers must win the championship next season if they want to prevent LeBron 2010 in New York and another few decades (at least) of not winning championships in Ohio.

As much as everybody seems to think LeBron to the Knicks is an inevitability, it would be awful tough for him to leave his hometown Cavs fresh off a championship.

However, if a supporting cast that’s just not good enough (like this year) prevents LeBron from winning it all next season, Clevelanders can all but forget about him ever coming back except when the Knicks visit.

The Cavs are embarking on their most crucial offseason in team history. Last year Danny Ferry did a nice job of bringing in a star role player in Mo Williams, but he’s not the type of sidekick that Jordan or Kobe have ever won titles with, and we just saw what happens when the LeBrons run into a team as deep with quality players as Orlando.

Second off, the Cavs had no chance guarding Dwight Howard with Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao. They just couldn’t do it.

Put the original Superman in the equation and Howard won’t be just overpowering people like he did this series.

Being over the cap with a low draft pick and having no need to sign a long-term midlevel guy before knowing LeBron’s future, Cleveland’s only hope is to package its unneeded assets for a short-term, big-impact player who has been down this road before.

And nobody available under those terms brings the pedigree of the Shaqtus.

As for those assets …..

Ben Wallace might be retiring

That means Wallace’s $14 mil albatross of a contract could be essentially a $14 million trade exception, of which the Suns may only be responsible for a minimal amount or none at all.

Wallace told The Associated Press, “I think I deserve [a buyout]. But if I don’t get one and I’ve just got to give it up, that’s what I’ll do.”

If Wallace does indeed give that money up, then that would mean the Suns would only be responsible for Pavlovic’s $4.95 mil salary for next season.

Not only would they be gaining a solid player in Pavlovic, who could take Matt Barnes’ rotation spot and fit in well as a shooter with length, but they would be saving about $15 million next season without taking on any long-term obligations.

Such a move would put the Suns below not only the luxury cap but the salary cap, possibly allowing them to sign a decent piece in free agency for at least next season and comfortably re-sign Grant Hill.

That combination would make Robert Sarver happy in terms of his checkbook and the kind of team his Suns would put on the floor.

As great of a season as Shaq enjoyed last season and as much as the Suns want to talk up the virtues of being able to throw it down low to Shaq when the offense stalls, he is just a case of being a square peg trying to be forced into a round hole, the type of player who also takes away from the effectiveness of Amare Stoudemire.

The Suns would be better off just playing to their strengths completely and trying to run players like Shaq off the floor, whereas the Cavs desperately crave a low post presence so Cleveland fourth quarters can consist of something more than LeBron trying to make something happen.

Judging by the last two months of the season under Alvin Gentry, the 2009-10 Suns might be the fastest Phoenix team yet, but they also likely will need to make a move to cut down on their bloated payroll.

Judging by the last two weeks of the Cleveland-Orlando series, the Cavs are one player away from a title, and they are entering a season in which they must win now regardless of how bloated their payroll must get.

Can’t wait to hear what the Big Nicknamer calls himself if this deal goes down.

  • N8lol

    Fascinating, really. But I have some questions. First, what do the Cavs do about Ilgauskas? It seems to me that you cant really take one of the best centers and a perennial starter off of the starting lineup without serious issues. So they have to trade him so something. Can the Cavs pull that off? Would they want to? Second, what do we, the Suns, do about a center? Without Shaq we have a huge hole in the roster. Sure, amare might get more touches and points but our interior, post defense would suffer. We have to have a center that can handle the load. I dont know of any good ones going into free agency this year, maybe you do. Any thoughts?

  • Mike Schmitz

    Illgauskus has a player option next season, but I assume he will exercise that and return to Cleveland. Regardless, the Cavs would do a deal for Shaq even if they still had Illgauskus, because Z is barely even effective anymore. He is too slow to do anything in the post or defensively. I would take all of that expiring money, but there might be better deals out there this summer, but who knows. As for the Suns center, we would have to rely on Lopez, which is something I am not ready to do. The only other option would be to draft DeJuan Blair, and a big in the second round, eg Jeff Adrien or Robert Dozier.

  • Suns fan in Portland

    I liked the Shaq 4 Luel Deng rumor a-lot more! Sasha P I could take or leave.

  • jt


  • jt


  • jay thatch

    long time suns fan here. Loved shaq here last year, would love to see more of him. He is one of the most entertaining players in the league and has been for a while. However, the deal proposed here looks like it helps out both teams in the ways they need it most. Would hate to see him go (I would much rather be rid of stoudemire) , but at this point it may be the best thing!

  • Michael Schwartz

    Luol Deng is obviously better in the talent department, but he would be clogging up the Suns’ cap for years to come. There’s no way Phoenix deals for such a contract. I don’t know if it’s just me, but when I think of an Amare deal I say the Suns must get supreme value, and in a Nash trade they must get a few really solid pieces. But if the Suns clear a big portion of Shaq’s salary off the books and keep the rest of the roster intact, I would sign off on that if I were Kerr. As for that center spot, I really think Lopez is going to blossom next season, Amare has been running fives off the floor for years, and that could be a position to target in the draft if such a deal goes down.

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  • Michael

    Trade Shaq keep Amare and Nash. Amare is just talking about the other teams because he wants to stay in phoenix and get that long term deal with the suns. He said he wants to be the guy and that wont be in NY because there going to sign someone in 2010 (Lebron) and wizards have Agent 0 and butler. I repeat Amare is just saying that junk about the other teams because he knows that he’s only going to be the guy in PHX!

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  • darkdude

    If Ilgauskus picks up his player option, I would propose this deal.

    Jason Richardson and Shaq to Cleveland

    Zydrunus, Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic to Phoenix

    This deal clears both albatrosses off the Phoenix roster, and basically gives them the best possible option for rebuilding, while also giving them a center they can use for the next few years.

    In terms of Cleveland, while this does force them to take on some more money in contracts, this also gives them two guys who can definately put the ball in the basket.

    Shaq is the low post presence that Cleveland so sorely needed, both on offense and defense, in the Orlando series. And while Delonte West is good, he is an undersized shooting guard, and really isn't as athletic or talented as J-Rich is.

    Say what you want about Richarson, but he is a scorer. With a career average of 18 points a game, on 44% shooting, and 37% from deep, he is one of the most elite offensive players in the game. On a team that features a strong defensive mindset, Richarson could bring the fire as a gaurd coming off the bench, much like Jason Terry or Leandro Barbosa, and would help take the load off LeBron, as he would be put into a position to score in bunches off the bench, and give LeBron more rest.

    I think this trade makes a good deal of sense, and would advocate it if big Z picks up his option.

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