The Old to the New

Apparently the NBA held their annual draft last night. It’s hard to remember that when all the current talk revolves around a guy who had his draft day in the sun almost two decades ago. A lot of that has to do with the fact that this year’s draft was weak in talent. But mostly it is due to the fact that SHAQUILLE O’NEAL STILL MATTERS!!!!

How do I know that he still matters? Well, everyone is talking about him, that’s how. Even non-basketball fans are coming up to me to mention that Shaq got traded. ESPN interrupted their draft coverage last night to run a live interview with the big man, who didn’t let us down by somehow interjecting shout-outs to both Michael Jackson and Stanley Roberts in his answers.

But is Shaq the answer for Cleveland? Like most moves made by GM Danny Ferry, it is a move in the right direction but it isn’t enough. It seems Ferry has the right idea but just doesn’t take it far enough. Look no further than the Mo Williams deal. He knows that LeBron needs help to win a title, but he just doesn’t get him enough help. Now this is in no way stating that the trade for O’Neal is a bad move – they got an All-NBA big man (which is a necessity to win a title) for next to nothing. And the talk of Shaq coming off the bench for Cleveland is just ridiculous – there are still only a handful of big men that would justifiably take a starting spot away from Shaq, and with all due respect, Zydrunas Ilgauskas is not one of them. So O’Neal is a definite upgrade in talent for the Cavs.

The only way that this becomes a bad move for Cleveland is if they think that acquiring O’Neal is enough to put them over the top. Yes, Shaq had a career resurgence of sorts last year in Phoenix, but a large part of that was due to the Suns training staff (considered the best in the business) coming up with a program that kept the big man healthy. Last I checked, the Suns Head Athletic Trainer Aaron Nelson and his staff wasn’t included in the trade, so will Shaq Fu be able to play a full season and a long playoffs for the Cavs? O’Neal also doesn’t address the need for an athletic big man that can run the floor and guard Dwight Howard over the course of a seven game playoff series. Just ask Steve Nash – Shaq transforms your team into a plodding, half court oriented unit.

Despite all this, Shaq does improve the Cavs and will help take some of the load (both on and off the court) off of LeBron’s muscular shoulders. But this move doesn’t make them a better team than Orlando (especially now that they have added Vince Carter) or Boston with a healthy Kevin Garnett. Trading for Shaq could become the new Mistake by the Lake if Ferry is fooled into thinking that Diesel makes them a championship contender. While Shaq is an answer, he’s not THE answer.