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Cavaliers/Suns trade revisits Shaq and Amar'e failure

Feb 14, 2010, 11:27 AM EDT

nba_stoudemire1_250.jpgThere were so many things wrong with Steve Kerr moving to bring Shaquille O’Neal to the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns a few years ago that it’s hard to remember them all.

But fans and management in Cleveland should remember this one as the Cavs close in on a deal with the Suns: Amar’e Stoudemire was not the same player when Shaq was on the floor.

In theory they should be able to play together — Stoudemire in the high post, Shaq in the low post. But it didn’t work that way. Stoudemire likes to work on the low block and use his quickness, but that space was filled up. The Suns slowed down and Stoudemire found it harder to slash to the rim because Shaq’s defender was right there to help.

What’s worse, Steve Nash’s dribble penetration became difficult because the lane was clogged with big defenders, as opposed to being spread out. LeBron James, may want to ask Nash about this when he runs into him in Dallas this weekend. LeBron can already be a little eager to settle for the jumper, this could exacerbate that habit.

To be fair, that Shaq/Stoudemire Suns team started to figure it out and was hot going into the playoffs — this was a franchise that had been a Western Conference title contender three straight years, and maybe they had figured it out. Then they got routed in the first round by the Spurs. The next year they didn’t even make the playoffs (although injuries played a large role in that).

Stoudemire in some ways is a perfect running mate for LeBron on offense, and maybe this move and a contract extension with Stoudemire is about the future as much as the present. But Stoudemire can be a disinterested defender and certainly will struggle to stop the likes of Dwight Howard on the low block. The trade as proposed would send Zydrunas Ilgauskas west, so Shaq would be the lone guy who can defend true centers on the roster this season, and if he left after this season the Cavs would have another hole to fill.

When the Suns traded for Shaq, they had the best record in the Western Conference, were title contenders but thought they had a weakness that needed to be fixed. Right now Cleveland has the best record in the East, has beaten the Lakers twice and looks like a title contender.

Do they need to take the risk?

  1. Drew - Feb 14, 2010 at 12:45 PM

    I don’t think chemistry would be that much of an issue in this scenario. Cleveland’s offense doesn’t function like the Suns high octane offense. Cleveland is more of a gritty, efficient half-court team. Also, Shaq is only playing 20-25 min a night. Amare would work well with him in a Cavs system or he can play in a small lineup with him as centre and Varejao at small forward. Shaq is the insurance policy for when/if they meet Dwight Howard in the playoffs. I say pull the trigger on this trade.

  2. Patrick - Feb 14, 2010 at 12:45 PM

    Stoudemire 2008-2009 W Shaq Pts/Reb./Assts 21.4/8.1/2.0
    Stoudemire 2009-2010 W/O Shaq 21.2/8.6/1.0
    His stats are pretty much identical. Stoudemire would fit in offensively as Shaq only plays 23 minutes a game with the Cavs and averages 8.5 FGAs. In the recent run the Cavs have had Brown has gotten Shaq touches when Lebron rests, so they have one legit scorer on the court at all times.
    The main reason the Cavs got Shaq in the first place was to check the Howards, Gasols, KGs of the world one on one and he’s done that. Stoudemire is simply an awful defender who gives up position way too easily and is slow to help. Stoudemire’s D, for me, is the main reason the Suns could never get past the Spurs and the Lakers to be an elite club. That’s the side of the ball that I would worry about if I’m Danny Ferry.
    The other factor is the development of JJ Hickson whose athleticism compensates for Shaq’s difficulties in pick and roll situations and is shooting at a 55.3% clip. He deserves minutes.

  3. Tsunami - Feb 14, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    1.) The suns traded shawn Marion to get shaq – that was the risk.
    2.) Remember when everyone said getting shaq was a mistake? He’s been the best offseason pickup.
    3.) The only risk is that the Suns don’t buy out Z (which will be a stipulation of this trade) and that JJ Hickson will become an all-star (less than 50% chance)
    4.) Remember when Shaq was supposed to clog LeBrons driving lanes? Man that career high true shooting percentage must be a 54 game fluke.
    5.) You sound like a scared Lakers fan – maybe you should let Krolik handle the Cavs chemistry issues.

  4. Kurt - Feb 14, 2010 at 1:41 PM

    Patrick, while Amare’s points per game stayed the same his shooting percentage went down. Compare the year before Shaq’s arrival with the one full season with Shaq, Amare’s shooting percentage dropped 40%.
    Tsunami, the risk for the Cavs is simple: You have the best team in the league right now, the team that would be favorites if the playoffs start today. Big Z gives you another big body for Howard and maybe the Lakers in the playoffs, Hickson is emerging. Amare does not defend. Why take the risk? It could work out, it could backfire, but do the Cavs really need to make a move to be elite?

  5. Brent - Feb 14, 2010 at 1:52 PM

    I don’t think Stoudemire is a worse defender than Hickson.
    I also think Stoudemire’s offensive game fits better on a Shaq/LeBron team than does Hickson’s.
    And Hickson is “emerging,” but will he ever be Stoudemire?
    Lastly, that Phoenix offense was still very good with Shaq, Stoudemire, and Nash.

  6. Jason Raymes - Feb 14, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    I think John Krolik said it best when he said that a defensive downgrade from JJ is just not possible.
    It’s true that he’s been getting much better as of recent, but will the rest of the season really be enough prep for a deep playoff run, especially when the Cavs will have to depend on him at some point? Danny Ferry’s MO has been to bring in trusted veterans, and while JJ has shown glimpses of potential, Amare is a proven player in the playoffs.

  7. BA - Feb 14, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    Kurt – Although your views may be in the consensus of the league in terms of Amare’s defense and inability to play with Shaq, their views as well as yours aren’t looking at the big picture. Amare’s game is very similar to JJ’s with a few exceptions: Stoudemire can shoot a jumper and has excellent low post moves, Hickson does not. Amare’s pick and roll ability is far superior and as Brent pointed out his defense is absolutely as good as Hickson’s. I love JJ and would hate to see him go but he has not shown that he can play for 30 plus minutes and be productive. Almost all of his big games come in the first quarter and then he fades. Let me pose this last question…when has Amare ever played in a pro style half court offense or a team that values defense above all else?

  8. MrKeith - Feb 14, 2010 at 2:42 PM

    When the Cavs traded for Mo Williams there was a lot of talk about how he couldn’t/wouldn’t play D. The Cavs coaching staff does a great job of emphasizing team D which is why we see players playing better D with the Cavs then they have with previous teams in their careers. I assume that they believe that they will be able to get Amare to make a similar transistion and like many people have mentioned .. it’s not like Hickson is a defensive juggernaut.

  9. Jack - Feb 14, 2010 at 3:29 PM

    Let me make this simpl… JJ for Amare STRAIGHT UP ? Since Z will be waived, Suns dumping salary and will be back with the Cavs. This is a no brainer and maybe even as Shady as Gasol to LA or KG to Bean Town.. PEACE !

  10. Patrick - Feb 14, 2010 at 6:17 PM

    Kurt is it your contention that Shaq’s presence with Stoudemire was so poisonous that Stoudemire has became less of a player…a year after Shaq has left? That’s ludicrous. A more likely explanation is Stoudemire’s ongoing problems with retina injuries.
    The point I was making is that Shaq’s departure has had no impact on Stoudemire’s stats. The premise of your article was that the Cavs should be leery of a Shaq and Stoudemire pairing that in your estimation hurt the Suns. The Suns were 46-26 last year a 56% winning percentage with Shaq and Amare, now they are 31-22 a 58% winning percentage. If you want to make the argument that the Suns were better off with D’Antoni, Diaw, Bell, Marion and a run/gun philosophy by all means do so. But if your contention is that the Cavs will suffer because Shaq will disrupt Stoudemire’s game the stats don’t back you up.

  11. Stevej - Feb 14, 2010 at 7:58 PM

    Why fix somethin that isn’t broke. An evolving JJ & Andy thrived in the last game (33 pts among them) with easy dunks & layups because either LBJ or Shaq (both great passers) found them cuttin to the basket off the double teams. Jamison, Stoudemire & Murphy are all great scorers as but defensive liabilities. The Cavs are already dangerous, just need to tweek what they already have, protect the ball and play with more urgency in the 2nd & 3rd qtrs.

  12. Stevej - Feb 14, 2010 at 8:12 PM

    Amare Stoudemire is a proven loser in the playoffs Jason (never made the finals). He would get his on offense and also get his lights shot out on defense by the likes of Rasheed, KG & Rashard.

  13. Stevej - Feb 14, 2010 at 8:13 PM

    Amare Stoudemire is a proven loser in the playoffs Jason (never made the finals). He would get his on offense and also get his lights shot out on defense by the likes of Rasheed, KG & Rashard.

  14. BA - Feb 15, 2010 at 1:32 AM

    Steve I hate to break it to you but the Suns are proven losers in the playoffs. It is also pretty safe to say that Amare was not the reason for their losses. Phoenix has an unbelievable poor team defensive concept which prevents them from winning anything but the occasional playoff series. Defense wins championships in every sport and Stoudamire wouldn’t have to be alone on an island guarding Wallace, KG and Rashard like he would in Phoenix. Also Hickson is a well below average total defender with the exception of his shot blocking which makes the concerns about Amare’s defense irrelevant points.

  15. TheTakeOverFan - Feb 17, 2010 at 1:52 AM

    Face it! Shaq needs to be traded so the Cavs can have a much better chance at just making the Finals. Shaq is old & slow. He’s terrible in the pick n roll especially when the quicker guards drive pass Shaq like they were doing layup drills. Plus the Cavs haven’t beat the Celtics yet. I’m not convinced! Bring Amare & Jamison. Because the last time I checked,Shaq is NOT a defensive player of the year candidate!

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