We all know that Yahoo(!) Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski has the popularity of a half-eaten, week-old onion ring around here. But he penned a column yesterday that got me thinking. Basically his thesis is that The Suns are collapsing under the weight of their own gravity and the main reason is the dichotomy between the Nash-Stoudemire offense and the Shaq-Porter offense. He speculates that the team could be torn down soon, including the liquidation of any or all of the major stars outside of Steve Nash.
This column tipped the scales for me broaching a subject that's been on my mind for a while. I haven't given utterance to it because it's against every emotional instinct I have as a Blazer fan. But here it goes.
It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for the Blazers to go after Shaq.
OK...I know you're swallowing that little bit of throw-up that rose in your throat. Believe me, I did too the first six dozen times I thought of this. It gets easier with time though.
I was talking to someone in Phoenix about this article and he said that if Shaq were traded it would indeed mean that the entire team is being scuttled. He seriously doubts that is the case. BUT if that were the case and Shaq were available, he speculates there would be plausible trade scenarios that do not involve the Blazers' top four players. The names thrown around were the likes of Sergio Rodriguez, Channing Frye, Joel Przybilla, maybe a first rounder...mix and match some of those to throw in with Raef LaFrentz's expiring contract. (Personally I think Outlaw or Webster might be serious candidates but we didn't get around to them in the discussion.)
So let's assume just for fun that such a package would get a deal done and that Phoenix would be willing to part with Shaq as the obvious square peg messing up their round hole. At that cost, wouldn't you have to think about this deal?
One obvious question would be what to do about Shaq and Oden together. What happens when Mr. Just Was meets Mr. Soon To Be? Admittedly it's a problem if you envision Oden playing 30 minutes a game from here on out. But cut that down to 24 and you might have a deal. Shaq doesn't play big minutes on consecutive nights much anymore. 24 per night might preserve his legs and fit his stamina requirements. Oden would continue to develop and learn from another huge guy who, for better or worse, has made an enormous impact on this league.
Even more to the point, this duo would make us an incredible headache for every team in the universe, especially in the playoffs. The Portland centers would just never quit. We wouldn't be waiting for a year or two from now to start winning series. We'd expect to win at least one this year, perhaps more. We wouldn't be catapulted into the league elite but we'd become very, very nasty.
Shaq can rebound and can hit cutters with the pass in addition to scoring. He fits the Blazers' offense far more than he fits the Suns'. The slower pace here would benefit his game. Plus he'd be a deadly combination with Lamarcus and the three-point shooters. You wouldn't get the level of defense you once would have out of him but he can still take up space in the middle. Plus you wouldn't have to worry so much if he or Greg collected a couple of fouls.
Obviously taking on Shaq's contract would obliterate Portland's cap room this summer. But who are you going to trade for or sign that would make that kind of impact, albeit a short-term one? Unless you really could get a Hinrich-Deng deal done on the cheap (which sounds far-fetched to me) nothing else we've heard would accelerate Portland's process the way this deal would.
According to Storyteller's site Shaquille is scheduled to make $21 million next year, the final year of his contract. This would mean some major luxury tax dollars for Paul Allen. But that deal does expire in one year. If the experiment was a bust you could look at moving his contract again at the deadline next year or simply absorb the tax savings. (Since we'll be signing Roy and Aldridge to max extensions as early as possible there wouldn't be much room to wiggle under the cap even if Shaq's contract came off in 2010.) If the experiment was working it might not be entirely far-fetched to think of Shaquille playing another couple seasons here and trying to win one more ring.
Given the parameters of the trade above, the depth chart would look like:
C: Oden, Shaq
PF: Aldridge, Outlaw
SF: Webster, Batum, Outlaw
SG: Roy, Fernandez
PG: Blake, Bayless
I know all of the arguments against--fantasy league, too Bob-Whitsitt-ish, big fight over who starts, don't mess with a good thing--but it's just impossible not to let the potential of that lineup seep in a little. While most of those guys are still developing there's not a marginal player in the bunch. Post play, size, rebounding, shooting, flexibility...you pretty much have everything you need to play a possession-control game with a touch of flash and spice.
I am absolutely breaking the Blazer Code by even suggesting this and I know it. It's terribly far-fetched and I know that too. So why can't I get that tickle out of the back of my brain?
In any case, you have no need of further witnesses. You have heard it from my own lips. Spit on me, strike me, blindfold me and lead me away. I probably deserve it.
So what say you?