The Shaq Effect in Cleveland

by Marcel Mutoni

For David Stern and the League, there absolutely couldn’t be a better scenario. On the eve of one of the lamest drafts ever, Cleveland and Phoenix have just pulled off a huge trade, potentially setting up two of the biggest television spectacles of all time for the NBA: Christmas Day (this is sort of inevitable, isn’t it?) and perhaps the 2010 NBA Finals against Kobe and the Lakeshow.

Before the latter can happen, though, a lot has to go right for the Cavs. Their super-duper stars have to co-exist, and O’Neal must accept that this is LBJ’s show — Shaq, set to earn $20 mil in the last year of his current deal, is but a member of the LeBronnaires now.

The Plain Dealer breaks down how this changes the Cavs’ makeup:

Shaq will now be the Cavs starting center, which means for the first time in a decade Zydrunas Ilgauskas will move out of that role and come off the bench.

The Cavs are not done. They still are going to be looking for a wing defender (or two) and I think also a stretch power forward, aka a player who can go out to the 3-point line. This is why I believe they will still consider signing Rasheed Wallace with their mid-level exception. You need to surround Shaq with shooters and stretch the floor, just like you do with LeBron.

Defensively there is a bigger question mark. There is no doubt that Shaq is a worse pick-and-roll defender than Z is at this point in their careers. But he’s also a lot bigger and takes up more space. He can also be counted on to defend a player like Dwight Howard 1-on-1.

Lots to think about.

The Cavs know LeBron is desperate to win a title next season before he becomes an unrestricted free agent; they’re even more desperate to keep him happy. This should do the trick … maybe. Either way, they will undoubtedly be the most fascinating team to watch next season.