A lot of proponents of the Shaq deal are now claiming vindication, but while the trade’s certainly worked out better for Phoenix than I expected, I’m not at all certain they’re right. Obviously, having a healthy Shaq playing right now is better than having an injured Shawn Marion not playing. But if you think, as most people do, that the Matrix could play fine were the Heat not tanking then I still don’t really see it. In March, Shaq offered Phoenix 13.5 points and 10.4 rebounds whereas Marion offered Miami 13.6 points and 13.0 rebounds. Shaq turned it over more than Marion did. And if the trade helped Phoenix’s interior defense, it’s hurt them on the perimeter.
So, Yglesias, how do you explain the Suns’ success since the trade? Well part of the answer is recalling that at the time of the trade Phoenix was sitting atop the Western Conference with a 34–14 record. It was always a really good team. But since the trade Amare’s started taking more shots and so he’s now scoring somewhat more points and the team’s doing no better than it was previously. So while there doesn’t seem to be a blunder here, once you consider the cap implications it still doesn’t look so hot to me. When you consider the fact that if Phoenix’s ownership had been willing to spend like this just a little while back, they could have resigned Kurt Thomas and not sold their draft picks, and they’d be in even better shape today.