The Suns' trade for Shaquille O'Neal is a desperate move by a Phoenix team that knows its championship window is closing. Steve Nash is still near the top of his game, but he's slowing down. The Western Conference is getting tougher by the day and the Suns will have their hands full in the first round of the playoffs, which could be among the most competitive in memory.
I don't see O'Neal taking this team to the next level. The Suns love to run and O'Neal is a broken-down, injury-plagued shell of his former self. He'll be 36 in March. He's over the hill. He was not that big a factor in Miami's surprising title run two years ago. He'll slow down the Suns, who will miss Shawn Marion's outside shooting and all-around athletic skills.
It seems like Phoenix felt it had to respond to the Lakers' trade for Pau Gasol, a soft but skilled big man who will make LA a much more dangerous team in the playoffs. If Andrew Bynum comes back, the Lakers will have a formidable front line of Gasol, Bynum and Lamar Odom. Oh, and then there's Kobe Bryant. The Suns are a weak defensive team, especially in the frontcourt, and will struggle to match up with centers in the West. Amare Stoudemire is a woeful post defender. Shaq isn't much better at his age.
The Suns are still vulnerable to an upset and don't figure to last beyond the second round. Hey, do you suppose the NBA suits are drooling at the prospect of a Lakers-Celtics final?