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O'Neal Signs With the Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers wasted no time in trying to take the next step toward making a run at the championship for next season. A couple of weeks ago, it was rumored that Cavaliers were in preliminary talks with the Phoenix Suns about acquiring all-star center Shaquille O'Neal for Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovich. Well it seems that the deal has materialized and the O'Neal will now be a member of the of the Cleveland Cavaliers. After being heavily favored throughout most of the season and in the playoffs as well, the Cavaliers lack of an inside game was highly exposed against Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic (who averaged over 20 points and 15 rebounds in the series), and they were eliminated by the Orlando Magic in six games after breezing through the first two rounds and becoming only the second team in history to win its first eight playoff games.

The question is does this move really put the Cavaliers in position to advance to the finals next year? Take into account that O'Neal just finished his seventeenth season in the league and is not nearly the dominant force he was early in his career in Orlando and the center pieces that helped the Lakers capture three consecutive championships earlier this decade. While he did average a respectable 18 points and 8 rebounds per game with the Suns last year, how many quality minutes will he be able to give to the Cavaliers this season remains to be seen. In years' past, feeding the ball in the post to Shaquille would result in either a thunderous dunk of some sort or a double team which enabled him to distribute the ball to the open shooters. Now though, opposing teams no longer feel the need to double team O'Neal in order to be successful in defending him.

Needless to say the Cavaliers took great strides this past season. They did have the best record in the league at 67-15. LeBron James was the league's most valuable player along with Mike Brown winning coach of the year honors as well. With all that being said, where exactly does this trade leave the Cavaliers when all is said and done. I would say that the Cavaliers will be one of the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference again but I don't think the road back will be an easy one even with the addition of Shaquille O'Neal. The Boston Celtics will be at full strength again with the return of Kevin Garnett back to the lineup. The Orlando Magic recently traded for all-star forward Vince Carter which gives the Orlando Magic a player who can create his own shot something they were sorely lacking against the Lakers in the finals so they are now a better team as well. While it is premature to say either way whether or not if O'Neal is the missing the piece needed to help Lebron James win his first championship, it will be interesting to see how all the pieces fit together in this puzzle.

James Tillman

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