Maybe the Suns were right
Why would you trade a hugely productive forward for an aging, lumbering, injury-prone center? That was my first reaction to the Suns trade. But on further review...
Maybe Kerr is shooting for a championship
As good as the Shawn Marion Suns were at playing efficient offense, they were pretty mediocre when it came to preventing their opponents from doing the same. Because of that, recent history suggests that the Suns were not going to win an NBA championship as previously constituted.
Click on the red to see: NBA Champion's "Opponent's Win Score" vs. NBA average
Opponent's Win Score
The Suns "Opponent Win Score" was 42.5. That number is just above the NBA average. But every NBA champion this century has had an Opponent Win Score that was below that season's NBA average, on average 17.1% below. And though I only did a random sampling of champions from previous decades, the only champion in my sampling whose Opponent Win Score was not below their championship season's NBA average was the 1974-75 Golden State Warriors.
Suns' problem: Defensive Rebounding
The Suns defense wasn't horrible. The problem was they allowed their opponents over 400 more field goal attempts than they themselves took. That's because they were a very weak defensive rebounding team.
The average NBA team's percentage of defensive rebounds per opponent's missed shots is 94.1%. The Phoenix Suns percentage is 81.3%. Thus the extra opportunities.
The Suns hope Shaq can shore up that problem. And, if he can stay healthy, he might be able to do so.
Shaq's personal percentage of defensive rebounds per opponent's missed shots this season stands at 31.7%. Shawn Marion's, while excellent for a guy his size, was only 25.3%. Thus, the Suns might know what they are doing. By trading for Shaq they might have made a major move to shore up their biggest weakness.
And even if the trade doesn't work out, history suggests the Suns were justified in making it.