So apparently back in 2004, when the Lakers traded Shaq to the heat after they were beat in the Finals by the Pistons, LA wanted to Shaq to the Beehive State. In an interview with the man himself, he talks about how he's always controlled where he wanted to go,
It was the same thing in Miami, me and Pat (Riley) didn't get along, so what do you do? But nothing goes down without my OK. Like when I was in L.A., I said I'll go, but I'm going to Miami. They were saying we want to send you to Utah, and I said, 'Guess what, I'm not doing it.' I told them they would have to settle out and write me a check, and then I'll go, but they said 'all right, we'll send you to Miami.'
This is more than just a little off-season rumor mill fodder. It's safe to say that the franchise as we know it today would be nothing like it is now.
It almost sounded, at least to my internal voice, that the Lakers were going to send Shaq to Utah as a punishment for his trade demands.
So what would it have taken to get Shaq to Utah player-wise? First, that was the off-season where they signed Boozer and Memo. In fact, on July 6 it was reported by ESPN that the Jazz would sign Okur to an offer sheet. They then signed Boozer on July 11th. Shaq was was traded on July 13. You could say that the Jazz were waiting on whether or not they would be able to trade for O'Neal before they pulled the trigger on those other deals.
Here's a list of the Jazz roster at the end of the season under contract: Raja Bell, Matt Harpring, Curtis Borchardt, Pavlovic, Raul Lopez, Mo Williams, Gordan Giricek (RFA), and Andrei Kirilenko. LA got Odom, Brian Grant, Caron Butler, and a first-round pick. I think then that AK would have been gone given that they wanted Odom, perhaps Harpring for salary, and some draft picks. There just wasn't much of the Jazz roster left at that point.
The salary cap for 2004-05 was $43.87M. The Jazz had a payroll of about $20M at that point. Remember, AK's deal didn't go into effect until the next season. Shaq was due to make nearly $28M in 04-05. So the Jazz couldn't quite absorb all of his contract. Harpring was making the most at the point with $4.6M.
So that would have left a team of Mo Williams and Raja Bell in the backcourt. Then you have Giricek at the SF and nobody at the 4. They wouldn't have been able to bring in anyone else other than for the league minimum.
Even with Shaq, I don't think I like that team over Mo, Bell, AK, Harpring, Boozer, and Memo despite them only winning 26 games that season. His contract would have hampered the for a couple of years. However, he did sign an extension with the Heat that was for only $20M a season.
And, of course, the Jazz wouldn't have landed Deron Williams given that they would have finished with a better record than those 25 wins.
Where would they have ended up though? Shaq won another title in Miami in 2006 but had a little player known as Dwyane Wade to help with that. The Jazz had no such player. I don't think we would have won a championship with O'Neal given the team that we did. The only thing we might have had going for us would be players wanting to come to Utah to play with Shaq. Even then, I don't know if the Big Talker would have been able to pull them to the Wasatch Front.
But it's all moot because O'Neal didn't want to come here. It would have been Ron Seikaly part two, only 100X bigger.