Shaquille O'Neal was traded to the Cavaliers on Thursday. ((Barry Gossage/Getty Images))

The Phoenix Suns traded hulking centre Shaquille O'Neal to the Cleveland Cavaliers for centre Ben Wallace, swingman Sasha Pavlovic, a second-round draft pick and $500,000 US on Thursday.

"It is a really unique and rare opportunity to bring in a player of Shaq's calibre," Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry said. "We are excited to see how his presence, experience and play positively impacts our team."

Phoenix expects to save as much as $9 million US because Wallace, who is contemplating retirement, and Pavlovic both have expiring contracts, plus O'Neal has one year at $21 million US remaining on his pact.

Cleveland, meantime, is positively giddy about pairing O'Neal, a 15-time all-star, with superstar LeBron James, the NBA's most valuable player.

"Shaq is an incredible ball player and a four-time NBA champion," James said in a statement.

"I have a lot of respect for him and his game. It will be a real honour to play with Shaq as my teammates and I look forward to another great season with the Cavs."

"This move and our goals are aligned with what our players want, including LeBron, to win a championship and win it this year," Ferry said. "We don't want to be patient.

"They both badly want to win," Ferry continued. "Our team and organization want to win and, with that leading the way, everything else is going to work out."

The Cavaliers won a franchise-record 66 games this past season, but failed to contain rugged centre Dwight (Superman) Howard in a six-game series loss to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference final.

O'Neal, a seven-foot-two, 325-pound behemoth, solves Cleveland's problems in the paint.

"He is a force," Ferry said. "Always has been, still is.

"He is a wall that is around the basket. A tall, long wall.

"On offence, he is going to get double-teamed. He is a great passer and a great receiver."

O'Neal, 37, averaged 17.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.4 blocked shots and 30.0 minutes in 75 starts for Phoenix this past season, his 17th as a pro.

Four-time NBA champion

O'Neal, who was named one of the NBA's all-time 50 greatest players, has averaged 24.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.4 blocked shots and 35.7 minutes

in 1,117 NBA games (1,108 starts) since he was drafted first overall as a junior out of Lousiana State by the Orlando Magic in 1992.

After signing with the Los Angeles Lakers on July 18, 1996, he combined with Kobe Bryant to win three consecutive NBA titles.

O'Neal was selected the most valuable player of the NBA final three times in a row, equalling a feat accomplished twice by Michael Jordan (1991-93, 1996-98).

O'Neal was subsequently traded to the Heat for Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, Caron Butler and a first-round draft pick on July 14, 2004, and led that franchise to its first championship in 2006.

O'Neal was voted the NBA's MVP in 2000, and the top performer in the all-star game in 2000 and 2004.

With files from The Associated Press