Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wheeling and Dealing

So as a Toronto sports fan, by and large, I've had the unenviable task of rooting for some rather mediocre teams, not the least of which being the 2008-09 incarnation of the Toronto Raptors, who, admittedly with some critical injuries, have been underachieving all year. With signing point guard Jose Calderon long-term and picking up Jermaine O'Neal from the Indiana Pacers in a trade this off-season, things were starting to look up after a middling effort in the 2007-08 season at 41-41. Anyone who paid attention knew that the O'Neal pickup was definitely an experiment or a project, and as of last night, that experiment appears to be over by way of trade with the Miami Heat:


C/F Jermaine O'Neal
F Jamario Moon
Conditional First Round draft pick

F Shawn Marion
G Marcus Banks
$3M cash considerations

As for my thoughts on the trade, I don't think it's a bad move, difficult though losing Jamario Moon is to swallow, and a nagging feeling that GM Bryan Colangelo gave up a bit too much as a result. Moon was an energetic, enthusiastic player, and while certainly not up to snuff as a starter, was a solid bench option, and with his athleticism, a superb help defender. O'Neal, while a strong frontcourt player and rebounder, something the Raptors desperately needed, was a question mark with regards to the health of his knee, and with both he and star player Chris Bosh preferring to operate in the post, may not have been the best fit. As unfortunate as it is to see these guys go, it's business, and in the case of O'Neal, it's probably for the best. O'Neal looks like he may be a good fit in Miami as well, who had traded Shaquille O'Neal to the Phoenix Suns for Marion, and will give the Heat the post presence that they've been lacking after Shaq's departure.

Picking up Shawn Marion gives the Raptors, when they get healthy, a solid secondary scoring and rebounding option to Bosh, and a dedicated small forward. Although his 12.o PPG this season with Miami certainly leave something to be desired, with a point guard that can take care of and move the ball like Calderon, it's not an unreasonable expectation to see that number rise in Toronto, while maintaining his eight or nine rebounds per game clip. Marcus Banks will give Toronto a good secondary point guard option to Calderon, or at least another option along with Roko Ukic, which will have Anthony Parker as a dedicated shooting guard, and will make guard Will Solomon expendable.

This trade also gives the Raptors significant flexibility for the coming off-season as well; by off-loading the near-$23M owed to O'Neal next year, and replacing it with Marion's expiring contract, that frees up a tidy sum for Colangelo to work with, either to re-up Marion or to explore the free agent market and use that money elsewhere. Additionally, once the Raptors return to full health, this will give their starting five some stability by, for better or worse, making Andrea Bargnani the starting centre, and slotting Marion in at small forward, rather than having a revolving door in the frontcourt with the likes of Moon, Bosh, Bargnani, Joey Graham, and O'Neal.

Overall, I think this trade is a good move. It gives the Raptors some lineup stability, a secondary scorer, and one less question mark about health, as well as some increased financial flexibility. I doubt this will help the Raptors vault into the playoffs this season, but down the road it can bring them back to respectability.

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