Raptors-Heat Trade: Raptors Give up a Fantasy, Heat Give up a Headache

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Raptors-Heat Trade: Raptors Give up a Fantasy, Heat Give up a Headache

With the trade winds always in a constant spiral, Jermaine O’Neal and Jamario Moon (plus a conditional draft pick) were swept down to Miami, while Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks (and cash) were sucked north of the border to Toronto.

Despite the big names headlining the deal, the trade is a reminder that having talent doesn’t always translate into personal successes or team victories. O’Neal’s brittleness left the Raptors without any muscle, and Chris Bosh had been forced to bang around more than he’s capable of in the post. Meanwhile, Marion’s constant complaints of improper or underutilization have coalesced into a tumor with a strong chance of becoming malignant and draining the energy of the vibrant Heat.

The deal eliminates a broken dream from Toronto’s (now) past, and a potential cancer from Miami’s future.

Let’s look at how else the deal affects the two teams.

Miami

It’s been no secret that Miami’s biggest weakness this year has been its post offense and lack of shot blocking on defense. If O’Neal is healthy, he can possibly provide both needs—with a caveat.

As O’Neal’s aged and his body has deteriorated, he’s rarely had the energy or the desire to be an impact player. He’s always had the preference of setting up in the high post than the low post, usually only venturing down into the low box when matched up with a smaller, weaker defender. O’Neal usually only turns in an impressive post performance once every two weeks, which will still leave the Heat without a reliable post threat.

Defensively, O’Neal has a bad habit of turning his head, of not being strong enough to contest rebounds, and if being incapable of defending powerful moves that test his strength, or maneuvers that force him to make quick decisions. However, given that Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony are such sound defenders, O’Neal’s mistakes will be minimized, and the Heat will be able to employ him as a weak-side shot-blocker.

Jamario Moon is a terrific weak-side shot blocker who won’t be able to replace Marion’s on-ball defense. Moon cuts as well as Marion, and is a better shooter, if not as creative a playmaker. Rebounding, athleticism, and finishing is a wash.

Marcus Banks’ mistakes banished him from the rotation and he won’t be missed.

With Marion gone, the small forward spot officially becomes Michael Beasley’s. Has he worked enough on his defense to earn solid playing time? Is his range better? Does he have any midrange game, or is he still strictly a jab-and shoot guy or a reckless drive to the hoop player? Beasley can do more with the ball to match Marion’s production, but he doesn’t do nearly as much off-the ball.

The return of James Jones’ defending, rebounding, and three-point shooting also mitigates the loss of Marion.

In fact, the Heat still have versatility, as their trio of Moon, Beasley, and Jones can be plugged in to answer any matchup or situational problem the Heat encounter.

And with Haslem and Anthony manning the frontcourt, O’Neal may be worth the gamble.

The success of the trade will depend the defensive efforts of Beasley and O’Neal. If they can buy into what Eric Spolestra needs them to do, then the trade will be a success. Given O’Neal’s aversion to contact and Beasley’s incapable defense, though, the trade may be a small step back for Miami.

Toronto

With the Raptors season long extinct, acquiring Marion and dumping O’Neal represents a nearly $40 million financial swing for Toronto—$23 million for what O’Neal would be worth next season, and the $17 million dollars that will be available once Marion’s contract expires this offseason.

Getting rid of O’Neal means that for better or worse, Andrea Bargnani will be the team’s power forward/center from here on out. Did the Heat also trade the Raptors some athleticism or toughness for Bargnani? How about defensive awareness? For Toronto, the second half becomes an audition as to where Bargnani fits into their future plans.

Kris Humphries is a useful backup who can rebound, finish, and take up space, while Jake Voskhul has always been able to commit fouls and get under opponents’ skin.

With Will Solomon and Roko Ukic inadequacies, the Raptors can hope for Marcus Banks to provide some punch to the backup point guard spot.

Losing Moon reshapes the Raptors small forward rotation. Joey Graham and Jason Kapono are the incumbents. Neither is as accomplished a shot blocker as Moon, but Graham is a powerful scorer and rebounder, while Kapono is an absolute marksman.

Marion can work the baseline as well as Moon, and is just as athletic a finisher. Given how Toronto’s lineup will probably contain five shooting threats on the floor, Marion can probably find more crevices to make plays, like he did in Phoenix.

The problem comes with Marion’s attitude. Last year, he grumbled with the potential championship-contending Suns, instead forcing the deal that sent him to the last place Heat. This year, Marion has again complained publicly about his supposed misuse in Miami’s offense, finding himself jettisoned from the overachieving Heat, and instead, on the going-nowhere Raptors.

What does it say about a player who cares more about his own minutes, touches, and numbers, than playing for a winner?

Expect Marion to play for himself over the next 30 or so games, and then be allowed to walk as a free agent where he can become some other team’s headache next season.

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