J.O. for Shawn Marion

I’ve been asked by a few people today about the seemingly impending trade between the Raptors and Heat that would send Jermaine O’Neal to Miami in exchange for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks. Here’s my take on this possible transaction:

- Jamario Moon either becomes the sixth man of the year or his days are numbered. Marion has the same game as Moon but at a much higher level and a higher propensity for getting to the line. Plus he’s more experienced (no biting on shot fakes or taking a three early in the clock, both traits displayed today in a loss to Atlanta)

- O’Neal was never in the long term picture. Yes he’s been the banger and defensive force the Raps needed on most nights. But his biggest asset was clearly his massive contract that expires in 2010, giving his employer at the time some huge payroll cap room in the upcoming mega-superstar free agency class. Moving him now for another expiring contract and a legitimate back-up guard proves Bryan Colangelo is a smart guy who’s risky decisions usually come with smart exit strategies

- The Raps are pulling the plug on this season. And why shouldn’t they? Even if their inspired, but shortcoming, play of late gets them into the playoffs they’d be hard pressed to not get swept by a very difficult Cleveland/Orlando/Boston team. Better to solidify your backcourt, get a good, young player in the draft and continue to build around a solid core of Bosh and Bargnani, who are right now the best center/power forward combo in the league, even considering Pau Gasol an Andrew Bynum in LA and Shaq and Amare in Phoenix

- No one should freak out. The Raptors’ biggest stretches of losses have come during periods of injuries. They’ve had at least 8 different starting line-ups this season and had to adapt to a (much better) offensive system after the firing of Sam Mitchell. If you can try to be optimistic, look at the emerging play of Joey Graham or the aforementioned Bargs as signs that this team has a great future and it’s near if not next week. (Bosh and Calderon are both under 28 as well). In my opinion this team is one major offseason move away from going deep in the playoffs

So overall, the +/- is neutral. With or without JO, the Raps aren’t destined for greatness this season and making a move to start the renovation (not rebuilding) process is better done now then later. Jermaine O’Neal, thanks for your services and professionalism. Enjoy the Miami sun, Dwyane Wade’s humour and possibly a trip to the second round of the 2009 playoffs.