Friday the 13th usually carries an ominous tone.
Black cats, superstitions, dudes in goalie masks...you know, all that sort of thing.
But for Toronto Raptors fans, Friday the 13th, February 2009 may go down as one of the most important dates in franchise history.
Yes, it was the day in which Toronto acquired Shawn Marion from the Miami Heat in exchange for Jermaine O’Neal, but it also could be the first domino which decides the fate of franchise-cornerstone Chris Bosh.
If the Marion trade helps Toronto by allowing Bryan Colangelo to surround Bosh with superior talent, thus resulting in a sudden elevation of the Dinos win-wise this season and next, then perhaps CB4 sticks around.
However if the team stumbles into the lottery, is unable to re-sign Marion or attract anyone of consequence this summer, and Toronto continues to dwell in the NBA’s basement, Bosh could be gone, and so too could the team’s hopes for years to come.
So which will it be?
We here at the HQ decided to each give our thoughts on the trade, with Vicious D kicking things off…
Yesterday, the Raptors began their move in earnest to retain the services of Chris Bosh and re-image a team over the course of the next few months for the next season. With the JO trade, the Raptors have attained the expiring contract of Shawn Marion and the heavy contract of Marcus Banks. We've discussed this scenario at length previously, especially in the comments, but now we should go over this trade with a fine-toothed comb.
I'm not a fan of Marcus Banks, but BC seems to be on a mission to re-attain his former Suns fringe players to fill out the Raptors' roster. The problem I have with this part of the deal is that Toronto would have ostensibly lost Moon to free agency at the end of this year while Banks is a player that the Raptors will keep on the books for at least the next two and a half seasons. Is Banks an upgrade over Solomon or Ukic? Well, at least he's more experienced than either and for now, he's the solution until Jose Calderon can rest and recover from his injury. However, in my opinion, I'd rather let Ukic develop with the idea that he's the main back-up next year and re-sign Anthony Parker with the mind that Parker can be a third back-up to Jose Calderon. The implications long term of having Banks on the team do not sit well with me…especially considering his career highs last year of 9 ppg and 3 assists with almost 2 turnovers per game. But the real meat of this deal has got to come from the Jermaine O'Neal for Shawn Marion portion.
At the end of the day, I've always liked Jermaine O'Neal's professionalism. From the moment he came to Toronto, I felt he gave the team an extra dimension of leadership and responsibility. With his departure, we will lose one of the few guys who was a presence in our locker room. For the Heat, they have attained someone who can give them a portion of the inner presence that was essential in their championship year.
Did Jermaine have faults? For sure. O'Neal, throughout his career, has been an inconsistent offensive threat, but his defensive presence had helped the Raptors immensely. It was that presence that garnered him one of the most difficult triple doubles in basketball. I will never forget that he has left his mark on this team and hopefully he’s played a major role in the development of Andrea Bargnani defensively.
Was his contract a burden? Unquestionably. But that's no fault of his and the Raptors knew that the contract would be a hindrance to signing additional players when he was obtained. It's not as if O'Neal mysteriously woke up with a $21 Million dollar contract that was just sprung on the Raptors.
Marion, however, immediately addresses the need for athleticism and rebounding from the small forward position. While the Raptors might immediately need Marion to put in some time as a power forward due to injuries, as a small forward, Marion will be an effective athletic presence. I feel now that the Raptors are better positioned to make it to the playoffs, regardless if they make it past the first round.
Winner: Miami Heat
So why do this deal? That has to be the question on the minds of fans everywhere. In my opinion, the key part of this deal for the Raptors is not what this deal gives them, but what this deal leads to. I’m not sure of all the financial ramifications at this point in time but at face value, $17 million dollars in cap relief over the summer is enough for the Raptors to sign two very good players. Toss in an extra $4.5 million off the expiring Garbajosa deal and you can possibly upgrade your bench with a return of Carlos Delfino and still sign two very good wing players.
However this deal does not relieve Colangelo of his duties, but rather intensifies them as he will have his work cut out for the next five days and then again in the summer. The important thing to remember is that this is simply a rudimentary step towards restructuring this team so that we can give Chris Bosh a reason to stay. More importantly, it's the first step towards rebuilding the identity of this team. At the end of the day, I'm comfortable with this trade as long as the Raptors use the money that they have freed up to take the next important step to make sure next year is a successful year as opposed to this year’s dismal disappointment.
All eyes are on Colangelo now.
Well it didn't take long to take the air out of the Jermaine O'Neal balloon.
Now that we know what is done there are a number of questions to be asked.
What does it mean for the rest of the season?
I think it is safe to say that Raps fans shouldn't get their hopes up more than they
already are (if they actually are up) when it comes to making the playoffs. Even with the addition of Marion this team still has some issues that can't really be resolved via trade. First and foremost this team is still fairly dinged up, in particular Jose Calderon. Provided Calderon is nursing the hamstring the Raps aregoing to continue to rely on questionable back-ups. Adding Marcus Banks doesn't change this situation. Sure Anthony Parker has been great filling in, but without Calderon at 100% everyone else on the floor is going to be less effective, including Marion.
Unquestionably this is a great opportunity to see if Marion might be the right piece at the SF position going forward. It is also a move that gives Raps fans hope going into the summer, but it is not going to change the here and now. In fact John Holllinger's analysis tell us that this deal means the Raps will win 5 LESS games going forward.
Is Marion that missing SF we all crave?
Unfortunately I don't believe so. Is Marion an above average defender? You bet. Can he rebound? Absolutely. Is he a guy that can create his own shot and be the crunch time guy? Doubtful.
Despite Marion's game winning dunk last night he is not your prototypical SF in terms of ability to put the ball on the hardwood, take his guy off the bounce and create his own shot. That is simply not Marion's game. It's no mystery that his best years were when Steve Nash created opportunities for him. He is only averaging 12 ppg this year in Miami.
Other guys averaging around 12ppg? Luis Scola, Hakim Warrick and Louis Williams. It's not an All-Star group to say the least.
What's also interesting to note is that as much as O'neal had a reputation as being "high-maintenance", Marion is the guy who constantly complained while in Phoenix about not being the man and not being appreciated enough. Sounds high-maintenance to me. It will be interesting to see just how he fits in given the situation in terms of wins and losses and in light of it being a contract year.
One big positive in Marion's favour is that he can play a number of positions, but if one thinks he is the guy this team is desperately missing, you're wrong.
Why is Bryan Colangelo seemingly so willing to deal draft picks?
I'll be the first to admit that we at the HQ are infatuated with college basketball and the draft so it's no surprise that the conditional first round pick being moved to Miami really gets us heated up. Franchise will break this down a bit more in his piece but once again BC has moved another future asset and if the doomsday scenario detailed below were to occur this pick could have some value.
Colangelo deals picks way too much for my liking and I view them as essential to managing the cap. The draft is in some ways a crap-shoot, but at the same time it's also the best, if not the only meaningful way of getting good talent at a reasonable cost.
Ever since I watched Behind the Draft when BC turned down three second round picks in order to secure Nathan Jawai I started truly questioning his decision-making when it came to the draft. Teams that daft well are the teams that succeed in this league. Just look at teams like San Antonio, Portland and even LA.
Every time I think about BC and his willingness to give up picks I wonder if he somehow rationalizes it with the thinking that he can get cheap talent abroad with the likes Jorge Garbajosa, Anthony Parker and Will Solomon. In some ways he has had success with this but at the same time if this was such a sound strategy wouldn't a few other GM's be trying to do the same thing?
Just how thin is this team up front?
In all the players and assets that got moved I couldn't help but wonder why the Raps were not able to bring back some help for the front court. Now with JO gone and with Humphries still out this Raps team is PAPER thin up front. It would have been nice to see Joel Anthony or even Jamaal Magloire come back in the deal so that Jake Voskuhl wasn't the first big man off the bench.
There is no doubt in my mind that this front-court still needs to be addressed in the off-season in a big way. Although JO had too large a price tag, having a rotation of Bosh, Bargnani and JO up front was nice to see. I have said this a hundred times and will repeat myself again, in order to succeed in this league you have to have a number of quality contributing bigs. Once again teams like San Antonio, Cleveland, the Lakers, Denver and Houston all have a rotation of good big men. The Raps are
deficient in this area once again. I guess this will be an item on BC's shopping list this upcoming summer.
What is Triano to do?
If there is one guy that can't like this deal it is likely Triano. Talk about a situation where failure is the only option. First he had to take the reins of this team a third of the way into the season, then implement a new system and try and figure out ways to get the most out of the club. Now BC goes out and totally changes the landscape. From this aspect it is really too bad it took so long for Miami to pull the trigger. With so little season remaining will Triano be able to adjust the game plans to help Marion succeed and help BC get a real feel about whether the Matrix should be a piece of this team going forward?
Another tough challenge for Triano ahead considering that if Bosh and Jose continue to be hurt on and off for the rest of the year, it will be extremely hard to judge how well the new pieces via Miami mesh.
Where is the attitude going to come from?
Many of the complaints about last year's squad revolved around the lack of toughness and grit. Those questions are about to come up again without JO patrolling the paint. As a number of people mentioned yesterday the biggest thing O'Neal brought to the court was an attitude and some toughness. He was willing to sacrifice the body and was one of the best shot-blockers this team has ever had. He was willing to step up to all challengers even if it meant getting dunked on by the likes of Tyrus Thomas.
Where is the toughness and grit, the characteristics that this team must demonstrate
over the rest of the season, going to come from now? Anyone? Bueller? I fully expect this team to get pushed around until season's end.
Right, another shopping list item for BC.
What's the best-case scenario?
This deal is all about this upcoming summer and what Colangelo can do with some cap space and a little creativity. The best-case scenario is that he is able to bring in serious help for CB4 which in turn will lead to him re-signing with the Dinos. Anything short of that and this deal is a failure.
Speaking of failure...
What's the worst-case scenario?
After news of the deal broke Franchise and I were intrigued by two things in particular, the first being the conditional first round pick (the joke being BC had to include it because he had no second round picks left to deal) and that this deal could backfire in a big way. Follow along with this scenario:
- Marion re-signs elsewhere after the season.
- Bosh is committed to leaving Toronto.
- The Heat with boatloads of cap space re-sign Wade and sign Bosh with the space from JO's expiring deal.
- JO re-signs with the Heat at a discount price for a chance at a ring.
- The Heat fill the bench with young contributing talent acquired via the draft and
possibly the Raps’ first round pick.
How would that make Raptors’ fans feel? It's unlikely for sure, but it is not impossible either.
BC continues to show he is willing to gamble and make deals. Now that he has fired a coach and made two significant trades in the past 8 months that have resulted in very little in terms of helping this franchise, he had better have an ace up his sleeve going forward.
This morning’s post is long as is so I’m not going to rehash the facts that my compatriots have already stated. In fact, various sites already have given great breakdowns on the situation, including The Arsenalist over at RaptorsRepublic.com, who raises some very interesting questions about the deal.
However what I do want to do is share some thoughts regarding the conference call I tuned into last night, hosted by Raptors’ GM Bryan Colangelo. You can hear it in its entirety, by clicking on this link and it’s worth a listen just to get a feel for the way Colangelo interacts with the media.
The main thing I took from the call was that this is a deal that Colangelo had been looking to do for a while, and that he feels it helps not only in terms of future salary implications, but also in terms of Toronto making a run at that last playoff spot. Whether that’s simply PR or not is hard to say but if you listen, Colangelo is quite adamant about the fact that he wanted to make a change to help get this team back on track now. He alludes to the fact that the idea of "3 bigs" never quite worked and resulted in stagnant offence. The call ended before I could ask, but I wondered if that really had EVER been Colangelo’s expectation? I got the feeling prior to the season that he expected JO and CB4 to start, and hopefully for Bargs to be a solid threat off the bench, not play the 3 as a starter.
Also of interest, this business about the draft pick.
Apparently the cash Toronto received in the deal isn’t going right into MLSE’s coffers and can be used to purchase picks. Colangelo stated on the call that the cash "all but guarantees that if (the Raptors) choose to, (they) can replace that pick." As well, the pick is unavailable this year, and is lottery protected until 2015. This means that should Bosh walk and the team continues to struggle, the Heat won’t see that pick for quite some time, and it could be a major cog in any sort of rebuilding project. On the flip side, if Toronto turns things around next year, they’d still need to have a significant improvement (I’m guessing getting back into the 40+ win range) in order to lose the pick.
Like Howland, the draft pick inclusion was originally a major sticking point for me in terms of this deal. However after hearing Colangelo explain the additional details surrounding that piece of the trade, I’m a lot more happy about the end result. I was also skeptical about the need to acquire Jamario Moon without obtaining a replacement big in return (something you can hear me asking about just before the 20 minute mark in the call) but from his response, it sounded Moon was always gone and the draft pick was the main hurdle in terms of getting this transaction done much sooner.
The murkiest part of the call revolves around the financials of this transaction. On paper it looks like the team will have a good chunk of change to work with as Kinnon described above, assuming Marion and the other expiring contracts on Toronto’s roster aren’t renewed. However from the call, it sounds like in total, the Dinos will only have between $10 and $11 Million in cap space to work with once various factors are taken into account. The Globe and Mail’s Michael Grange did a great job getting all the facts and figures however so we’ll be watching his blog and the Globe for further details on this piece. The main thing that grabbed my attention however in regards to financials was that BC repeatedly discussed having room to re-sign Anthony Parker and bring Carlos Delfino back into the fold.
That should set off a whole new stream of debate.
Personally I’m a fan of this trade, both now and long-term. If Toronto’s key pieces can stay healthy, then the Calderon-Parker-Marion-Bosh-Andrea starting line-up is at the least very intriguing, and I truly feel one that could make a run at the East’s final playoff spot. (Whether you consider that a good thing or not.)
I'm also excited to see Marion in action against some of the league's top stars, starting with Lebron James next Wednesday night. The team has struggled to say the least in terms of stopping opponents' best wingmen and hopefully with Marion in tow, this changes.
My main worry is not so much the Marion trade itself, but what Colangelo does to this off-season. Like the TJ Ford deal, this JO trade had to happen at some point and while I too was a big fan of what O’Neal brought to the team, the reality was that as well as he’s played in his past few starts, he was still one knee tweak away from being out for possibly the rest of the season or longer. No, I’m now looking squarely at the draft, as suddenly Colangelo may need to address not only the wing positions (especially if the team can’t re-sing The Matrix), but also the front-court which lacks size, strength and defensive attributes. Names like Thabeet, Monroe and Blair are suddenly going to be bandied about with increased frequency.
As well, how about Colangelo stating that he thought trades were measured as successes or failures based on their final outcomes. By final outcomes he didn’t mean a team’s win-loss record though, he was referring to what player the club eventually obtained as a result of a transaction. For instance, while the JO deal didn’t pan out as expected, his argument is that getting Shawn Marion makes the TJ Ford deal a success.
Following this logic then, if BC flips Marion for an even bigger "star," but the Raps lose Bosh and the team fails to make the playoffs for the next four seasons, it’s still a successful trade? This reminds me of the whole "we signed good shooters instead of rebounders this summer so that there will be less rebounds to get" argument I witnessed at Media Day a few years ago. As much of a fan as I am of the Marion trade, I'm not going to be naive and say that my confidence in the Legomaster hasn't been shaken over the past two seasons.
I’ll close things off with a note about the trade from Chris Bosh himself via Twitter:
Said Bosh: I'm sad to see JO and Moon go, but I welcome Marion and Marcus Banks. I'm sure it will work out for everyone.
I think that echoes what many of us fans are thinking right now, and while I do like yesterday’s trade, I, like my associates, realize that this is just the tip of the iceberg in what promises to be a busy next few months for Bryan Colangelo.
Friday the 13th has come and gone, but Raptors’ fans are hoping that the date on which this significant transaction occurred isn’t a bad omen of things to come.