It actually appears to have happened. TJ Ford along with our prized 17th pick and the expiring contract of Rasho Nesterovic for Jermaine O’Neal. Rasho’s obviously thrown in for salary reasons and is easily the third best piece that the Raptors are giving up in the trade. Whether the best piece is TJ Ford or the 17th pick is up for debate.

The trade is designed to increase our post-scoring, make us stronger on the glass (3rd worst in the league) and is an attempt to build a formidable frontline which will attract more double teams thus allowing our shooters more open looks. If all parties in this trade were 100% healthy, the preliminary “winner” of the trade would easily by Toronto. However, given Ford and O’Neal’s injury histories, only time will tell who won this trade. My money’s on Indiana. Ford happens to be 4 years younger than O’Neal who is 29 and although Ford’s injuries have been serious, they’ve been of the “freaky” type having to do with stingers and aggravations. He basically had one injury and fully recovered from it. O’Neal’s injuries appear to be much more chronic in nature and have a higher chance of resurfacing once again – groin, back and knee. The Raptors are definitely taking on more risk here by putting their eggs in O’Neal’s basket.

Then there’s the matter of giving up the 17th pick in a deep draft. You could argue that the draft combined with TJ Ford provided us an opportunity to fulfill two needs: wing scoring and rebounding. However, we’ve packaged both of our best summer assets and a serviceable center for one player and passed up the opportunity to have a shot at some solid players that are slated to go in the teens in the draft. Granted, it’s early and we could trade our way back into the first round but I don’t see many teams willing to give up their first round picks this year. The pick to me is the hardest thing to give up here because there’s just so much bloody potential out there.

Then there’s the question of salary. O’Neal just became the highest paid Raptor and if God forbid he injures himself and ends up playing 40 games this year, his trade value come summertime will be zilch. That’s 20 million tied up in salary for the 2009-10 season! There’s no doubt that this deal has to a degree handcuffed the Raptors in terms of future trades and signings.

In every sports trade, trade is an element of risk involved and whether the risk needs to be mitigated eventually defines whether the trade is successful or not. If O’Neal puts up 20 and 10 like he did for almost 5 seasons in a row and we win 52 games next year, everybody will applaud this move. If he fails to deliver and doesn’t mix-in well with Bosh and the Raptors continue with their mediocrity, whats the point? When you give up on young talent as the Raptors have in this trade, be prepared to be scrutinized for years to come whenever the player in question is doing well. Before it was Charlie Villanueva, now it’s TJ Ford.

The impact on Bargnani won’t be as severe as you would think – we did give up Rasho in the trade and his minutes should be distributed according to player form. Rasho’s career average in MPG is 23 while O’Neal’s is 28. That’s a five minute difference which isn’t hard to live with for Bargnani and should motivate him to play harder now that there’s more competition. If the talk of Rasho returning after being waived is true, then Bargnani is in serious trouble.

The Raptors acquiring a legitimate starting center in a trade speaks volumes as to what the franchise thinks of Andrea Bargnani. Either they’re prepared to give up on him and traded for an insurance policy (ironic given JO’s health) or they see Bargnani playing the SF position thus giving the Raptors a very big frontline and an advantage on paper (although the Orlando series exposed him like never before). The trade should serve as an ultimatum to Bargnani that he should be prepared to battle in training camp and practice if he wants to see any minutes past garbage time. The other way to look at it is that Colangelo feels that Bargnani is still two more years away from realizing his potential and needs to play second fiddle to O’Neal during this time while learning in the process. Is this trade Colangelo acknowledging his mistake of drafting Bargnani? Not yet, this is simply a change of strategy.

The most glaring aspect of this trade is that we’ve handed our PG responsibilities to Jose Calderon without a certified backup on the roster. Calderon has as many defensive issues (if not more) than Ford and is as liable as going into a scoring drought as Ford. He does happen to be a better fit for the Raptors given his holding style of play which suits our “offense” much better. This isn’t a knock on TJ, he happens to need more athletic, alert, fast-break type players to be successful. Calderon doesn’t, he’s willing to patrol the three point line and be patient with Bosh on posts and re-posts while there’s inconsequential movement on the weak side. To put it in simpler terms, TJ Ford’s a Don Nelson/Mike D’Antoni player. Nothing wrong with it, except we’re not nearly as up-tempo, exciting, fast-breaking or athletic as players in those systems need to be.

The final word on the trade: We gave up too much and took on the greater risk. We gave up the younger player with less chronic injuries, a valuable teen pick in a deep draft and the expiring contract of a good center for a player who was great 4 years ago. I’d feel far more comfortable if we hadn’t given up the pick but at some point you have to prove to Chris Bosh that you’re trying to win.

Here’s hoping the Raptors do some maneuvering and somehow come out with Brandon Rush tonight. On the other hand, if Rush or CDR are gone by the time our Indiana’s pick rolls around, Colangelo needs to be given some credit for predicting that and using the pick’s value in a trade.

Check AltRaps.com for links relating to the story, here’s one however and its Colangelo talking about the trade and how letting Ford go was a foregone conclusion reached by both parties.

“There was discussion with T.J. at the end of the season and also with his agents or representatives since the end of the season where we amicably discussed the scenario that might play out where he might be part of a trade and he’s comfortable with that”.

Note: Live Blogging tonight for the draft starting at 6:30PM on RaptorsNation.org. I’ve never tried to do this before so we’ll see how it goes. Try to swing by so I don’t look like a fool. Thanks!

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