Thoughts on the Jermaine O’Neal trade

They say the team that got the best player in the deal won the trade.  It’s simplistic but often true. So if you want to feel good about this one, that’s all you need to know.

When I first heard O’Neal got traded for Marion, I was happy. Then I heard Marcus Banks was coming our way instead of Joel Anthony and I was like, not great, but still good. Then I heard we also threw in a protected first-round pick in 2010 that will outright belong to Miami in 2015 along with a second-round pick if they don’t get it next year. That’s not so good. The Raptors have no business giving up a chance to get younger and have a shot at drafting their future star. If we make the playoffs next we’ll be going without a first round pick for 3 out of 4 years. By trading draft picks you’re putting immense pressure on yourself to make great trades and free agent signings to fill out your roster. If Marion walks at the end of the season and we don’t sign a big name free agent, this trade will backfire because all it’ll end up meaning is we traded O’Neal’s contract (which has great value next year) and a draft pick for the problem that is Marcus Banks, or in other words 2 first round picks, TJ Ford, Rasho for Marcus Banks.

Marcus Banks’ contract is very undesirable as already proven by Phoenix and Miami. Taking him on as part of this deal does hamstring us to some degree. We like to complain about Kapono’s 6M deal and Banks isn’t much better at 4.5M till the end of 2010-11. Even with Marion expiring at the end of the year we’re still above the salary cap and will have a difficult time signing a big name unless we unload Jason Kapono and/or Marcus Banks. With only one team in the league (Memphis) being under the cap, the chances of unloading them without taking a contract back is remote. The O’Neal deal was an easy one to make for Colangelo, it’s the second deal that will give us the flexibility of going after the players we need this summer that’s going to determine whether this was really worth it.

Now, we did get some cash believed to be approximately three million dollars which should cover a lot of Banks’ contract but that does no good to us as a team. It’s pure cash, not a trade exception so all it means is money for MLSE, not an asset that can be used in future deals. Let me put Marcus Banks in perspective for you: he gets beat by Chris Quinn for playing time. ‘Nuf said.

What does this do for us this season? It does give us the perimeter defender that we’ve been lacking as Marion can very well hold his own at the wing. It gives Bargnani more playing time at a more natural position, allows for Humphries to get back into the mix and also gives Joey more burn. All good stuff but these are all things that could’ve happened if we simply hadn’t traded for O’Neal and instead used TJ Ford and Rasho to get some help at the wing position earlier (Gerald Wallace for TJ was offered, yes, I know he’s injured). Oh, don’t forget that we gave up the 17th pick for basically nothing at this point. This trade is Colangelo acknowledging that the O’Neal experiment – although started with noble intentions – should never have been made. Those of you who called it when it happened, take a bow.

Is the Bargnani-Bosh-Marion-Calderon tandem the future? I think it’s too early to tell, we need to see what Marion can do for us first. He’s 31 years old and his primary advantage over others at his position is quickness and that’s the first thing to go. I don’t even want to speculate on what we should offer him in the summer (if we decide to re-sign him), but the bad economic times should help us out and we might only have to slightly overpay to retain him. For the remainder of the season he should be able to help us guard the opposing team’s best wing player and help out on the boards thus putting less pressure on Bargnani to do so.

I was happy with the Raptors tanking a couple seasons, getting some high picks, trying to resign Bosh and if we couldn’t, trading him for assets. This deal changes all that and shows Colangelo’s hand to all the GMs and agents in the league – now he has to make FA signings this summer otherwise Bosh is gone. It would not shock me to see our probable lottery pick this year traded as its clear that Colangelo’s priority is to retain Bosh and not look at the broader 5-year outlook of this team. Right now he’s winging everything, there’s no specific plan or roadmap to his moves and he’s just trying to apply bandaids in hopes of racking up enough wins and giving Bosh a reason to re-sign.

Now my dislike for Jamario Moon is well-documented and I’m glad to see him go. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s going to be an asset for the Heat. Sam Mitchell gave him too long of a leash in his rookie season and it spoiled him, he got used to getting away with missing defensive assignments, not playing hard, settling for jumpers and generally speaking, playing some pretty dumb basketball. Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley won’t tolerate a grin after he jacks up a 26-footer in transition with 35 seconds left and the team down one (Atlanta). With some tough coaching, hard practices and a narrow but well-defined role, Moon can flourish. The problem with him in Toronto was that he was simply too high up in our rotation. He was never meant to be a starter but played 30+ minutes; when he did come off the bench he was usually the first guy of it when he should’ve been the third. His constant presence on the floor spoke of our lack of depth and with Joey and Parker around, we have more than enough scrubs to fill Moon’s role.

I don’t think O’Neal was as bad as some people are making him out to be, he played in 75% of our games (41 of 55) and averaged 13.5 ppg on 47% shooting, 7 rpg and 2 bpg. What else did you expect? The main problem with the Raptors is their perimeter defense and when you’re allowing constant dribble-penetration and failing to rotate, everybody ends up looking bad. Unfortunately for O’Neal, the finger ended up being pointed at him since he was our prime off-season acquisition. I can’t count how many times he’s gone out to help on a driving wing only to find that the rotation behind him was never made resulting in an offensive rebound or a score. Bargnani’s somehow earned a reprieve for his defense but we hold O’Neal to stringent standards when it comes to paint defense and rebounding. Doesn’t make sense.

From the Heat’s perspective, this is a great deal. If O’Neal stays healthy he’ll give them the inside presence they desperately need. They’ll also get to trade O’Neal to a team that’s looking to shed salary next year (ahem, Memphis, Sacramento). Finances-wise, they get a 4M trade-exception which gives them even more flexibility to acquire assets to help them this year. Plus, there’s the possibility of not one, but two draft picks. If I had to pick a winner here, it’s the Heat.

To end, I’d like to finally thank Colangelo for addressing the perimeter defense need after doing nothing in the summer of 2007 and 2008. Here’s hoping Jason Kapono wins the three-point contest so he becomes a little more appealing.

Thanks for reading.

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