Marion trade rumors heating up

No pun intended. Seriously. That title just happened organically.

Anyway, the Heat are considering an offer that would send Shawn Marion to the Raptors for Jermaine O’Neal, or so says the Miami Herald.

The Heat considers center its No. 1 need and O’Neal as the best center available but remains concerned about his sore right knee (which has sidelined him 11 games this season) and the $23 million he’s due in 2009-10, the last year of his contract. It’s 50-50 whether Miami will accept Toronto’s offer of O’Neal for Marion and Marcus Banks, the official said. The O’Neal camp is optimistic it will happen.

Taking on O’Neal’s contract for the 2009-10 season is a bit of a departure for the Heat, who were thought to have been interested in signing Carlos Boozer this summer.

The Heat is receptive to trading Marion for a productive player whose contract runs through 2009-10 because: 1) Carlos Boozer, the top impending free agent, is no longer viewed as the ideal fit here, with Udonis Haslem and Michael Beasley at power forward. 2) Even if Miami kept Marion and didn’t re-sign him, it would have less than $10 million in cap space this summer, not enough for Boozer anyway.

The plan remains big cap space in 2010, with Miami expected to pursue Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudamire to pair with Dwyane Wade, who can also be a free agent that summer.

Aside from the injury, O’Neal’s PER (16.27) indicates that he can still play. The question is the knee. If he’s almost back then this looks like a pretty good move for the Heat because it gives them a short-term option at center while still freeing up plenty of cap space in the summer of 2010 to re-sign Wade and pursue another big like Bosh or Stoudemire.

It’s interesting that Boozer is no longer considered a fit because he plays the same position as Beasley. I thought Beasley would end up as a small forward in the NBA, but the Heat view him as a power forward because he has a tough time defending opposing small forwards. This will be something for Bosh or Stoudemire to consider, whether or not they want to play center for the Heat.

On the flip side, Marion would give the Raptors an athletic forward. Right now, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon and Jason Kapono are splitting the wing duties, so Marion would serve as an upgrade. He can also play power forward. Interestingly, the Raptors are #18 in the league in total pace, so they are not pushing the ball as much as people might think. The addition of Marion would likely change that.

Assuming O’Neal’s knee is ready and he can help the Heat, this looks like one of those trades that is good for both teams.

The article mentions a few other teams that are interested in Marion. It’s a good read.

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2008 NBA Preview: #15 Toronto Raptors

Offseason Movement: The Raptors turned their depth at point guard (T.J. Ford) into a former All-Star big man (Jermaine O’Neal) in a nice trade that could really pan out if O’Neal can stay healthy. He has two years and $44 million remaining on his contract, so it’s a risky move, but if he can play 70 or 80 games, he’ll really give a big boost to the Toronto frontline.
Keep Your Eye On: Jose Calderon, PG
It was Calderon’s fine play (PER: 20.51, #5 amongst point guards) that made Ford expendable. He played 30 minutes a game last season, and will be asked to increase that to 35-38 minutes. That extra PT will give Calderon the opportunity to become a star. Last season, he averaged 11.2 points and 8.2 assists, while shooting 52% from the field and 43% from long range. In short, he’s the quintessential point guard that is flying way under the radar.
The Big Question: Are the Raptors tough enough to take that next step?
With a projected starting lineup of Calderon, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Chris Bosh and O’Neal, there’s no doubt that there is plenty of talent in Toronto, but do they have the mental toughness to win a series or two in the playoffs? That’s the next step that this team has to prove it can make.
Outlook: If O’Neal, Calderon and Bosh can stay healthy, the Raptors are a pretty much a shoe-in for the playoffs. However, with Boston and Philly, the Atlantic is looking like the toughest division in the East, so if they falter or suffer a bad injury or two, it’s not inconceivable that Toronto could be fighting for a postseason berth in April.

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