Just before the 2009 NBA All-Star Weekend began, the Toronto Raptors traded former All-Star center/forward Jermaine O’Neal and swingman Jamario Moon to the Miami Heat for former All-Star small forward Shawn Marion and point guard Marcus Banks. It had been speculated upon for weeks that the two teams had the offer on the table and finally, it was commenced.
The motives of the trade make a lot of sense. For the Raptors, the combination of O’Neal and star power forward Chris Bosh were producing sub-par results, largely because O’Neal had not yet regained the form of his peak play as an Indiana Pacers from years ago; for “JO”, his largest problem is that he is struggling to play a game of consistency, as far as his scoring prowess and athleticism is concern. With a dynamic and skilled player of Bosh’s calibur, it was obvious that the “Twin Towers” method was not working with that particular duo.
In the case of the Heat, “The Matrix” was not contributing enough to really vouch for a non-trade. Having made a name for himself as a lightning-quick wing player with enough guile to play effectively in his natural small forward position and seemingly-overmatched spot at power forward, Marion was not able to live up to his reputation as a high-scoring wing, nor did he rebound at the same levels of his Phoenix Sun days. Ultimately, The Matrix was looked upon to be the second option to superstar Dwyane Wade as a scorer/defender, but the final results were mediocre at best, with Marion also creating some roster questions in regard to rookie Michael Beasley’s place on the roster.
Based on the components of the trade, from purely a basketball standpoint, there is no distinct winner in what each team acquired, but moreso for how each team can reshuffle players on each team’s respective roster. Miami is able to now move Beasley into the starting lineup, if it so chooses, and now Udonis Haslem can move to his natural power forward position without sacrificing so much size as a defender. The newly acquired O’Neal can be the lone post presence for the Heat and give Miami some more integrity in the starting lineup in how players play their roles. It appears as if Miami will gain some good momentum, even if JO doesn’t yet return to All-Star form (and loosing itself of point guard Marcus Banks doesn’t hurt). What is not being talked about is that Jamario Moon, also having been sent to Miami from Toronto, is basically a somewhat poorer version of Shawn Marion, but only in the sense that he can’t play power forward like Marion can. Moon is probably just as athletic if not more than Marion, can shoot out to the three-point line and is a strong defender on the perimeter.
Toronto gained in a similar way that Miami did, in regards to lineup reshuffling. Bosh was having some trouble with O’Neal being another big body and JO being basically an older version of what Bosh is–a high-post, finesse big man. JO actually would’ve have been better suited playing with someone bigger than Bosh, so that he can play power forward, but that was not possible with the former pairing. In the Raptors’ case, giving 2006 No. 1 pick Andrea Bargnani a greater chance to play as an inside-outside forward with Bosh was more than JO’s worth. In the end, the frontcourt is realigned with Marion playing as a combo forward with Bargnani (with forward specificity being changing depending on team matchups), while Bosh moves to center, also with shifts to forward with Bargnani depending on matchups.
The real question will be whether Miami and Toronto progress or degress in their aspirations for playoff success. Miami has overachieved all season with an undermatched, undersized team led by Wade; the Heat, though, have had major success and good standing in the East as a definite playoff contender. The Raptors, on the contrary, have had some major dilemmas with chemistry and whether The Matrix can change that will remain to be seen; Marion has not been known to be extremely team-first or particularly radiant in positivity, so whatever good he can bring to Toronto will be certainly received with praise.