So What About Marion/Toronto/O’Neal/Miami?

Here’s a question I never thought I’d ask.

You know what’s great about Pat Riley?

He makes deals that are good for him, but don’t seem good for him, and are unendingly interesting. So many times we only regard important trades as wins vs. losses, which is a deplorable approach in my opinion. You have to look at what the team has available, what the teams is trying to do, and what the team is reasonably able to get for those assets in pursuit of those goals. He traded longterm potential (Butler&Odom) for a single shot at a Championship. And it paid off. He made the horrendous Ricky Davis trade. Which was either highly delusional or a setup.

And now this.

This is one of those high-risk-high-reward deals. You may remember this paradigm from such hits as “Shaq to Phoenix” and “Carter to the Nets.” Possibly “Kidd to the Mavs.” Okay, this doesn’t look great, but let’s keep moving. The way this deal is different from those is that it has a safety net. The risk is that you only get one shot at moving Marion, and he’s still got enough value, particularly with the money involved, that you need to get good, if not great, return on export. The reward is that O’Neal can still put points on the board, and … you know, he’s not Jamal Magloire. Just putting a legit center on the floor takes pressure off the rest of the Heat, and that’s the best thing you can do for a young team.

The safety net is the length of the deal. And I have to admire Riley’s juevos on this one. Everyone expected him to swing for Boozer, which is shopping for the set-up double, or buying a Hyundai. Instead he bought a Bronco with some miles on it, and put themselves smack-dab in the hunt for the 2010 FREE AGENT SUMMER OF DOOM.

The objective at this point is to stockpile assets to throw at Wade, and with a solid foundation and the cap room for a max deal, they’ve done what they need to in order to provide the opportunity for Wade to stay. The Heat aren’t looking for the knockout punch, or the move to put them over the top. They’re building. When Riley feels it’s right, he’ll either chuck the thing for a win-now homerun, or push with the core for the hard-earened win.

Beasley needed this more than anyone. He can rebound, but can’t be counted on to rebound. He can score, but can’t be counted on to dominate. He can defend, but he needs a secondary level of support. This is how it is with guys who can’t drink yet. And there will be a time when he’ll need to do all those things. But for right now, make some noise in the playoffs with a legit center and hope his health holds up. Getting back Moon is a nice touch as well. It fills the hole and beside Wade, what’s the ceiling? Okay players get pretty good beside great ones.

And Toronto? Fascinating. The odds of Marion fitting in are about the same as in Miami, maybe slightly better given the personnel. With Bosh as a lynch pin, this creates a bridge between the guards and the bigs. Marion fills gaps on a team that needs gap fillers, plus it has the added cap relief this summer.

The commitment to Bargnani is promising, because they could have just ditched Bargs which would have ended any hope. He’s legitimately played well, and in a wide-open system, who knows what could happen. I’m not sold on Calderon being the guard to make it happen but then, I’m like that. It’s not that I don’t think he’s a good guard, I think he’s a great guard. I just don’t see him as the creator necessary to maximize the potential of the frontcourt that can do a little bit of everything but nothing exceptionally (except Bosh for stretches).

The Raptors aren’t looking for a championship, but they’re not shopping for the lottery either. They’re in a weird limbo, but there’s a freedom in it. And the one thing we know about Marion’s needs is this. He needs freedom. Maybe this is what he needs.

Hope abounds for the newly traded.

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.