Well, the most secretive trade ever happened over the break, as the Raptors finally unloaded JO and Jamario to the Heat for Marion and Banks. Much has been said about who actually won this trade and for me, there are so many variables, it’s a toss-up. What’s important for the Raptors right now is whether or not Marion is going to be the key to getting them into the playoffs.
That march to the playoffs starts with a contest against King James and the Cavs, which is going to put the Raptors to the test right off the bat. After having some time to get accustomed to things in Toronto, this will be a good opportunity to see how Marion’s defensive game is going to change things for the Raptors. While the Raptors have lost JO’s interior presence, they have gained an overall better defender who can get out on the perimeter. There’s a good chance we will see a lot of Marion on James, which AP will welcome as he has been doing a yeoman’s work covering big player after big player.
The word is that with Marion, the Raptors are going to be playing a more uptempo style, which I will believe when I see it. If there is one thing that has become more apparent this year with Jose running the show, it is that he prefers the half-court setup, something that Marion hated in Miami. If Marion sees the same sort of offense taking place in Toronto, he might end up just as frustrated as he was in Miami.
While the Raptors may want to push the ball, they will need to be careful not to force things as Varejao and Williams are in the top rankings for taking charges, with Varejao first. How many of the ones Varejao takes that are actually fouls has yet to be determined (FLOP). Get ready Mop Girl, you’re going to be busy. Varejao is in town!
The time off was good for Jose and his hamstring problems and he is going to have a good test against the Cavs as Mo Williams showed just before the All-Star break why his double-All-Star-snub (and then eventual fill-in for Bosh) was a joke. Williams dropped 44 points against Phoenix, showing up Nash and the rest of the Suns. Tie’em up tight Jose.
So with all of the Marion-O’Neal talk, we have to remember to focus on Bargs. Part of the reason that JO became expendable was the development of Bargs this year, especially when JO went down with injury. It will be important for him to continue his strong play and become a consistent option down the floor. If he isn’t able to produce points and play D with JO gone, the Raptors could be in for a rough stretch.