Marion is essentially a fully developed Moon - an athletic marvel who can rebound with the best of them, defend multiple positions, make the occasional jump shot, and finish in traffic. After Steve Nash, Marion was the key to the Colangelo seven-seconds-or-less era in Phoenix. Even at 30, with his numbers in decline, he is one of the more versatile players in basketball.
"He's got a terrific athletic game, and does a lot of things," Nash said when asked about Marion on Sunday. "I would guess [Marion's decline in numbers is] probably the way they play."
That being said, as one long-time Marion-watcher puts it, "once his legs go, it's over." Marion has played nearly 27,000 NBA minutes, plus nearly another season in playoff games, and as gifted as he is, hops have an expiration date. The Matrix would be the best defender and most dependable wing on the roster within 30 seconds of walking through the door. He would make the Raptors
better. But he is not necessarily a long-term solution.
Should the deal ever be completed, however, Marion might be a short-term solution, since part of Marion's appeal is that his US$17-million contract expires this summer. That would allow the Raptors
to add a major piece this summer, since Toronto would be about US$14-million under the salary cap. Orlando's Hedo Turkoglu, a long-time Colangelo favourite, is expected to opt out of his contract, though he might be difficult to pry away from a contending team in a sunny climate.
(If you're looking for a significant small forward in free agency this summer, it's Turkoglu, Marion, or Ron Artest. And no, under no circumstances is Ron Artest a good idea on this team. Stop asking.)
Turkoglu would make Toronto's front line among the most skilled in the NBA; Marion would allow the Raptors
to run more and defend better. Either way, they're better options that the duplication O'Neal offers, now that Andrea Bargnani
has become a player. When you talk to Colangelo these days, he looks good: tanned, healthy, confident. But as someone once put it, you can bet that Colangelo is like a swan: Placid on the surface, and working away furiously underneath.