Next for Raptors: Marion

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

All that is known about Shawn Marion is that he won't be making the roughly $17 million US he earned last season in the final year of his contract.

No one can say with any certainty what the future holds for Marion because there are too many variables and too few teams with cap space this summer.

On paper, his presence on a Raptors roster that has addressed toughness with the addition of Reggie Evans and athleticism in the form of rookie DeMar DeRozan is a perfect fit.

The Raptors have made nice strides this off-season, but the next step could very well turn into the most important move the team makes, barring a trade involving one of the team's core group of Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon, which is not likely.

Toronto's history of luring free agents hasn't been good because the Raptors have overpaid to attract a perceived asset, the price of doing business in the NBA's only non-American market.

Marion said all the right things when he played in Toronto following his trade from Miami, but he left the door open for a possible change, which is his right.

Following back-to-back seasons of not appearing in the post-season, Marion spoke about wanting to return to the playoffs.

Much like the way he plays, no one knows what Marion has in mind for next season.

With the NBA's free-agent window about to open next Wednesday, the Raptors must be prepared for all possibilities, and no doubt they are.

There has been talk about a sign-and-trade, which can be best engineered by using an agent as the conduit.

In Marion's case, the agent in question is Dan Fegan, one of the best in the business, who also represents Kris Humphries and Evans.

What the market will bear for Marion isn't easily defined, though.

Marion can shock everyone by signing for the veteran's minimum, in his case approximately $1.3 million, for a chance to win an NBA title.

As good as he would look in Toronto, imagine Marion lining up in Orlando alongside starters Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard.

There are so many possibilities, but few answers.

How long the Raptors will have to wait on the Marion decision largely depends on the pace of next week's free-agent frenzy.

Perhaps Marion's camp will realize that all that exists is the $5.5 million mid-level exception, a number the Raptors easily can exceed.

The Raptors need a small forward and Marion fits the bill -- but at what price?

If Marion has no intention to return, but would like to maximize his earnings, does it make sense for the Raptors to agree to a sign-and-trade?

The Raptors will find out soon.

The answer will tell a lot about exactly what kind of team they will be.

Otis my man

Magic general manager Otis Smith used a trade exception, a coveted tool, in completing the deal to acquire Carter from New Jersey.

Smith will have to be creative in filling out a roster that features seven players.

The good news is the team is prepared to pay the league's tax for exceeding the salary cap threshold.

As expected, Hedo Turkoglu yesterday officially opted out of his contract, thus making the small forward/point forward a free agent.

Much like Marion, no one knows what Turkoglu is worth, but rumour has it he's looking for a five-year deal worth $50 million.

Good luck.

In the Darko

The Darko Milicic enigma now makes a stop in Gotham, where perhaps Mike D'Antoni can turn the seven-footer into a serviceable part.

Milicic was taken second overall in the 2003 draft by Detroit, which bypassed the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

Milicic was a bust in Motown and was peddled to Orlando. He then moved to Memphis as a free agent.

All Jazzed up

Utah officially extended a qualifying offer yesterday to restricted free agent Paul Millsap, who emerged when starting power forward Carlos Boozer injured a knee.

Boozer, Mehmut Okur and Kyle Korver all can become free agents by opting out.

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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