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Moving up in the big man sweepstakes?

Miami has everything a free agent could want. No income tax, warm weather, spot duty as a volunteer police officer... Well, we can all stop talking about all that for at least another year. The announcement that the Heat and Raptors have agreed to a swap of Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks for Jermaine O'Neal and Jamario Moon means they have taken themselves out of the 2009 free agency hunt.

This positions the Pistons as the front-runners in the Carlos Boozer sweepstakes. With Miami out of the running, the Pistons now share a level playing field with other potential suitors in terms of geography and finance. More importantly, Detroit is the only city where Boozer could reasonably expect to compete for a championship.

Further, this elevates the Pistons in the hunt for Amare Stoudemire. Though league sources indicate Joe D. is not interested, perhaps the removal of Toronto and Miami as potential trade partners will serve to sufficiently lower the asking price.

Toronto's motives are somewhat more difficult to discern. Marion is probably a better fit than O'Neal, but I am less convinced that he will be more productive. Is this a last act of desperation in an effort to keep Chris Bosh happy, or a white flag of surrender for the Calderon-Bosh era?

The answer to that question will have a ripple effect throughout the league. I have maintained that Joe would do well to consider foregoing cap space bingo, and making a move prior to the summer of 2010. The added uncertainty created by this trade only reinforces this conviction.