Its starting to happen. The Raptors are starting to contemplate existence without Chris Bosh, which I should remind you, is entirely sustainable. When he’s traded this summer nobody should ring any alarm bells or view at it as a negative for the franchise by any means. We’ve seen greater players head through the exits and have still managed to survive. It’s not like we’ll be losing a resource that could propel this team into the next level with his play, or someone who attracts great or even serviceable players to Toronto, we sadly still remain a team who’s most attractive asset is the General Manager. So when Bosh leaves we should see it as the natural step on the evolution of this franchise, not a death-blow that will bring it to its knees.
We’ve given him a fair shot to prove that he’s cornerstone material but in his five years with the club he’s only proven that he’s a good player, maybe even a very good one on some nights but is he irreplaceable? Not by a stretch. We’ve all come to accept that Bosh needs major help if this team is to go anywhere significant, and that having players like Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani and Shawn Marion isn’t good enough. We need to do better than that and I find it awfully difficult for Colangelo to import All-Star talent when he’s already cutting fat cheques to the players mentioned (Marion isn’t going to come cheap and Bargnani is due for a raise). If the only way to keep Bosh on the roster is to hand him an escalating contract starting at $21.5M a year, is it really worth it? Does it make sense for us to tie up $45M in just Bosh, Calderon and Bargnani given what they’ve shown?
Ideally you’d like to give these players another year to see if they can produce some magic but it’s too late for that, the Bosh decision is looming and the Raptors can’t afford to head into next summer with the only collateral being a sign-and-trade offer for him. Short of Bosh starting next season on fire and the team winning a good chunk of its games, this summer is the least riskiest time to trade him. If we start next season poorly the Bosh rumour mill will be working overtime and there will be valid speculation that he might want to leave a losing situation. Colangelo will be left to field low-ball offers form GMs knowing that he has to pull the trigger or else risk losing him for nothing. Right now, the chances of Bosh staying are perceived to be 50-50 which are the best odds Colangelo is likely to enter any trade negotiations with. A Bosh trade could also help us off-load one of our two terrible contracts in Jason Kapono and Marcus Banks giving us flexibility to sign the swingman that we need.
Bosh has proven to be a perimeter-oriented PF who can’t adjust to dynamic defenses that throw different looks at him. He’s slow to negotiate double-teams and almost always fails to properly read the defender who is showing help but not yet helping. His anticipatory senses are weak which means he resorts to very generic and predictable moves which are often easy to defend and much more importantly, do not make his teammates better because he does not yield good shots for them. His drives to the rim do not have an outlet option and his decision-making at the elbow is slow and painful to watch. He does not have the basketball IQ or skill to warrant a touch on every possession, in other words, he’s not the guy you want to fall back on in times of crisis, and if I’m investing $21.5M a year in a player, I sure hope he can do that for me.
Take Kevin Garnett’s example in Minnesota, he was handed a max-contract and outside of one playoff run, couldn’t muster a thing in the post-season. He’s a great example of very good player that can be counted on to do certain very valuable things such as playing defense, toughening up the inside, being a floor leader, but the second you ask him to provide for you when it counts you run into trouble. The Celtics have 60M dollars tied up in three Hall of Famers and only then can they think about contending. The same is true with Bosh, you’ll need Hall-of-Fame-type help to go anywhere with him and unlike the Celtics, we can’t pull that off. There’s no point building a team around him without getting All-Star quality help at two other positions.
You get a sense of where a player’s ceiling might be in their third or fourth year and although Bosh hasn’t hit it, he’s shown what it is. He’s living off the same skill-set for the last three years – mid-range jumper and blow-by quickness. He has shown little to no improvement in his post-game which has prevented him for truly punishing defenses that put a quicker defender on him. His footwork is mediocre and his finishing ability around the rim is poor and soft. I think it’s fair to say that he’s never going to be an efficient scorer like Tim Duncan, a power player like Dwight Howard or as explosive as Amare Stoudamire was before the injuries. He’s best suited for a team that doesn’t depend on his scoring and can have him play a freelancing role with little offensive pressure – much like Kevin Garnett. The difference is that on the Raptors we need him to do more while the Celtics can afford Garnett to do less.
Luis Scola has averages higher rebounding per-48 and is 1.58 points behind Bosh in terms of scoring per FGA. Bosh averages twice as many FT attempts as Scola which also means he gets that many more touches. Luis Scola is a more efficient player than Chris Bosh. That’s a fact and the worst part is that I haven’t seen anything in Bosh’s game to suggest that he’s going to improve on his rates. Other than his improved jumper his growth as an offensive player has slowed down if not stagnated.
He’s still the best player on the team but you have to wonder how much of that is the result of him being a good player on a bad team. If we have the chance to convert him into assets that could have more potential we should jump on the opportunity, after all, we have a pretty good idea what we have here and its still not good enough. Five years and two first-round exits later you have to re-examine the strategy of building around Bosh and move on. He will be a perennial All-Star with someone like Wade or Lebron around him but here in Toronto where resources are scarce, he’ll always be asked to perform beyond his means and that’s not fair to him and the fans. Simply put, we don’t have the financial capacity to surround him with the caliber of players that he needs while paying him big bucks at the same time. If Bosh had the ability to attract other free agents to Toronto it could’ve been considered or maybe even if had shown the ability to lead and motivate his teammates, but he just doesn’t have those oh so important intangible characteristics.
Surrounding a dominant player with a collection of good to great role players is a viable strategy of team-building and one that is working for teams such as Orlando, Cleveland and LA. Unfortunately, the Raptors can’t follow that model because they lack the dominant player needed for it to have a chance. I’d much rather see this team sure-up as many positions as it can and try to instill a concept of team-ball which can produce success. The “shorter rotation” strategy failed miserably for us last year and if the primary difference between next year’s team and the previous one the replacement of O’Neal with Marion, we’ll be running into the same issues again.
A Bosh trade right now could help us solidify two or more positions, if we allow his contract situation to drag on into the season we’ll be encouraging teams vying for him to wait it out till next summer and make a clean run at him. Colangelo has to try to and sign him into a reasonable extension and if that’s not possible, do what’s best for the franchise, not for Chris Bosh. Listen intently to the trade offers that will come from Detroit, Golden State, Miami, Dallas and Cleveland and swing a deal that gives this team 1-2 years to gel the incoming players and aim for serious contention in 2010-11 or 2011-12. It can be done, we just have to barter our highest valued resource properly and do our homework in the draft, no reason why this thing can’t be turned around if Bargnani continues his development, Calderon returns to form and we solve the defensive rebounding issues.
This franchise should not be held hostage by Chris Bosh’s indecision on whether to sign or not, we need to be proactive and do what’s best for the team right now. The Chris Bosh chapter of this franchise is over and it was the least exciting of them all.