What would it be like? Would it be as dark as some make it out to be? Would the Raptors be reduced to the NBA equivalent of a wasteland, or would it just be a bump in the road towards what seems to be the eternal destiny of this franchise – mediocrity? Stepping out of the vacuum of this season and looking at the bigger picture of what’s been accomplished in the six seasons he’s been here, anyone trying to make a case that it would be a death-blow to this franchise will be hard-pressed to do so. Yes, there have been glimpses of hope this year and of course there was the 2006-07 campaign, but to suggest that we’re on an upward trajectory that sees us reaching the conference finals anytime soon is more fallacy than reality.
You can evaluate the success of a franchise a few different ways: regular season wins, playoff appearances, playoff wins, playoff series wins, conference titles and of course NBA championships. When the Raptors were in their infancy, all we hoped was for a respectable amount of regular season wins and Damon Stoudamire delivered on that front in the inaugural season. After that our expectations were raised a bit and we started to aim for the playoffs, things didn’t go so smoothly until Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady led us to the Promised Land and a first round defeat in NY. Still, fans were happy because we had gone where we hadn’t been before. After that came the thirst for playoff success and sure enough, Carter and Co. delivered again as we beat the Knicks the following year. Since then: nothing.
As a supporter you’re hoping for improvement, will reluctantly settle for status-quo but would hate to see regression. Unfortunately for Bosh, the regression of this franchise started with the fading of Vince Carter’s star and the club appointing him as the franchise player. The losing that followed didn’t flatter him and solidified his status as a good player on a bad team, of which there are many in the league. Other than Bosh’s phenomenal run this season and his hot start last year, he’s left very few memories in my mind and I don’t think I’d be heart-broken if he left.
If Bosh does exit, nobody will be regretting losing a great player who led us anywhere, but instead a potentially great player who could lead us somewhere memorable. Having said that and given the chance, the Raptors should sign Chris Bosh to a long-term deal in a heartbeat, but that doesn’t mean that losing him for reasonable value would be a disaster because a disaster is more or less what this club has been for his tenure here. Players of Bosh’s calibre are required for any deep playoff runs and common sense says that if you already have one, don’t try to parlay him into pieces that aren’t as good at this moment. That seems to be the main argument (and a pretty good one which I subscribe to) for the corner that wants Bosh to stay, however, the other side needs to be at least heard.
Two playoff appearances and three playoff wins under three different GMs. You can argue that the supporting cast hasn’t been great but even with this year’s team, the strongest in a few, how far do you really see Bosh leading the Raptors in the post-season? It comes down to how you want to evaluate a player and his fit with the franchise, is it regular season wins or is it playoff series wins? I’ve raised my expectations to the point where nothing short of multiple series wins (somewhere we haven’t been before) can satisfy my thirst and with the roster as it is, I just don’t see that happening this year or the next as Cleveland, Atlanta and Orlando show little sign of regression and Chicago, Charlotte and others stay on the ascension. It should be clear that re-signing Bosh and sticking with the current roster isn’t going to be nearly enough.
I’m not advocating “blowing it up” because there’s obviously something good here, something which can get us to the post-season in a weak East and bring the excitement of playoff basketball to a winner-starved city, but I’m open to looking at more dramatic options including aggressive overhauls that could see us rise out of the doldrums of mediocrity and into the upper echelon of the East.
My fear is that we could become the Washington Wizards of the last few years. They’re a great example of a team that were for far too long good enough to get into the post-season but never managed to do anything once there. It took them a while to realize that their core (more talented than the Raptors), while good enough to keep the casual fan interested, isn’t going to net them any trophies. The gun fiasco is probably the best thing that happened to them as it forced them to do a proper rebuild, not just add mediocre pieces to an already mediocre team. With the long-term contracts the Raptors could have (Bosh, Bargnani, Jack, Calderon, Turkoglu), I can’t see them making a run for the conference title simply for the reason that other than Bosh, the roster is mired with “decent players” who aren’t anywhere close to top-tier performers. We have a few options we could try to circumvent the issue:
- Keep the core intact and tweaking the flexible parts of the roster (Belinelli, DeRozan, Banks, Rasho, Evans, Weems) replacing them with proven performers (especially defensively) and replicate the 2004 Detroit model of team-ball and defence.
- Keep Bosh, acknowledge the mistake that was Turkoglu and perhaps trade Calderon while signing/trading a top-tier free-agent to give the Raptors a real 1-2 punch with Bargnani as the #3 man. This is what Cleveland did with Jamison, Miami tried to do with Stoudamire and New York will try to do with whoever wants the money.
- Trade Bosh and enter rebuild mode. This would involve shedding additional contracts because trading Bosh and keeping the dead weight of Turkoglu around would make little sense. I also doubt Jack would want to be part of a rebuilding situation at this point.
Option #1 and #2 would likely involve smashing the tax-line; personally, I’d prefer #2. Colangelo tried to pull something of this nature this summer with Turkoglu but it hasn’t worked out and getting rid of him should be high priority. Having Bosh stay in itself would mean nothing but more mindless regular seasons and short playoff runs which I’ve had enough of, additional dramatic action is required after the Bosh re-signing, otherwise you can sign me up for #3.