Rasho Nesterovic will not be coming back, a point made very obvious when the Raptors drafted Ed Davis and Solomon Alabi.
Patrick O’Bryant is expected to attend the team’s summer league in Las Vegas, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be back.
Antoine Wright doesn’t figure to be back, but he can help the Raptors in a sign and trade with the right suitor.
As much as the Raptors want Amir Johnson and could use his athleticism, energy and defence, Johnson is in line to cash in and the Raptors aren’t exactly loaded with cap space.
Five free agents with varying degrees of skill and options for the Raptors, in some cases no options.
Bosh is the biggest, the one free-agent piece that may bring back an asset capable of being a presence this season.
He may even be used in a complicated, multi-team package that will rid Toronto of malcontent Hedo Turkoglu or perhaps provide more clarity to a point guard situation that features Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack.
The Raptors can use a mid-level exception, but it’s safe to say the whole Bosh domino must be played out first before that option gets triggered.
The Raptors can use a post presence, leadership, a perimeter defender, a facilitator and decision maker.
Free agency is often used to address needs, but the Raptors aren’t in any financial position to go out and wine and dine a free agent.
But as the game of musical chairs gets closer to conclusion, the reality is this: Bosh is going to go where he wants to go.
Do the Raptors have some leverage? Perhaps. A sign-and-trade would net Bosh a six-year contract for about $130-million, instead of the five-year deal for about $100-million. But Bosh could go elsewhere without the benefit of a sign-and-trade and in three years be eligible for a three-year extension. The Raptors’ leverage really amounts to about $10-million over six seasons. Nothing to sneeze at, but hardly enough to control the fate of someone willing to sign for less than the maximum number of years as a 23-year-old in 2006.
Bosh rolled the dice to maintain his independence then, why wouldn’t he do it again now?
Toronto’s best hope is there is a true competition for Bosh’s services among teams that have the salary cap flexibility. In that scenario, Bosh will be able to force a sign-and-trade and enjoy the security of that sixth year up front.
What would that mean to Toronto? Best case would be a deal netting a trade exception and perhaps a draft pick or two. (The trade exception could be worth as much as $16-million and allow the otherwise capped-out Raptors a way to add talent by taking on players from teams looking to dump salary – would the San Antonio Spurs be willing to part with guard Tony Parker and his $13.5-million salary to make way for George Hill? Not inconceivable.)
"My only priority," Bosh said, "is winning."
The Raptors want him, though general manager Bryan Colangelo acknowledged this week that the team believes Bosh is gone. He’s as coveted as his Olympic teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, possibly might even team up with one or both of them. The Knicks, the Heat, the Bulls, depending on who you ask, they’re all the favourites to be Bosh’s next team.
No one knows for certain. In an interview with The Associated Press, Bosh insisted he doesn’t know, either.
"Honestly, I’m ready to get this thing over with," Bosh told The AP earlier this week. "When the time is right, I want to start aggressively negotiating with everybody and talk to everybody, to get this thing over with. Because you know, it’s been a four-year thing now and people have been talking about it for at least two years. We’re well past it. I’m well past it. It’s time to get it over with."
And at 12:07 a.m. Wednesday, less than 24 hours to the official start to Free Agent Mania, Bosh posted a clear sign of his excitement on his Twitter feed.
"After all these years… Just 24 hrs left….. Wow. I’m getting anxious," Bosh wrote.
According to sources, the Bulls may try to lock up center/power forward Chris Bosh first and use that as a part of their sales pitch to James, the main domino in the NBA’s high-stakes free-agent game.
With Bosh on board to go along with point guard Derrick Rose and center Joakim Noah, the Bulls could say they’re the only team James is considering that already has two former All-Stars (Bosh and Rose) and a potential one (Noah).
The key to building a championship team, the Bulls would argue, is having multiple All-Stars, and James would be hard-pressed to find such an impressive supporting cast already in place.
Even if the Bulls don’t get James, the Bosh signing makes sense because he’s the second player on their wish list. They also could come to terms with Bosh and then try to work out a sign-and-trade with the Toronto Raptors.
Locking up Bosh first also would thwart the grand plan of another of James’ suitors. The Miami Heat’s dream scenario has it re-signing its own free agent, Dwyane Wade, and then adding James and Bosh. An ESPN.com report said those three players met in Miami last weekend, but Wade denied it, saying he was in Chicago all weekend.
But Riley’s dream scenario is a Dwyane Wade/LeBron James/Chris Bosh troika. He will pitch that idea to the three players and not only needs to convince James to share the spotlight with Wade but also to erase Bosh’s skepticism about the feasibility of Riley’s three-superstar plan. When Riley meets with James this week in Akron, Ohio, and Bosh in the coming days, he must address questions about how much Miami can pay them (all three can get maximum salary if Michael Beasley is traded and Joel Anthony’s qualifying offer is rescinded) and how their games will be affected by playing with two other big-time scorers.
“I don’t see it happening,” Bosh told us this past weekend of the idea of the three playing together on the Heat.
“I don’t even know how it would work. It sounds pie in the sky. Riley is known as a guy who is like a mastermind-type genius. He’s probably having a vision one day. But who knows? I don’t see it happening.”
Despite Bosh’s skepticism, the three-star alignment gained momentum the past few days, with Wade advocating the plan in talks with the other two stars. Riley, hopeful but uncertain he can pull it off, has interest in Stoudemire and Boozer if Bosh balks.
The Sun Sentinel has learned that the three star free agents have gone as far as to acknowledge that it might not be possible for the Heat to clear the needed space to start each of the three at the $16.6 million maximum salary that they would be eligible for in the first year of new contracts.
According to the source, the three have agreed to consider to "split the money up," if need be.
However, an ESPN report of the three stars meeting this past weekend in South Florida has been widely disputed, with agent Henry Thomas, who represents both Wade and Bosh, saying that Wade was not in South Florida this past weekend.
"Dwyane was not in Miami this weekend," Thomas said. "That is untrue."
As for a possible meeting last week at a players’ union meeting in Las Vegas, of the three, only Wade attended those sessions.
"I said when it first broke about that, that the guys would undoubtedly talk with each other, which they have. That’s not a surprise to anyone," Thomas said. "But this meeting this weekend in Miami just did not take place. Dwyane was not in Miami this weekend."
Sources said the Raptors will try to acquire draft picks and young players in return for Bosh. They would likely ask for forward Michael Beasley and point guard Mario Chalmers in any deal with the Miami Heat. If Bosh were to go to the Chicago Bulls, the Raptors like forward Taj Gibson and center Joakim Noah, though Noah could prove impossible to pry from Chicago. If Bosh settles on the New York Knicks, the Raptors would try to engage in a double sign-and-trade that sends Knicks forward David Lee to Toronto.
Sources called a potential sign-and-trade with the Los Angeles Lakers “doubtful.”
So really, what do you believe Chris Bosh ‘owes’ you, as a Raptors fan? He fulfilled his contractual obligation, played to his maximum potential while fulfilling that contract and was always a first class guy with the media and the fans. Are you really telling me that a few innocent tweets, showing up at the NBA Finals and appearing on radio stations erases all that?
You do realize Chris has never said anything even close to insulting about our city or our country, right? You do realize him leaving isn’t him ‘deserting’ you or choosing one city over another, right? He is a professional athlete who wants to win, make money and be popular all at the same time. Oh, what an awful, awful man.
Whether you can admit or not, Bosh was growing his brand and keeping his name alive while his team enjoyed another long off-season. Good for him. I don’t blame him. Professional sports is a ruthless business.
If this situation were reversed, if in an alternate universe a player of Chris Bosh’s stature left an American franchise who had performed as the Raptors had for the past seven years and signed with the Raptors, would you really think he was a monster? I didn’t think so. In fact, you would probably hate on the old franchise’s fans for being immature, sore losers.
If you are one of those Raptors fans who believe Bosh is now a mortal enemy and intend to boo him for whatever your petty excuse is, please, don’t associate yourself with fellow Torontonians or Canadian basketball fans, you’ll just give the rest of us a bad name. This isn’t Vince Carter, who deserves the boos after admittedly dogging it in Toronto. In many ways, Chris Bosh is the anti-Vince. He worked hard to get more out of his natural talent and physical tools than he probably should have, not the other way around.