Chris Bosh. Only five insiders believe Bosh will re-sign with Toronto. Yet, I view this as a positive sign for Raptors, because those five votes offset widespread speculation that Bosh is certain to leave this summer. The Raptors can pay him close to $30 million more than other teams over the length of a six-year contract, compared to the five years with smaller annual raises he would receive elsewhere. That $30 million cannot be dismissed amid gloomy projections of salary cutbacks when the next collective bargaining agreement is installed in 2011-12. Bosh may never be able to make up that money in future contracts.
"Here's the thing people don't know about him," an Eastern team president said of Bosh. "He wants to be a star. He wants to be the No. 1 guy."
If true, then that's another reason for him to remain with Toronto, as opposed to becoming the No. 2 option to Wade in Miami (or to Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas via a sign-and-trade).
Regardless of how Bosh may view himself, the prevailing opinion around the league is that he cannot be the top player of a championship team.
"I don't think Chris Bosh is a No. 1 guy," a Western personnel executive said. "For him to be really successful -- and he may not be willing to admit this -- he needs to be with another guy. If he goes to Miami, I think that fits his personality because Wade provides the best match [as a perimeter teammate] for him, but again, a lot of guys can't admit to things like that.
"Almost everybody at the top of this free-agent class is a wing player, but Bosh is the one big man that's coveted and could fit in with a lot of different teams," this Western exec added. "What I've heard through the grapevine is that the only cold-weather city he's going to consider playing in is Toronto."
So much of this free-agent forecasting takes on the sound of pop-psychology analysis, as the executives try to evaluate a player's ambitions as well as his style of play.
"He could stay because they can pay him more than anyone," an Eastern team executive said of Bosh. "I always say it takes more for a guy to leave than to stay. With Bosh, you've got to give the guy the max or he's walking, but he's not a max player, I don't think. On the other hand, I really don't think he wants to carry a team. He says otherwise, and it sounds like he loves being the [No. 1] guy in Toronto, but I'm not buying that. I personally think he doesn't want to carry a contending team day after day, that he doesn't want that pressure. So looking at it that way, I could see him playing with Wade or Derrick Rose [of the Bulls, who have the cap space to make a run at Bosh]."
"I think he gets lured down to South Beach," said an agent, who obviously doesn't represent Bosh. "I think his emotions are up and down, that he likes it up there. But I really don't think Toronto is going to max him out. The owners are going to have a new definition of who a max guy is, and there are only eight or nine players who are at that [level]. Pau Gasol is not max, Antawn Jamison got the max when he was at Golden State, [Andrei] Kirilenko got it [from Utah]. And those deals bit those teams in the [butt] because those guys are not major stars. The max is for Tim Duncan, LeBron, D-Wade, Kobe Bryant -- that echelon. As an agent, I want as much money as I can get, but I'm telling you how the owners are looking at it."
If Bosh decides this summer he isn't going to stay in Toronto, added the agent, "I do know that Toronto will explore sign-and-trades for him so they get something in return. That's where they feel comfortable, and they probably have told his [agent] that, so that he won't just jump ship."