The writing is on the wall, the Chris Bosh era of the Toronto Raptors must come to an end. Bosh is unhappy with his situation in Toronto, although his modesty prevented him from publicly announcing it to the media. The sad truth is as early as February this year, there were whispers of Bosh wanting out of Toronto, followed by several sources close to the team stating he had informed GM, Bryan Colangelo of this. Bosh, as hard a worker as there is in the NBA, has to feel that not enough has been done to build the supporting cast around him. His doubts would not be unfounded.
The last 3 or 4 years there has been a clear perspective of what is lacking in Toronto, a solid rebounding and defensive big to compliment Chris Bosh’s high and low post offensive game, as well a a good wing who can stretch the floor, attack the basket and play on ball defense. The free agent pool this past offseason included Corey Maggette, a proven talented swingman and sixth man (another Raptors weakness) and Matt Barnes, a young talented small forward who can stretch the floor with his shot as well as provide needed rebounding and defense. Both these players would have filled the long void of talented wing players in Toronto. To compliment Chris Bosh, Elton Brand was available in free agency, a proven all-star who is constantly found in talks about the best big men in the league. all players who bring necessary skill assets to the table for the Raptors. As well Ron Artest was shopped heavily and traded that offseason. Artest is another talented swingman forward, and beyond his obvious scoring, rebounding and passing abilities, he is a defensive stalwart. A ball hawk who has averaged over 2 steals 9 of his 12 years in the league. It cannot be underscored enough how vital he would have been to the Raptors this season. Instead they signed Jermaine O’Neal, a 7’0 center from Indiana who’s best days were clearly behind him. Plagued by injuries- he has never played a full season- O’Neals prime was in the 03/04 season with Indiana, with averages of 20 pts, 10 rebounds and 2.5 blocks a game. However, after a particularly brutal knee surgery, his averages slipped to 13, 6 and 2 in only 42 games, the year before the Raptors traded for him. As one could predict, his stats in Toronto this season were almost identical. When the O’Neal project failed, the Raptors again passed on players who fit their system perfectly, specifically John Salmons, a shooting guard who can play the small forward, so he gives them the swingman versatility. He is a superbly talented scorer, something the Raptors have not had at the shooting guard position since Vince Carter. Salmons of course was traded along with Brad Miller to the Bulls, where he went on to average career highs in several categories. Instead the Raptors traded for another over-the-hill once contributor, Shawn Marion.
Marion was an athletic freak in his prime in Phoenix, skying for impressive dunks and rebounds. He then would notably complain about not being “the go-to guy” on his team, and was traded to Miami where he quickly would become unhappy again, and never really found comfort in the system. He is clearly not the greatest locker room presence, and the Raptors had to knwo this when they brought him in. Marion’s presence on the wing did bring much improved rebounding, the strongest point of Marions game, but it also showed he is not the defensive beast he once was, and that problems up front need to be addressed for this team to fix itself.
The Raptors already have a full time investment in the frontcourt in Andrea Bargnani, who had a breakout campaign this season. Where is this all leading? Chris Bosh. The Raptors already received tempting offers from teams this season, there were rumors of the Bulls offering a package that would include the physical monster Tyrus Thomas, and a combination of their many talented wing players (Andres Nocioni, Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon were all mentioned), as well the Golden State Warriors were said to have offered centre Andres Biedrins and Corey Maggette. Both these players remain with Golden State, who are looking to make deals this offseason. They were particularly interested in Amare Stoudemire but with his season and possibly career ending eye injury, Bosh is arguably the next best power forward available in the league. Biedrins is a 23 year old 7-footer who averaged a double-double (11 pts, 11 rebounds) just under 2 steals and a block a game. He would provide the defensive and rebounding help the Raptors so crucially need, and would allow Bargnani to spread the floor as his game demands. Maggette is a proven wing scorer who is averaging just under 20 points a game for his last 6 seasons in the league, he is also used to scoring in a sixth-man role which would make him a perfect scoring compliment to Shawn Marion’s defensive and reboounding game at the 3 position, should the Raptors lock Marion up to an extension as expected.
This in itself is all hypothetical, if Bosh gets dealt it would almost certainly be for a better package than Biedrins and Maggette, but that just serves to show how there are so many players who may not have the superstar billing of Bosh, but in the end will benefit the team. Chris Bosh is a hard competitor and a good man, his contract is up in 2010 and if he is not traded, I have no doubt he will play his hardest for the Raptors this year. After that however, it’s much less likely he sticks around to sign another contract in Toronto, trading him now would first of all be honouring the wishes of a player who has given so much to the city, and would be maximizing the benefit of his inevitable departure. If anybody is talking to Bryan Colangelo right now, tell him start selling.