Over the past week, basketball fans have seen some major trades go down before the NBA's trade deadline.
While some of these moves have been made to solidify rosters, look towards the future, or attempt to bring home an NBA title, many of them have been made with a single thought in mind; to clear cap space for the coming off-season in hopes of reeling in one of the "Class of 2010" big free-agent fish.
I'm referring of course to Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Toronto's own Chris Bosh.
Of course even though a team like the New York Knicks now has enough money to sign perhaps two of these big names, there's no guarantee that will happen. Right now, the three aforementioned players' current teams look pretty good as well, so perhaps none will change zip, or postal codes.
For Toronto's sake especially, I hope this doesn't happen.
Sure, there's been lots of assurances from Raptors' brass that all will not be lost should Chris Bosh seek greener pastures; the club would have a good chunk of change to chase other free agents in that class, or potentially could get meaningful assets in return via a sign-and-trade deal.
But as the saying goes, "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." Raptors' fans know what to expect from CB4 night in and night out - they don't from players brought in via sign-and-trade (who most certainly won't possess Bosh's talent level), empty cap space, or prospects who need years to develop. Therefore I'm hoping both MLSE and the Raptors' brain-trust does whatever it can to retain his services.
The funny thing is, a year ago, I wasn't taking this stance.
Bosh was having another great season, but I didn't see "max deal" in his production. I put him more on the level of a David West than a Kevin Garnett and while Bosh still isn't at a KG level defensively, the other parts of his game have been taken to another level this season, one that very few players in the league, especially at his position, have achieved.
We've seen all the stats and productivity breakdowns so I'm not going to rehash other people's work. What I do want to point out this morning though, are a few things I noted that Toronto was missing the past two games, even in spite of solid wins. These are elements that have been crucial to the Raptors' success so far this season, and ones that I think will be sorely missed should Bosh not return to the T-Dot next season:
1) Free-Throw Shooting:
Chris Bosh has attempted 466 free-throws so far this season.
The next closest on the team is Hedo Turkoglu, with 179.
That's a pretty steep drop-off, especially considering that after Hedo, Andrea Bargnani is the next closest, and I'd hardly consider Bargs a consistent threat to get to the rim at this point. Essentially, minus Bosh, the team loses about 300 free-throw attempts, and considering Bosh makes good on about 80% of his tries, that equates to about 120 baskets, or 240 "free" points.
The past two games have really put this area under the microscope. Considering Toronto shoots the second-most free-throws per game on average as a team, it's safe to say that their abilities at the line have been a big part of their offensive success this season. The past two games not only have these attempts been down, but so have the proportion of "makes." Toronto as a team on average hits about 77 per cent from the line, minus Bosh the past two matches, the Dinos are sitting around 68%.
I can vividly remember previous versions of the Raptors which shot well from the foul line, but never got there, and I'm certainly in no rush to see a return to those days.
The Raptors aren't one of the better rebounding teams in the league, pulling down about 40 boards a game. In their past two wins, Toronto has been just below that average, so at face value, it's hard to say they're missing CB4 on the glass.
However over a smaller sample size, I do believe that removing 11 rebounds a game on average would catch up with the club. It helped that the Raps were playing a Nets team with a non-existent front-court outside of Mr. Lopez, and blown up Wizards group, but should Bosh miss more time this coming week against the likes of the Blazers and Cavs, I think things will likely become much more clear in this capacity.
In addition, it's not so much how many rebounds, but when. All season Bosh has grabbed timely rebounds on both the offensive and defensive boards and without him even against Washington, fans saw the Wizards destroy Toronto in second-chance opportunities, one of the reasons Washington was able to hang around early. For all the development in Andrea's low-post game, he's just not a great rebounder and therefore it's imperative to have someone like Bosh next to him in this regard.
Sure, maybe Reggie Evans or Amir Johnson can get double digits while cleaning the glass, but their rebounding contribution is balanced or even outweighed by their offensive deficiencies; neither of them are dropping 20 points on the opposing team...
...which brings us to my final point.
3) Offensive Consistency:
The other big thing I noticed sans-Bosh the past two games, is that Toronto's vaunted offense at times didn't seem to know where to turn. Jarrett Jack was huge in taking over down the stretch Saturday night, but without him, I shudder to think of where the scoring would have come from. Andrea after an extremely aggressive first half was nowhere to be found, Jose wasn't lighting it up to the same degree either, and Hedo Turkoglu was the only player giving the Raps any sort of offensive production from the wings outside of Antoine Wright, of all people.
There's an adjustment period of course when your team is missing its best player, and at times the Dinos seemed to forget about Andrea out there. However he still needs to demand the ball more, especially in the post, and without a consistent low-post presence, the Raps' offence sputtered at times Friday and Saturday night. Bosh gives the team a go-to option from which the team's offense can be initiated from, as he's such a mismatch against the majority of the league's bigs.
It sounds like I'm trumpeting Bosh as the "be all/end all" here and to a certain extent I am.
However this isn't like Miami without Wade, or Cleveland without Lebron - things didn't just fall apart like The Roots. Defensively, the team hardly seemed to miss a beat, an interesting note, and statistically there was very little difference without Bosh at that end of the court.
That doesn't mean I'm not anxiously awaiting Chris' return this Wednesday when Toronto takes on the Portland Trailblazers.
Again, two games is a very small sample size to draw major conclusions from and I'm just happy that Toronto's lone games in this regard were against two of the league's worst.