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Chris Bosh – Defensive Player of the Year

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Raptors' fans may see a lot more plays like this from CB4 next year...

Raptors' fans may see a lot more plays like this from CB4 next year...

Last week, Sports Illustrated’s Marty Burns released his Eastern Conference preseason rankings.

What may come as a surprise to many, was that Toronto was listed as the seventh team out of the top eight.

Seventh?

Well, it’s not impossible.

If Washington’s offense synchs with a healthy Gilbert Arenas, they could be extremely dangerous. And if adding a point guard in Mo Williams to the Cavs works out, they could be a top club as well.

In fact, Burns had the omnipresent Pistons in the sixth spot in his rankings!

So maybe this is more of a testament to the improved East than a true assessment of the Raptors chances next year.

So what would separate the Raptors from the rest of the pack?

How about these numbers?

18, 12 and 2

That would be 18 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks a game, the numbers of one Chris Bosh next season.

So far during the Olympics we’ve seen a side of Chris Bosh that we’ve rarely seen as Raptors’ fans; a shot-blocking, rotating, lock-down, defensive force. Bosh himself has joked that Raps’ fans better not get used to this look and considering the offensive burden on him each and every night, he’s probably right.

But it’s an interesting thought.

Instead of a 22 point-per-game scorer for the Dinos, what about a 12 rebounds and 2 blocks a night defensive stalwart?
Considering that Bosh in the 2006-2007 season averaged a career-high 10.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game along with 22.6 points per game, those preceding numbers aren’t out of the question are they?

I don’t believe so, especially considering that Bosh will be paired with Mr. Jermaine O’Neal next season.

As Raptors fans we’ve always sort of assumed that Bosh just didn’t have the tools to be a top-notch defender in the league but the truth is, we may never have really given him a chance. CB4 since the Vince Carter trade has always been THE focal point on offense and has still put up more than respectable defensive numbers. No he hasn’t been Kevin Garnettesque, but then again few are. But even with his best supporting cast ever the past two seasons, the former Yellow Jacket has still been the go-to-guy for Toronto.

However next year could be quite different and seeing Bosh swatting shots like flies in Beijing really has me thinking about a new Chris. It’s expected of course that O’Neal, the player who’s averaged almost two blocks a game over his career, will be the one who sets the tone defensively but why not Bosh as well?

I talked on Friday at length about the Olympic experience being invaluable to him from a "being part of a championship team" perspective but what about from a "being part of a superb defensive team" perspective as well? Could the current Team USA defensive mentality sink into Bosh to the point that he carries it over into the upcoming NBA season?

Yes, lots of questions indeed but consider this; Marcus Camby’s won the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2007 with an 11.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game average. The blocks average might be a bit steep for Bosh but the 11.7 rebounds per game mark is definitely within reach. And while I’m not ready to anoint Bosh as the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year, I do think that this Olympic experience paired with the addition of Jermaine O’Neal will have a huge impact on Toronto defensively.

And for a Raptors team that sat middle of the pack in terms of opponent field goal percentage last year, 45.8 per cent, even a slight jump in this area could make a huge difference in terms of the final Eastern Conference standings.

The Los Angeles Lakers are a great example of this.

Record-wise the team wasn’t a top dog in 2006-07, and part of this was because LA wasn’t great defensively allowing opponents to shoot 46.1 per cent from the field. However some increased defensive focus by the likes of Kobe Bryant and co, and some development from Andrew Bynum had the Lakers among the league leaders in opponent field-goal percentage last year at 44.5 per cent, and a birth in the NBA Finals resulted.

It’s not a direct correlation of course but it’s quite logical that we see a similar jump from the Raptors if the defensive effort picks up.
The same could be said about rebounding numbers too I suppose as in 2006-07 the Lakers were ninth best rebounding team in the league in terms of total rebounds and last year they jumped up five spots which also undoubtedly played a role in their improved overall record.

I think my point here is that it’s pretty exciting to look at these Laker increases, watch Chris Bosh defensively this Olympic games, and in conjunction with the Jermaine O’Neal addition, think about Toronto next year as a defensive club. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that we’ll possibly be watching the best defensive version of the Dinos in franchise history!

And that folks could very well be what separates the team from the Washingtons and the Philadelphias.

Watching Chris Bosh against Spain made me think about the legitimacy of the whole "twin towers" theory and how easy it could be for Toronto to have two top 10 rebounders in its front line.

It’s also made me think that CB4 must be elated to get to work next year with someone else helping to shoulder the load at both ends of the court.

After all, O’Neal once had 10 blocks in a game.

The team he was playing?

None other than the Toronto Raptors.

FRANCHISE