The Raps are suddenly playing decent basketball and appear to be clicking on close to all cylinders. It's a sight for sore eyes, and after blowing out their most recent opponent on Friday, it was even more refreshing to see the Raps win a close game yesterday afternoon.
In a rare late matinée affair Raps fans who are still tuning into these late season games (and trust us, if you go to Stubhub you will see how little interest there is with great tickets going for as low as $25) were rewarded with a pretty solid tilt against a Chicago team trying to secure their place in the second season. Although the game never should have ended in overtime, the Raps actually managed to get a break or two in key moments of the game and played the role of spoiler with a 134-129 victory.
I won't belittle the win, because it was nice to see, but as Franchise and I were discussing post game, this match would have been a lot more fun to watch had it been say...40 games ago. Of course you could say that about this little winning streak as well. As discussed in the last post, winning games is a catch 22 at this point. What is most disappointing is that this team's season could have been much different had the schedule makers put this slate of games earlier in the year when the team desperately needed to gain momentum. Nevertheless, it's too late. No matter how many sub .500 teams they beat, the writing is on the wall.
There are definitely some positives to take from yesterday's game. First and foremost, the team looked like and played like "a team". Every player who Triano put on the floor did some positive things. The guys seem to be having fun out there for the first time in what seems like forever. Much of the boisterous laugher seen from the bench was due to the sick dunks and effort put forth by Pops Mensah-Bonsu. Extra credit however, goes to Jose Calderon who was terrific all afternoon, matching the franchise record for assists in a game with 19 and, of course, Bosh and Bargnani who were a force combining for 59 points and 21 rebounds.
For all the positives though, there were of course some negatives and some big one's at that. Negative No. 1? The fact that after leading almost wire to wire the Raps once again let their guard down and had to fight, claw, and rely on a brutal lay-up miss from ROY candidate Derrick Rose to help get to OT. How badly did the Raps let their guard down? The Bulls, or rather Rose and Ben Gordon scorched the Raps for 42 points in the fourth. FORTY-TWO POINTS?! That's a half-time score!!
The Raps' poor perimeter defense was once again exposed and the Bulls relied on their excellent wing play and lights out shooting to make a game of it. The Raps had absolutely no answer for Ben Gordon. Anthony Parker provided little resistance defensively and on the flip side, Gordon didn't have to exert much energy defensively either.
The wing position continues to be a problem for this team. That's not news to anyone that has watched more than a handful of games this season. What was "new" or "newsworthy" this game, was the great interview Elliot Friedman conducted with Bryan Colangelo.
Friedman, in just a short period of the time, put BC through the ringer on a variety of topics. Although my HD CBC broadcast was choppy at best, here's the brief run down (in order of importance):
1.Pops Mensah-Bonsu: Having signed him for the season he will be an restricted free agent and the Raps will be looking to match.
2.Jay Triano: In a position to remove the interim tag, definitely not out of the running.
3.Chris Bosh: No comments on whether he is a "max" player and things will come to a head this summer.
As important as the first two points are, it is the third, which really deserves the most attention as it will be the hot issue going forward. When asked at half whether he thought CB4 would be around next season Jack Armstrong answered, "50/50".
I think that's over estimating it.
The summer of 2010 has been discussed ad nauseam and the focus has primarily been on three players from the 2003 draft class: Lebron James, D. Wade and the Raptors own CB4, in that order. All three of them having signed shortened extensions after their rookie deals (as opposed to Carmelo Anthony) will be looking for the big pay day, and another maximum deal in 2010.
Based on discussions we've had with people associated with the organization, don't expect to see CB4 sign that deal in TO...or at least they are not denying the possibility when asked, and have mentioned that BC may just not be able to keep him around.
There are two reasons why this would be true.
1. He Just Wants Out
This summer will determine Bosh's future. What that future is lies in CB4's hands as much as it does in Colangelo's.
The blunt reality is if CB4 simply wants out, and if the old adage "Where there is smoke there's fire" is true, then little more needs to be said.
In the NBA world there are rumours everyday. This is why people read sites like RealGM and Hoopshype. People like myself love the ESPN Trade Machine and reading about possible deals. It was not that long ago that everyone's favorite reporter, Mr. Stephen A. Smith, came out and stated that CB4 had asked for a trade from the Raps.
The Raps denied.
SAS didn't back down.
Since the deadline has come and gone all things went relatively quiet, but now the grumblings are starting to surface again. As reported by Marc Stein, it looks like Golden State has started to inquire again about Bosh's possible availability this summer and,
"Chicago is another team considered a certain Bosh bidder should the Raps decide it's easier to start over, rather than try again to assemble a team successful enough next season to convince Bosh to stay in Canada as opposed to leaving as a free agent in the summer of 2010."
It could be the case that Bosh has already "checked-out".
2. He Wants the Max
As much as BC may want Bosh in a Raps uniform for the next 5-6 years it will only happen if the price is right. If Bosh wants maximum dollars, expect a trade. As much as the franchise was happy to give him one just a few years ago, they shouldn't be, and hopefully won't be, willing to do it again. On the flip side, if Bosh wants to win he won't ask for those dollars either.
The reality is Bosh isn't a max guy, statistically or otherwise. First let's look at the stats, in particular the statistics of those guys who undoubtedly will be getting the max next summer - Lebron James and D. Wade.
05/06 31.4 ppg / 7 rpg /6.6 apg
06/07 27.3 ppg / 6.7 rpg / 6 apg
07/08 30 ppg / 7.9 rpg / 7.2 apg
08/09 28.4 ppg /7.7 rpg / 7.3 apg
Been to the Finals. Multiple playoff series wins.
05/06 27.3 ppg / 5.7 rpg / 6.7 apg
06/07 27.4 ppg / 4.7 rpg / 7.5 apg
07/08 24.6 ppg / 4.2 rpg / 6.9 apg
09/09 29.8 ppg / 5.1 rpg / 7.5 apg
NBA Champion. Finals MVP.
05/06 22.5 ppg / 9.2 rpg / 2.6 apg
06/07 22.6 ppg / 10.7 rpg / 2.5 apg
07/08 22.3 ppg / 8.7 rpg / 2.6 apg
08/09 22.6 ppg / 9.6 rpg / 2.5 apg
No playoff wins.
From a statistical standpoint there really is no comparison. Bosh is statistically the far weaker of the three. Of course, that does not mean that the market won't bear maximum. Bosh is consistently a 20 and (near) 10 player. Who else in the NBA does that and what are they being paid this season?
The list is an interesting one, and keep in mind there are no perfect comparisons:
Antwan Jamison – $9.9 million
Zack Randolph - $14.6 million
Amare Stoudamire - $15 million
David West - $9.8 million
Al Jefferson - $11.0 million
Some solid players, with a serious exception.
Based on those salaries, should Bosh sign for the max he would be the highest paid player on this list, and in some cases by a wide margin. Does that seem right to you? Keep in mind that this season there are six big men with more double-doubles than CB4, but on the flip side CB4 has the 10th highest PER in the league.
I look at it two ways.
The first is...would you rather have two David West's or one CB4? I for one would take the former.
The second is this – There is no way to validate paying him more.
Over the past four seasons Bosh's numbers have been steady, but have not risen. He is currently on a contract that pays him $14.4 million for this season. Given that he seems to have plateaued, what is the incentive to pay him more, in particular when the salary cap is going down?
To do so would go against all logic.
Why would you pay more, for the same thing, when you have less cash? The only exception would be Rogers cable bills during a recession.
The only time you would agree to pay more is if you were originally under paying for your return on investment (in this case wins).
This is where the argument gets a little subjective. Lebron and Wade on their own, are simply dominant. Bosh, on the other hand is "just" really good. Despite all his talents, Bosh needs help to win. This year is evidence of that. The Raptors success over past seasons have come when the team has had talent around Bosh. Like KG when he was with Minny, he can't do it alone, as opposed to the other two guys on that list. Wade and Lebron can carry a team, and the NBA currently is regulated so that wing players of their ilk have an advantage. They control the flow of the game and while not point guards, really are the the motors that drive their club. Bosh can't/doesn't do this and that's why you hear people talking about how Bosh would be the perfect second fiddle to Lebron or Wade.
With the economy the way it is, and a decreasing cap, teams will need to be a lot more conservative in how they distribute dollars and that includes top end guys. If Bosh wants those dollars it likely won't be in TO. The return on investment with Bosh, just isn't good enough to merit maximum dollars.
The other factor in all of this is Bargnani.
It's easy to forget that Bargs will be looking for serious dollars as well and given his play as of late, it will be hard for BC not to accommodate. He could be looking for anywhere from $10 million per season to what Lebron is currently making.
In many ways BC's cart is tied to Bargnani. For a man with as much pride as BC has, Il Mago's play as of late has to be a huge relief. Bargnani, believe it or not, is becoming a very good player, before our eyes. Suddenly it's not out of the realm of possibility that Bargs could become the "franchise guy"...which is of course, is what you want out of a number one pick. Over the last three months Bargs has averaged over 19 ppg and 6 rpg. He is starting to have a real presence on the floor and his confidence in himself is more and more apparent.
Suddenly, that is a lot of cash invested in two guys, neither of whom are particularly good at creating their own shot or making others around them better, the two things you should want and get from a maximum player. One is going to have to go, and it's going to be the more expensive of the two.
Trading CB4 will be a very difficult move for BC to make. People will be highly critical of the move and any deal will be highly scrutinized. Further, whatever deal is done, the Raptors will need to reap immediate benefits. The Raps organization does not want to be known as the franchise that always deals its best players, even if it makes sense.
Of course the last piece to this puzzle is that if Bosh gets moved it will have to be a team he is willing to not only move to, but be willing to re-sign with. I don't think that is a long list. Bosh will only want to go to big market cities where he can continue to build his persona. He is a very charismatic guy, as evidenced by his exploits in the world of Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and his appearance on CTV News and of course the appearance on the Tonight Show. It's not unfair of him to want to be in a city and situation where he can have the best opportunity to maximize his marketability like the other members of the 2003 draft class.
If I were a betting man I'd put my money on Bosh rocking the jersey of the team the Raps matched up with yesterday.
In some ways I hope I am wrong and things will work out, but after a few conversations and looking at the facts, my advice is to cop some cheap tickets off Stubhub and catch CB4 while you still can.