Here ye, here ye, the annual RaptorsHQ end-of-season roundtable is now in session...
One of the best things about the new online world is the bevy of opinions you can get on a subject. Justin Bieber, Insane Clown Posse video parodies, Betty White, you name it, someone's got a take on it. The same goes for the Toronto Raptors and that's why for this year's Roundtable, we've grabbed three of our most respected Raptor journalists for the task; The National Post's Bruce Arthur, Slam, NBA.com and The Score's Holly MacKenzie, and the Globe and Mail's Michael Grange.
I asked them each four questions regarding the near-future of the Raps, and here were the results:
1) I'm Chris Bosh. I know I can make more money here in Toronto than anywhere else, yet I've been with this team for 7 seasons and the club has only won an average of 36 games during that time period. Do I stay and give management another shot, perhaps forcing a trade down the road? Or do I get the hell out of dodge this summer via a sign-and-trade?
M. Grange - If you're an ambitious guy with the world at your feet, would you spend the most productive years of your working life with Hedo Turkoglu and DeMar DeRozan, hoping you don't play Cleveland in the first round? Or would take your chances with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah and whoever else they can round up in in Chicago, or better yet team up with Wade and some other high-priced talent in Miami -- Miami!! -- and try to make a real name for yourself by making a run at an NBA title. This is a no-brainer.
B. Arthur - If I'm Chris Bosh, I'm gone. I look around at Andrea Bargnani and Hedo Turkoglu, and I sigh. I want to win - really win - and I've never really played with an All-Star perimeter player. So I sign with Miami and play a strong second fiddle to Dwyane Wade, or I join up with LeBron/Wade/Joe Johnson in New York, or I sign in Chicago, providing they can acquire a shooting guard who can shoot. But I figure I've spent enough time trying to get other guys to care like I care in the Raptors room, and I move on. Being the East's Pau Gasol isn't so bad.
H. MacKenzie - As a loyal man who does love Toronto as the city that has become my home, I hold the upper hand and see what Bryan Colangelo comes up with before I decide to take the money and get that sign and trade. I've made it clear that I want a stud swingman. They've conveyed that they are willing to pay the tax. Who are they going to get? It's not that Colangelo hasn't tried to make moves to help me, it's just that the moves he has made have not been the right ones. This is pulling-the-rabbit-out-of-the-hat time. I want a swingman. If I get him and believe that I can lead the team with a legit number two guy at my side, it would mean more to win with this franchise being the face of it. Showing those that have doubted me that I CAN do it. If I don't believe Colangelo can get me the guy I want/need to play with or if he comes up with someone cheaper or underwhelming, it's time to go somewhere else. I've earned this free agency. Impress me.
2) I liken the Bosh situation to a relationship with the high maintenance girl, where after a while, you get sick of putting up with the drama and the fact that you're the only person caring about the future, and you move on. So assuming then that BC is forced to move Bosh via sign-and-trade, can the Raptors reasonably expect to get much in return? The one thing Colangelo might have going for him is that since numerous teams have the cap space to compete for Bosh's services via sign-and-trade, this might result in multiple offers and a bit of a bidding war.
B. Arthur - There have, in NBA history, been two sign-and-trades that netted anything resembling a significant return. In one, Detroit lucked into Ben Wallace. In the other, Phoenix - and Bryan Colangelo - uncovered Boris Diaw. I suspect a bidding war isn't happening, because I suspect Bosh will make a decision to go to one team, and one team only. And while it's great that Colangelo has pulled one of these suckers off before, it's essentially a matter of garnering the most possible pennies on the dollar. Is David Lee the best-case scenario? Maybe, if you wanted the worst defensive frontcourt in human history. Magic time, Bryan.
H. MacKenzie - I don't think you ever get back what you give when you go the sign-and-trade route. You're losing the ultimate prize when the guy you wanted is electing to play somewhere else, so you try to get something back rather than being left scrambling with nothing. As you mention, Colangelo will have to hope he can work the teams that want Bosh against one other, getting them to up the ante or throw in some extra pieces to win out. I suppose the mode of thinking when it comes to a S&T is that something is better than nothing, but hopefully for Raptors fans that something won't be another headache of pieces that don't fit.
M. Grange - You could also make the case that Bosh is the determined, steady partner who has hung in there year after year, waiting for the big reward -- a chance to play on a winning team -- and keeps getting let down because the partner talks a big game but can't make it happen. Now he's had enough and is going to look elsewhere. Whatever. If you presume everyone else re-signs -- which is a serious possibility -- then yes, Bosh and the Raptors might have some leverage and theoretically get a sweeter deal. But does that mean the Lakers are going to offer up Pau Gasol instead of Andrew Bynum? That might be wishful thinking.
3) So it's safe to say that none of us share a rosy outlook on the results of any sign-and-trade scenario. Taking that one step further then, if Toronto can't get anything significant in return for Bosh, how bad will this team be next year? Throw out a win/loss range, or, if you prefer, number of angry twitter and blog comments each of you expect to receive next year from fans/readers...
B. Arthur: Well, it depends on which direction Colangelo goes. Since he seems to believe they're not that far away, add a free agent or two with the salary cap space left over, and a draft pick. If you had the same roster minus Bosh, plus those additions, I'd peg them at between 27 and 35 wins, with the variation based on a bounce-back year for Hedo, progression for Bargnani, and maybe better chemistry and coaching. But it's hard to say how this team will do, since I fully expect it to be altered, perhaps radically. Colangelo won't sit still, I suspect. As for fan anger - well, let's just say it might be a good idea to keep your pitchforks handy, so that when the revolution comes you don't feel left out.
M. Grange: Every year I get asked this question and every year I'm overly optimistic, though I think for 2009-10 I preguessed 43 wins, so maybe spot on if Bosh doesn't break his mustache bone. If the Raptors do a deal with NY or Miami, they will suck. It seems impossible, but the Raptors would get even worse defensively with the addition of Lee or Beasley. Beasley is without a doubt the worst defensive player in the NBA, at least in my eyes. Lee is in the conversation. The counterintuitive positive spin is the Raps get Bynum and he plays 75 games. If those events come to pass -- and I'd start hunting my couch folds for old lottery ticket stubs if they did -- the Raps would be a much better, more balanced team than they've been perhaps ever.
With Beez or Lee? 32 wins; with a healthy Bynum? 48 wins and a division title.
H. MacKenzie: Even in a best-case sign and trade scenario, the Raptors are not going to get back equal value for Chris. Somehow, I think Colangelo will find a way to pull of other moves so if nothing else, the team has fresh faces and the allure of a makeover to start the season. Much needed to go along with the dread that comes from losing your franchise player... Again. This team missed the playoffs with one of the best players in the league on it's roster, partially because they had nine new faces. I don't think we will assume they'll make it without him, but with more new faces. The number of angry Twitter and/or blog comments about this team just skyrocketed thank to Mr. Bosh's decision to tweet about where, ahem, whether he should go next year. That being said, it should be another eventful season.
4) I echo everyone's sentiments here and feel that wins next year could be extremely hard to come by for Toronto. It's been proven that on average, over 70% of an NBA team's wins come from its top three players, and considering the Raptors are facing the loss of Bosh, their top statistical producer by a wide margin, and are still searching for consistent second and third options, it's pretty hard to buy Bryan Colangelo's "we'll be fine next season" rhetoric. So if this team does crash and burn next year, finishing in the 25 to 30 win range, should Colangelo be fired?
B. Arthur: That's plenty of ifs, but let's say that's what happens, and that Colangelo didn't pull the trigger on a rebuild by moving out money, leaving a 25-30 win window as the expectation. If so, he won't need to be fired; it's the last year of his deal, and MLSE could just let him walk away. Should he be fired? Well, he would have painted this team into something resembling a fiscal corner, lost the team's franchise player, and failed to build anything resembling a winner, so ... well, let's just say the argument can be made without too much effort.
H. MacKenzie: I think it's fair to say and assume that next season is judgement day, if you will, for Bryan Colangelo. He's known that Chris Bosh would be a free agent and while he has tried to surround him with the correct pieces (Jermaine O'Neal and then Hedo Turkoglu, even if they didn't work, the effort was there), if/when Bosh leaves, it's on Colangelo to fit the pieces back together and put a winning model on the floor. This is partially dependent on what happens with Bosh this summer. Does Colangelo allow him to walk? If he does the sign and trade, which assets does he get in return? Whether or not Colangelo should retain his job, well that's dependent upon what MLSE deems acceptable for their franchise and their fanbase. It should be interesting, perhaps painful as well, but definitely interesting.
M. Grange: Should Colangelo be fired? I'm going to say no. Not to suggest I know the guy, but I have dealt with him enough to be convinced of his passion for and committment to the task. He has significant credibility within the industry and lends that to the franchise, even if the results have been below expectations, his especially. I also don't trust Richard Peddie to find someone better. The guy has built good teams before; he's built at least one good one here. I'd say give him a training session on how to manage external expectations and ride it out.