We’re just sitting down, but we already know how the movie ends. This season will end in an NBA Finals between the Cavaliers and Warriors, as it was foretold by a weak Eastern Conference and a Kevin Durant signing.
While giving a trilogy of Finals matchups its Return of the King moment is exciting, it can leave those on the outside of Oracle and the Q (we the 99%) feeling a little hopeless as the season gets underway. Sure, there are plenty of interesting things happening around the league — new faces, young powers, the almighty questions of continuity. But in a league where radio heads sit on weird podiums and tell us, “it’s all about a championship”, it can lead anyone to sigh and wonder... what are we doing here?
Thankfully, the Raptors have clamoured over the shoulders of other teams, and are one of a handful of prime spoilers, squads that are one piece (or one LeBron ankle injury) away from a Finals berth. Like we heard throughout the playoffs last year, you just have to win and be there to spoil the party. Toronto has balloon pins ready to go.
In order to really boost their chances, though, the Raptors need to acquire a starting power forward. Ever since Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan ascended after the Rudy Gay trade, Toronto has been tailor-made for a stretchy four that the guards can throw the ball into. Despite a 32-point season opener for Jonas Valanciunas, which suggests he’s ready to graduate from cleanup duty, Lowry and DeRozan still run this offense ad nauseam. To be a more well-rounded team, and to take a load off their backcourt minutes, Toronto needs that high post threat. And look, Jared Sullinger is hurt now. They need it bad.
So three years into heavy minutes for Lowry and DeRozan, and with the team closer than ever to breaking through (we hope), the time has never been better for an acquisition.
This is my attempt to diagnose the Raptors’ need. I want to dream out loud about power forwards who can fit the gap in the Raptors offense, and look at how they fit basketball-wise and feels-wise. Then we can pass judgment and deem the nominee fit or unfit.
Let’s start this thing with the man, the former Raptor, the Nickelodeon Teen Choice Award attendee pictured above: Chris Bosh.
Bosh, as he’s told everyone over the last month, is not retired. He wants to come back to the league after two years of basketball cut short for blood clotting. However, the 32-year-old forward is sitting for now, as a contentious contract situation with Pat Riley and the Miami HEAT has broken out.
Riley has refused to play Bosh, and now is looking for opportunities to get out of his contract. Miami has to wait until February 9 to release Bosh in order for him to come off their cap this season, but with maximum salt engaged, it looks like Riley will wait until after March 1 — to ensure Bosh isn’t playoff-eligible elsewhere.
Another caveat, if Bosh plays at least 25 games with any other team, playoffs or regular season, his salary returns to Miami’s cap. The most recent news on Bosh suggests he will take the year off entirely, and look for a new home in the off-season.
For the Raptors’ purposes, let’s assume he’s getting a bunch of independent doctors to clear him and he’s joining the team next year. This is a god dream after all, and it’s not like Masai Ujiri has been adverse to the long game.
The Basketball Fit
The tragic thing about the Bosh situation is that, skill-wise, he’s certainly not over the hill. In 53 games last season, he was still putting up good numbers: 19.1 points per game on 47% shooting and 37% from deep, to go with 7.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
His game also fits with what the Raptors need from a power forward. Ironically, it’s the same stuff he brought for seven seasons: a great mid-range game, ability to step out and shoot threes (especially from the corners), and a good-to-great ability to rebound.
Bosh’s 100.3 defensive rating was also one of the best on Miami last year, strong amidst a shallow frontcourt — one the Raptors gladly took advantage of in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Emotional Fit
I can personally guarantee that Bosh’s emotional fit with the Raptors team and the city of Toronto will be seamless.
CB4 was the only bridge between two very good Raptors teams — the Vince Carter teams of the early ought’s and the deep, talented team here today. He was the lone bright spot in a mecca of European experimentation, a vivid basketball personality who threw down weird dunks, had unabashed dreads, and never had a bad word to say about Canada. He also kind of looked like a dinosaur, which really helped his credibility.
The guy was a stud too, averaging 24 and ten in his last Raptors season, always steady while we waited for Andrea Bargnani to be good. Look at this guy.
The Raptors don’t have a storied franchise history, but if you had to pick a “Mount Rushmore”, Chris Bosh is right there as Teddy Roosevelt. His return to the Raptors, while not entirely likely, would make sense from a sentimental and a basketball standpoint.
Truth be told, though, my base desire personally is for Bosh to be healthy. Blood clots are frightening, especially for professional athletes who succeed and fail in the spotlight. Bosh is so obviously a fantastic ambassador for the sport too, human and funny off the court, tenacious and humble on it. A healthy return to the NBA for Bosh, something he so clearly wants to happen, would be a beautiful sight for Raptors fans — whether he’s in white and red or not.