By Pardeep Toor
Amidst the Cleveland Cavaliers' and more importantly LeBron James' disappointing exit from the playoffs this year, the rumblings of 2010 have re-surfaced, for no other reason than the average T.V. browser doesn't know who Hedo Turkoglu is. It's just easier to talk about LeBron, especially when he addresses the media in a New York Yankees' hat. Oh Bron' Bron' you so silly (*a baby cries on the third floor of an abandoned apartment building, wearing only a Cleveland Cavaliers' bib*).
Personally, I'm indifferent to where LeBron plays after next season. Wherever he plays, I'm sure a good majority of his games will be nationally televised and he will continue to be fun to watch -- I'm spiritually detached to the outcome of his seasons, career, legacy -- he's just entertainment to me. But, when his name is violently linked to that of my brotha', guru, personal basketball Jesus and last remaining hope for Canadian basketball, Chris Bosh, I fret. I worry. I've yet to cry but I've been close.
For some reason, Bosh has become the gigolo of the 2010 NBA offseason. Any fan base just casually inserts his name into their future rebuilding plans, confidently assuming that he could be easily had for the right price. Pistons' fans have been guilty of this all year, taunting Raptors' fans (specifically me) by referring to him as "FPCB," as in, "Future Piston Chris Bosh." That's hilarious.
Maybe this is racism (Nation-ism?) against Canadians, I don't know, but before Pistons' fans crown Bosh as the post-Billups era savior, it's worth delving into the nature of his game, abilities and potential. I'm no expert, but I have been following his career with the Raptors rather religiously and I did pick him as one of my favorite basketball players in a Facebook quiz, so that's gotta count for something.
Who is Chris Bosh?
He's got sweet dreads.
His numbers have been nearly identical the last four years:
2005-06: 22.5 pts, 9.2 reb, 2.6 ast, 1.1 blocks, 50.5 FG%, 81.6 FT% (on 8.3 FTA)
2006-07: 22.6 pts, 10.7 reb, 2.5 ast, 1.3 blocks, 49.6 FG%, 78.5 FT% (8.6 FTA)
2007-08: 22.3 pts, 8.7 reb, 2.6 ast, 1.0 blocks, 49.4 FG%, 84.4 FT% (8.3 FTA)
2008-09: 22.7 pts, 10.0 reb, 2.5 ast, 1.0 blocks, 28.7 FG%, 81.7 FT% (8.0 FTA)
Those numbers, though quite exceptional, suggest a plateau in performance. Those teams won 27, 47, 41 and 33 games respectively, making the playoffs twice, both times being eliminated in the first round.
This past season, Bosh was one of only six players (Dwight Howard, Troy Murphy, David Lee, Tim Duncan, Emeka Okafor were the others) to average a double-double, with Bosh having the highest scoring average of all those players.
The numbers are elite, the supporting cast has been solid (A core of Bosh, Andrea Bargnani, Marion and Jose Caledron should have been better than the bottom four teams in the Eastern Conference), so why hasn't a Bosh-led team been able to consistently win and advance in the playoffs? At some point, does Bosh have to burden some of the blame?
Bosh is unique in that he has the game of a small forward (driving to the hoop, shooting range) in a power forward's body. Defensively he gets bullied in the post by stronger players like Garnett, Sheed and Howard (but Howard can't guard Bosh either -- Bosh averaged 24/13 on 53% in four games against Orlando this year). Offensively, he's efficient, but has rarely single-handedly taken over games late.
Barring on-court epiphany similar in magnitude to T-Pain, CB4 is Pau Gasol. If he improves defensively, then maybe Kevin Garnett. Players who are perfect 1A superstars in the league. They will put up mad numbers but for whatever reason, those numbers correlate more with All-Star game appearances than winning and playoff success.
This isn't a bad thing by any means, it's just a warning to free agent hungry teams next summer who have visions of building their team around Bosh.
Why is Chris Bosh available?
He's not. Yet.
Historically, the Toronto Raptors have had a difficult time holding on to their superstars (Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Damon Stoudamire, Oliver Miller) but it's never been the franchise's fault. All those superstars did us wrong, they broke our hearts (Oliver ate our hearts), teased us with hopes and dreams of championships only to bolt stateside without explanation.
The media treats the Raptors like a farm system that develops talent for the benefit for the sole purpose of feeding it to crummy teams down south. It's frustrating, infuriating and really starting to get old. Should Bosh leave, his departure will have a monumental impact on the future of the NBA in Toronto (and the future of basketball in my heart, but nobody cares about that). There are only so many superstars one franchise can find, only so many rebuilding periods the Raptors can go through before the city starts losing faith in the sport.
(This is the point where David Stern steps in and encourages Bosh to stay in Toronto ... I'm relying on you Sternsy).
Where will he sign in 2010?
1) Toronto Raptors: Despite the abysmal season, the Raptors aren't that far off from contending. They have cap space this off-season which they can use to overpay Hedo Turkoglu ($10-12 million), resign Marion on the cheap, pay the ninth pick in this year's draft that I hope they use on Earl Clark -- and just like that we have a top-four seed in the East.
Americans rarely get to see the Canadian Chris Bosh -- the one who pulls in every single national endorsement deal in Canada (including a record/multimedia deal with Warner Bros. Canada) He was even the national weatherman for a day:
Even with all the hockey rage, there isn't a more recognizable face in current Canadian sports than Chris Bosh. He's engulfed in this community -- and by community I mean the entire country, not just the city of Toronto. Obviously, anything is possible, so I don't want to sound confident and by no means am I an objective observer of the situation. I want him to stay in Toronto and I think a lot of signs do point to him staying (except for the trade rumors).
2) San Antonio Spurs: I'm a huge fan of symmetry, which is why I have a hunch that the Spurs are targeting Chris Bosh. Bosh becomes Duncan to Duncan's Robinson ... I think that makes sense. The Spurs have only two players under contract for the 2010/11 season (Parker and Duncan), Bosh is a Texas kid, and he could slowly step into the spotlight as Duncan continues his journey to the Hall of Fame.
3) Wherever LeBron Goes: I can see it. See it as a package deal similar to Grant Hill/Tracy McGrady to the Magic and Corey Maggette/Ronny Turiaf to Warriors (kind of ... I really want Nellie's Warriors to be 2007 good again). Bosh is a perfect complement to LeBron because of his athleticism and shooting range. Together they could go small by moving Bosh to center and LeBron to PF and then run the pick and roll together at the top of the key. Can you image an opposing team's four and five trying to guard a LeBron/Bosh pick and roll? Impossible.
Somewhere down the line ...
??) Detroit Pistons: I don't see it. I just don't. As of right now, the Pistons are far from an attractive destination for free agents. After signing their universally adored (around the league) franchise point guard, they abruptly traded him away for cap purposes (no disrespect, eh?), have stubbornly anointed Rodney Stuckey as the savior even though he's proven very little, have failed to develop young players (Max, Amir), employ a lame duck coach in Michael Curry and are trying to build around an aging and limited foundation in Prince and Hamilton. Also, Allen Iverson is a pretty popular player around the league, and I bet other superstars would side with him in the conflicts with the Pistons organization.
Or I could be wrong, Bosh will sign with the Pistons and by doing so, permanently remove himself from my Facebook fab-five, but I wouldn't bet on it.