July 1, 2010. Depending on who you ask, it is either the beginning of something beautiful… or the end of a franchise as we know it. It’s a day that teams have spent two years fantasizing about, two years creating cap-space for, and two years telling their fans that it would be the day they turned their franchise around.
With all the big-name free agents already eliminated from the playoffs, it’s not too early to look ahead to the possibilities of this summer.
Once that day finally hits, where will LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, and others be headed? While we can’t predict the future, we can see which teams are the best fit for these free-agents-to-be. This week, we start with Chris Bosh and his new “fave five.”
Chris Bosh is the most coveted big man to hit the market this offseason. Reports recently surfaced that Bosh had informed the Toronto Raptors of five teams he prefers to sign with. The interesting thing about the list is that it includes teams that Bosh would only be able to go to in a sign-and-trade. According to ESPN:
The list of five teams — Toronto plus the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and New York Knicks, sources said — was given to Toronto management in case the Raptors want to construct a sign-and-trade deal (assuming Bosh doesn’t re-sign with Toronto).
Bosh likes that option, sources told Ford, because he’d get one more year on his contract and could make more money.
As noted above, the sign-and-trade works out for both sides because the Raptors wouldn’t lose Bosh for nothing and Bosh would be able to sign a longer, wealthier contract with his new team.
While some might say that all Bosh has in mind is making more money, I think this is a classy move on his part; it shows the Raptors that although he may not be intent on re-signing with them, he does not want to shortchange the team that gave him his pro career should he choose to leave.
With that being said, let’s take a look at which of those five teams fits Bosh best and where he will most likely end up:
First things first, let’s start with the team that Bosh is still a member of, the Raptors. Toronto is the team that can pay Bosh the most and give him the longest contract, regardless of the sign-and-trade option. Bosh is a loyal person who would love to stay with the team that drafted him, but also a player who knows nothing is more important in this league than winning.
Since the regular season ended and Bosh officially became a free agent, one key goal that has been said to sway his decision is the idea that Bosh wants to be the proverbial “Man.” Of the five teams on his list, Toronto seems to be the only place where Bosh can guarantee he will remain top dog of the team. While it is debatable whether Bosh is really a guy that can lead his team as the top option or better off as someone’s sidekick, Bosh knows that if he is going to have an offense run through him, it will most likely only happen in Toronto.
Another advantage that the Raptors have is familiarity. Bosh is familiar with the city, the fans, the offense, his teammates, and the entire franchise. Most importantly, Bosh knows that the Raptors and their fans will always remain loyal to him; when times get rough they have his back through and through. The same can’t be said for impatient fans in New York and Los Angeles, or even Chicago and Miami, all franchises and fan bases who will expect results and title contention immediately.
While those are both enticing advantages, Bosh also realizes that the Raptors are basically financially tied up for the next couple of years. Unless Toronto management is able to make some trades to bring in more talent, Bosh is basically stuck with what he has around him. Meaning an overpaid Hedo Turkoglu, a center (Andrea Bargnani) who would rather shoot threes than bang inside, and two point guards (Jarret Jack and Jose Calderon) who are so inconsistent, neither could grab the starting point guard role from the other.
Loyalty will only be a part of the reason Bosh decides to stay or go, and its importance on his decision can only go so far. If Bosh truly wants to win and cement a legacy, Toronto is probably not the place for him to be.
Odds of Signing:
50/50 – Unless the Raptors can guarantee him some personnel changes, I doubt Bosh sticks around very long past July 1st.
New York Knicks:
The team looking to make the biggest splash this offseason is none other than the New York Knicks. They have enough money to spend on two max-contract players, and Bosh is definitely an option they want to explore.
As Alicia Keyes so graciously put it, it’s New York, you know, the “Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do.” Despite his great numbers this season, Bosh was playing in obscure Toronto, where his superstar light can only shine so much. In New York, CB4 will have the opportunity to cement himself as one of the best power forwards in the league, with the publicity that he rightfully deserves.
New York also offers Bosh the opportunity to team with another superstar in a two-man show that could be forever known as the duo that resurrected pro-basketball in the Big Apple. Bosh could quickly become a global icon, a poor-man’s Scottie Pippen to another superstar’s Michael Jordan in one of the most important cities in the league.
There is absolutely no guarantee that Bosh will be able to team up with another superstar. The Knicks have the money for it, but if Dwyane Wade and LeBron James decide to stay with their teams or go to greener pastures in Chicago/New Jersey/Los Angeles, Bosh will be left with a second-tier star to try and re-establish an already struggling franchise.
Another issue: the Knicks have all of four players under contract for next season. Hypothetically, if they add Bosh and another superstar, the Knicks will have only six players on their roster, and no more cap-room to fill out the rest of the squad. Granted, you may have some veteran free agents willing to take the minimum to play with the Knicks new stars, the rest of the roster will be made up of unproven, young players who could hinder the Knicks in big-game situations.
Odds of Signing:
70/30 – A lot of what Bosh does with the Knicks could depend on who else they are able to sign, if LeBron or D-Wade end up in New York, odds are Bosh would have a tough time turning the Knicks down. If New York is unable to land another star, they instantly become much less appealing to Bosh.
Of the five teams on the list, Chicago is the only one that offers a very-talented core of young players for Bosh to team with. In a city looking for a superstar since a certain guard left 12 years ago, Bosh could be a savior.
Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng. Three players with star-potential that offer Bosh a better young supporting cast than any other team on the list. The key word there is young. While the Lakers might have a more talented roster, the Bulls are a team with core players who still have long careers ahead of them. Bosh can step in and instantly become the unquestioned, veteran leader of an up-and-coming squad.
Another key that could work for Bosh is the fact that the Bulls have max money and also some key pieces that could make a sign-and-trade possible. Let’s say hypothetically the Bulls are able to pry LeBron James away from the Cavs, then they package Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich, and some draft picks and ship them over to Toronto for Bosh. While the Bulls would lose Noah, they would have a core of Chris Bosh/LeBron James/Derrick Rose/Luol Deng for the next 5-7 years, a team that instantly becomes the best in the East and a title contender.
Bosh will be going into a good situation roster-wise with the Bulls, but there are no guarantees that all the Bulls young players will develop into the stars they are projected to be. Luol Deng is a great player but he has been injury-plagued, and entering his eight season, Bulls fans fear Deng has reached his potential. Noah has had one great rebounding season in his career, but there is no guarantee he can duplicate this season’s success. The only guarantee for Bosh is Rose, who should be the best point guard in the league in a few years if he continues to grow at this rate.
The weight of the expectations of a city are also something that could come back to haunt Bosh. As mentioned before, a big question facing Bosh is whether or not he is actually an alpha-male kind of player or if he would be better off as playing second-star to another player. The Bulls are a franchise with six titles that has been suffering since 1998, and Chicago is a city that will not allow Bosh’s shortcomings to slide by without him hearing about it.
Odds of Signing:
80/20 – If Bosh leaves Toronto, the Bulls are the best bet to rein in the big man. They offer a blend of youth and talent no other team can give Bosh, a combination that may be too attractive to turn down.
One of the biggest question marks of any team this offseason, the Heat could leave this summer as the unquestioned top team in the NBA. They offer Bosh the best opportunity of teaming with a superstar guard (Wade) and one more All-Star teammate (Carlos Boozer anyone?), but the uncertainty surrounding the roster makes them the great unknown.
Although Dwyane Wade is going to be a free agent courted by many teams, for all intents and purposes people seem to be set on the idea that he will re-sign with the Heat if they bring in some talent around him. Bosh provides exactly the kind of talent that Wade will be looking for. For Bosh, he will be able to team with another superstar who already has a championship pedigree.
Miami has also spent the past couple of months setting themselves up to create a championship-caliber squad. Pat Riley is on record as saying he wants to build a dynasty this summer, and Bosh could figure greatly into those plans. Bosh signing almost guarantees Wade stays, and adding Boozer or another All-Star caliber player with the remaining cap-space makes this team an instant title-contender. Add that to the fact that Bosh can sign a contract with no state taxes, meaning a higher salary than almost any other team, and Miami may just have the inside track.
Surprisingly, there are not many cons to playing in Miami. The weather is always beautiful, Bosh has the opportunity to team up with a superstar in Wade, and as mentioned before, no state taxes! However, those blessings could also turn into some serious issues. The Miami nightlife is something that could become a huge distraction to any player, especially one who has been locked up in Toronto for the last seven years of his career.
While playing with Wade is something any big man would dream about, the fact is there are no guarantees that Miami gets anyone else. There’s no guarantee that Miami even re-signs Wade, so it is more and more likely that Bosh will wait to see what happens before deciding if he wants to head down to Miami. Any quick decisions could come back to haunt him, especially if he’s left with the same roster Wade had last season.
Odds of Signing:
75/25 – Miami is probably the second most likely team to land Bosh, and depending what they do with their cap space and Dwyane Wade, they could instantly become the favorites. While New York could also offer a superstar teammate for Bosh, Miami offers the same thing with less pressure and more possibility for the roster to grow.
Los Angeles Lakers:
And now, the biggest wild-card of them all. The defending NBA Champions (I love saying that) are already the deepest, most-talented team in the NBA; would they really mess with that chemistry to add another All-Star in Bosh? For Bosh, the Lakers offer him possibly the best shot at winning a championship instantly.
Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom. If Bosh can find three more talented teammates to play with then he better go sign with them, otherwise this is the best roster for Bosh to go to in the league. The rich would only get richer in a sign-and-trade bringing Bosh to the Lakers, which would slide Pau to the five and give the Lakers three unquestioned All-Stars in their starting line-up.
Relocating to L.A. would allow Bosh to go from a team foreign to the playoffs to a team that expects nothing less than winning championships. If New York offers bright lights, L.A. offers glitz and glam, a red-carpet lifestyle that promises to instantly make Bosh one of the most recognizable players in the world.
While Bosh could guarantee instant success and probably a ring or two by heading to the Lakers, he will be going to a team with two established stars in Gasol and Bryant. They are the unquestioned leaders of the team, which means Bosh will more than likely be relegated to the third-banana of the team. Bosh will also be heading to a roster with a player (Gasol) who has almost the same skill-set, and who is seen by many as already a better player than CB4.
Another issue that could face Bosh is the fact that Laker fans and the organization expect nothing but success, and they expect it instantly. The odds are the Lakers will package Andrew Bynum in any deal that brings in Bosh, and that would be a prime example to Bosh of what happens when you don’t meet expectations in L.A.; the Lakers will not hesitate to ship you out to bring in whom they believe is an upgrade that makes them title favorites.
Odds of Signing:
50/50 – It is a long shot that the Lakers pull the trigger on a trade like this, especially with Gasol already on the roster and the fact that they will have to give up Bynum, a young, legitimate 7-footer who could still develop into an All-Star. How the rest of the playoffs shake out will play a huge role in whether or not the Lakers pursue this move.
Belal Abdelfattah is BSO’s newest writer and comes from a long background in sports writing at the Sports Authority Blog and The Block Radio. You can follow Belal on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/belal_a