As the Cavaliers (and the rest of the NBA) await LeBron James’ decision, let’s look at Chris Bosh — a guy that just might hold one of the biggest keys to eventually locking James into a contract.
1. We’re talking Bosh now because several reports came Tuesday that indicated the Cavaliers and Raptors have at least discussed a sign-and-trade deal that would bring Bosh to Cleveland. Later in the day came reports that indicate Bosh wants no part of coming to Cleveland, and early Wednesday came reports that Bosh is going to join Dwyane Wade in Miami. So maybe I wrote this for nothing. And maybe you’re just tired of reports and little actual movement or substance. Maybe both. Either way, let’s look at Bosh as as player and how he might fit at his next stop.
2. Here are the details on Bosh, and his situation. He’s the big-man gem of this free-agent class, and besides Amar’e Stoudemire he’s the only A-list guy we really can be sure is leaving his current team. Bosh was drafted by the Raptors fourth overall in 2003 — it went LeBron, Darko, Carmelo, Bosh, Wade — after playing one season at Georgia Tech. Despite being able to step out and hit jump shots most 6’11 men can’t, he’s not just a gifted scorer. He’s an athlete who would seem to fit Byron Scott’s up-tempo hopes for the Cavaliers — a tempo that also depends on having guys like Bosh to grab rebounds and turn them into quick outlet passes. But for the Cavaliers to get him, he’d have to agree to a sign-and-trade deal. Here’s what he’s looking at as a max-contract player looking to sign. If he goes to the Bulls or Heat without a sign-and-trade, he can get a five-year deal worth about $96 million. If he agrees to a sign-and-trade, he re-signs with Toronto and can sign for six years and around $125 million. That’s guaranteed money, so it only makes sense to go that route. The Cavaliers could offer some combination of Anderson Varejao or J.J. Hickson, Delonte West, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon and take another big contract from Toronto. For that to work, both Bosh and the Raptors would have to agree, and the pieces would have to fit. If the Raptors want to go into total rebuilding mode, they might want the recently-drafted Derrick Favors from the Nets instead. But it all comes down to where Bosh wants to go — and if that’s Miami, he gives up that money. The Heat simply can’t make a trade that fits with the Raptors.
3. Bosh averaged 24 points and 10.8 rebounds per game last season, both career highs. He ranked in the top ten in the NBA in double-doubles and free throw attempts. Here’s a little irony with Cleveland ties: Bosh missed the last week-plus of last season after taking an inadvertent elbow from Antawn Jamison that broke his nose. The Raptors, who were holding onto the Eastern Conference’s eighth position at the time, subsequently missed the playoffs for the second straight year. The Bulls got in and lost to the Cavs, four games to one, but Derrick Rose’s performance in the series is a reason a lot of people think LeBron might choose Chicago. It wasn’t for two months later that the talk of these dream pairings (Bosh and Wade, LeBron and Bosh, maybe all three in Miami) started, and thus far it’s been like everything else in this free agent period with much hype and little substance. Guys say the right things about winning, but guys in their prime want to be the go-to-guy. And in this day and age, they want to be marketed as The Guy. They want the Twitter attention, the ball, the last shot and the numbers. That we know. But we haven’t known many guys to leave $29 million on the table.
4. Some have said that Bosh doesn’t play any defense. After Shaq scored 45 on the Raptors in 2009 and Bosh complained that he was camping in the lane and 3 seconds should have been called, Shaq said those were “strong words coming from the RuPaul of the NBA.” So much of defense, though, depends on matchups and team defense — who helps, and how often? If LeBron (or someone else) is coming from the backside to block shots above the square, it’s OK to give up baseline on a spin move. If a team has dangerous spot-up shooters and big men who are good passers, it’s more important to be able to play tight, one-on-one post defense. Guys like Bosh and Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett are going to score from 10 feet and in; that’s an inevitable fact. It’s when Kendrick Perkins and Marcin Gortat are scoring that you have a problem. The Raptors as a team just didn’t play any defense, so without the help of game tape and people who knew exactly what defensive philosophy Toronto was supposed to be employing it’s hard to fairly judge Bosh as a defender. So here’s how you judge him: He’s long, athletic and if LeBron says go get him and pay him that big pile of money, then right now he’s a darn good defender. Right now, that’s what this whole thing is about.
5. During the playoffs, Bosh went on record to say his preferred destinations in free agency were the Knicks, Heat, Bulls, Raptors and Lakers. Now, he knew the Knicks, Bulls and Heat were going to have tons of cap space when he said that. He also knew the Knicks were going to have a terribly empty roster, so he was either saying he figured he’d bring one of his buddies along or that he didn’t care as long as he got a max contract and a chance to play in the big city. If he really doesn’t want to play in Cleveland, we’re left to believe that he cares more about location and marketing than winning. And if that’s the case, the Cavs don’t really want him anyway. We apparently will learn lots of things over the next 36 hours, and we’ll see if one of these “dream pairings” lands in Cleveland. It will be years, though, before we know if it actually works.