As the NBA draft approaches, expect both Chris Bosh and the Raptors organization to play a very convincing game of bluff in order to give the illusion that the months of rumors regarding Bosh's certain departure were simply false and that Bosh has ultimately decided that last season's late-season surge was enough to convince him to stick around long term.
The word around the league is that any team which trades for Bosh would get him for sixty cents on the dollar.
This is due primarily to the fact that Toronto has to trade him and also that any team with sufficient cap space could just as easily grab him as a free agent when he hits the market next season.
For all of his short-comings, most in the U.S regard him as a better player than Amare Stoudemire and that automatically makes him the best big man in the 2010 Free agent class.
If the Raptors can convince the rest of the league that Bosh will be sticking around in Toronto, they'll gain more value in any potential deal this summer.
They look to be making a great effort with a recent Hoopsworldarticle claiming Bosh was content in Toronto and him signing with a Canadian record label the day before.
However, many credible sources have highlighted that the Raptors have been aware of Bosh's intention to leave for many months and are also concerned with being the team that eventually pays him the max contract he's seeking.
Word out of Golden State is that any deal for Bosh would likely not include Anthony Randolph, their first round selection last season. The Chicago Bulls are certainly putting Derrick Rose off-limits and the Miami Heat are reluctant to part ways with Beasley with the idea that a player of his calibre on a rookie contract would be an excellent compliment to a potential Wade and Bosh combo in 2010 if Bosh indeed does choose to sign with the Heat.
Any deal involving Bosh on draft night would likely see a secondary star and a draft pick coming the Raptors way. That said, let's discuss a few realistic options for Toronto on draft night.
The first deal would be from a team which has a very realistic shot at retaining Bosh in 2010. The Chicago Bulls are rumored to be shopping virtually their entire team outside of Rose and Noah and they could potentially offer a deal involving Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas and the sixteenth pick which the Raptors could use on a forward they're extremely high on in Austin Daye.
The Bulls have been seeking a big man since they traded Elton Brand in 2001 and they may be very interested in pairing Bosh with their core of Noah, Rose and Ben Gordon.
The Raptors could seriously use a talent like Deng on the wing and would be paying a secondary star like Deng a lot less than they would end up paying a secondary star like Bosh next season.
Tyrus Thomas still has the ability to thrive in the open court and if the Raptors are serious about running considering they now look to have Marc Iavaronilocked in as their lead assistant, who better to run with a front court of Bargnani and Deng than an athletic forward like Thomas?
The Raptors havebeen talking with many teams about acquiring a mid first round draft pick and seem to be in love with Gonzaga's Austin Daye.
If the Raptors make this move, they instantly become a better defensive team and shore up their need for youth, athleticism, and length while getting some very exciting prospects in return.
If you remember, it was Deng who the Timberwolves were asking for as the primary piece in a Garnett trade only to have the Bulls reject the offer claiming Deng was untouchable.
Two seasons later, they've determined that he's overpaid and if the Raptors have faith that he can put the last season behind him, the Bulls offer of Deng, Thomas and the sixteenth pick is by far the best and most realistic option.
The consequence of making this move however is that it leaves much uncertainty regarding the offense in Toronto. Is Andrea Bargnani ready to be the first option or are they going to put their faith in Luol Deng?
Daye, Williams, Blair or whoever they net at sixteen will almost certainly be a non-factor next year. However, at this point, is anyone willing to part with an All-Star level talent for Bosh unless that All Star is Jameer Nelson or Mo Williams? I doubt it.
While the Grizzlies have little to no shot at retaining Bosh, his deal expires following this season and grabbing him means an instant boost in ticket sales for one of the cheapest teams in the league.
They may be willing to part with Rudy Gay, some lengthy contracts and the second pick in the draft for a chance to add Bosh to a team which is currently loaded on the perimeter but features only Gasol in the post.
A team of OJ Mayo, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Chris Bosh may be enough of a draw for the fans that the Grizzlies just might make the move regardless of if Bosh wishes to re-sign next season or not.
With Gay and the second pick, the Raptors could net themselves a couple of spectacular prospects in Rubio and Gay as well as serviceable players like Milicic who still has some potential to add to a core of Bargnani and Calderon.
Calderon could then be dealt to perhaps fill a need for a shooting guard and Marion could be traded via a sign and trade to add a center. In the east, that team would certainly be no worse than last year's 33 win club.
If the Warriors are willing to part with some of their youth to add an established star, players like Monta Ellis, Brandon Wright and perhaps even their lottery pick could be an interesting deal for the Raptors.
The Raptors will decide on what to do with Marion and Calderon only after they extablishwhat they'll be doing with Bosh. It would certainly make some sense to know where Bosh will be next season before drafting as well.
Considering how close California is to Texas, the Warriors may in fact have a chance to retain Bosh after his contract expires.
The Heat have less to offer in terms of multiple players than any of the other teams mentioned, but probably have the single best prospect the Raptors could net in any deal involving Bosh in the form of last years second pick, Michael Beasley.
If the Raptors can convince the Heat that they won't have a chance to grab Bosh next summer, the Heat may be tempted to deal Beasley to win now.
Riley was never crazy about Beasley to begin with and despite his potential to be a scorer, Riley seems to be concerned about Beasley's defensive game and maturity level.
They also have valuable expiring contracts like Jermaine O'Neal among others who could be used to bring in better players on longer deals from other teams looking to clear salary for the 2010 off-season.
Look for the Heat to then make a push at a championship while the rest of league tanks for John Wall and clears cap space in the hope of grabbing a superstar in 2010.
According to Stephen A. Smith, the Pistons have regretted passing on Bosh in 2003 so much that they dealt Billups for Iverson strictly to make a run at Bosh in 2010.
If the Pistons are serious about making Bosh their franchise player, Dumars and company could offer a deal centering around Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton for the Raptors forward.
If Bosh can come to a verbal agreement that he'll re-sign in Detroit following the trade, the Raptors could net themselves a pair of wing players who instantly make them a playoff team while perhaps using Marion's contract to net themselves a big man to shore up their starting unit.
Witha team of Bargnani, Calderon, Prince, Hamilton, a serviceable center and the ninthpick with a potentially re-signed Parker and Delfino, the Raptors could make a very serious run at the playoffs next season.
Detroit would then build around Rodney Stuckey, Bosh and hope to add to that core via free agency this year or next. The Pistons get younger and the Raptors become a team which is instantly a threat to win home court advantage in the playoffs next year while gaining a serious veteran presence in the form of Prince and Hamilton.
Don’t sleep on the idea that the Raptors will trade out of the lottery in exchange for a mid-first rounder if they feel they can get as good a value at a later pick while shedding a bad contract like Banks or Kapono in the process.
They would open themselves up to the possibility of signing one or two very good free agents and would be doing so in a market where there are few teams which can compete with the money the Raptors can spend.
Whatever happens on Juna 25th, it is certain to be one of the most important days of the year for the Raptors who may be very busy or may simply end up doing nothing at all.