It's Time for the Toronto Raptors to Break Open the Piggy Bank

Jeffrey RobertsCorrespondent IJune 5, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - MAY 04:   Chris Bosh #4 and Jose Calderon #8 of the Toronto Raptors high five during a break in play against the New Jersey Nets in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2007 NBA Playoffs on May 4, 2007 at the Continental Airlines Arena at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

I sit here pondering life After Bosh (A.B.).

It looks like Kurt Russell fleeing from cannibals in Escape from New York.

Upon reading Robert Seagal's great article, I initially agreed with him. Arguably, Bosh has reached his ceiling (22 ppg and 10 rpg) and age is slowly taking a toll on his play.

He's smaller than other power forwards, gets a lot of his points from free throws, has trouble defending bigger players, and his clutchness is in question.

Chris Bosh declined to sign a contract extension this summer and is gearing up for a big payday come 2010, trying to earn the same money players like Dwayne Wade and LeBron James will garner.

The quandary of re-signing Bosh for big money, or dealing him for spare parts, now looms.

And I say we do whatever we can to keep him.

Looking at the evidence, I believe this franchise will be much worse without him. I didn't at first, but hey, I love a good argument.

Even as I type these words Bryan Colangelo may be working on a deal to send Bosh elsewhere. 

Before he does, may I offer an opinion that may make Bosh worth the $25 million a year? It may cripple Toronto and its salary cap, but who is bringing in the fans to pay the salary?

It is Bosh. He is the face of the franchise. Without him we are left in the Vince Carter vacuum of 2004-06. 

Toronto is a fickle city (aside from the hopeless romantic Leafs fans). When the Raps are up, so is the town. When they're down, well, see the Rogers Centre attendance during a Jays slide.

The latter is a slimmer possibility, the Raptors maintain a chic presence in the city. There's always a good date night crowd, and a multicultural diverse fan base that packs the Air Canada Centre. All united under the banner of Bosh.

Andrea Bargnani benefits from his presence, and until he is ready to be subjected to the rigors of being The Man (he's getting there) we need CB4.

Who do you think was hounding Il Mago to get tougher, play smarter, and to be better overall? It was Bosh.

With Bosh out of the lineup Bargnani was averaging 15.8 ppg and 6.2 rpg, pretty close to his season averages.

Yet, he only shot 35 percent from the floor and 27 percent from beyond the arc. For Bargnani to be effective he needs to be able to defer to Bosh, who will in turn get Bargnani his shots. The team should be more worried about Bargnani finally making the leap, instead of removing the guy who has always contributed for Toronto.

When Bosh was injured Toronto was 2-3, the wins coming against the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves, and a healthy San Antonio Spurs (a mystery even to me, they were in the midst of an eight-game road swing though).

Losses came against the Hornets, Cavs, and an ugly loss to the Memphis Grizzlies (78-70 Grizz).

During the Bosh-less stretch, the Raptors shot 42.8%. Pretty good right? Who needs Bosh when we can shoot like that?

They were out rebounded by six a game, and by two on the offensive glass. Not that impressive, but a double-double from Bosh brings the Raptors back into the positive.

The Raptors lead the league in free throw percentage and they place 24th in the league at getting to the charity stripe (22.7 free throws a game). 

While Bosh was out of order, they reached the line a pathetic 17.6 times a game. The man knows how to draw a foul, and how to make the shots when he gets there (81.7% FT pct.). 

Defensively, he can be perceived as a liability. That is always going to be the case though, when Toronto is feeding him to the wolves. Bosh is a 4, and subjecting him to guarding a Dwight Howard is cruel and unusual.

That he gets blamed for being put into a tough situation is unfair to the man. It's up to the Toronto front office to help him there; and for us not to complain when he struggles.

Let's not forget one of the dirty truths playing of playing for the Raptors: It's hard to sell the place to North American players.

Why do you think the Raps roster is like a stroll through the food court? Yes, Colangelo and Maurizio Gherardini keep strong ties to Europe; but it's always been tough to keep North American talent in Toronto.

There's high taxes, very few opportunities to be seen on American national television, and it's cold. We even lost Chuck Swirsky to Chicago.

A smaller market also means that it's hard to keep shelling out big bucks to keep a strong supporting cast around Bosh. That means the Raps have to draft the talent they need and then draft again when it flies the coop.

Keeping Bosh would be a major coup (pun always intended) for Toronto and would show a dedication to winning with a guy who's played hard for this team. The focus should be on making the team around Bosh better instead of creating a team without him.

The Raptors have the ninth pick in the NBA Draft. Scouts are labeling this draft as very vanilla after the first three picks. That doesn't mean the Raptors can't find a guy who is ready to contribute right away. They have options available to them at nine, especially some guys who can play the wing or shooting guard.

If a guy like Tyreke Evans, or DeMar DeRozan were to fall to them it would be huge. Even reaching for a tough post player like DeJuan Blair would be all right (though he may be undersized, he could fill a Carl Landry-like role for Toronto).

Whoever they draft should be a guy that can create his own shot and give Bosh some relief on offense.

If Toronto needs to start cutting costs it's Shawn Marion and his $17 million a year contract they need to avoid having to pay next year. Marion doesn't fit into Toronto's schemes.

He's a flighty, opportunistic kind of player who needs a Steve Nash or Dwayne Wade playing with him to make him effective. On inspection of Toronto's roster, we possess neither.

So trade him, set him free. If it's a possibility that we must trade Bosh, then it's essential to trade Marion. Bosh enjoys Marion being on the team, but if the Raptors are desperate to reduce salaries, Marion will have to go.

He could be worth a draft choice, or in a best-case scenario a big man to absorb some punishment in the paint. When you trade Marion, it should reflect the needs that remain after the draft. The third time could be the charm for getting Bosh some help.

Bosh plays 38 minutes a game (12th in the league). He averages 22.7 points (9th), 10 rebounds (6th), and only averages 2.3 turnovers a game which is better than Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Dwayne Wade (the last three joining Bosh 2010 in free agency).

He's also planning on rededicating himself in the weight room (insert your rolling eyes here, but I say it's a good thing). This is a good sign that he's taking the pitfalls of injury seriously, and will hopefully project him into his best season yet.

With those kind of stats, you're going to have to pay for them eventually; and it's worth it.

The heart of the Raptors, Bosh, Bargnani, and Calderon, are entering their fourth year together. It's time for them to gel and become the team we expect them to be. Being hasty and breaking them up will force those left behind to adapt to new teammates.

I say we give them a chance to vindicate our hopes and dreams. It's a contract year, Bosh is going to be giving his all, and posting his best numbers yet.

With that kind of effort being reciprocated by his teammates and the front office the Raps can wield a winner. 

Chris Bosh may be declining. He may be a drain on the Raptors finances. He may not be someone to build a team around. Hell, we might not make the playoffs again with him. Nothing in life is certain.

My advice?

Pay The Man.


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