The $130 Million Dollar Question: Can Toronto Pay Chris Bosh that Kind of Money?

Stephen BrotherstonAnalyst IOctober 1, 2009

BEIJING - AUGUST 14:  Chris Bosh (L) and Dwight Howard (R) of the USA chat on the bench as the clock winds down during the Men's Preliminary Round Group B basketball game at the Olympic Basketball Gymnasium during day 6 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 14, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors' premier power forward, all-star, and all-around best loved player is about to enter what should be the biggest contract season of his young NBA career.

And yes, when one is talking about young veteran all-star sports figures, the salaries being discussed are unbelievably huge, gigantic, and even monstrous. But these contracts do fall under a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) made between the NBA and its players.

When Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James signed their contract extensions a few years ago, their agents knew what they were doing.  After 7 years of NBA ball, the CBA sets the maximum salary a player can receive at $11 million or 30 percent of the Cap (which would be $16,224,600 this season).  The maximum salary limit for 6-year players is more than $2 million less.

What the players, the agents, and even the league didn’t see coming was a decline in the salary cap this season and projections to decline again next season.  So the strategy really didn’t work.  Fortunately for the players, there is a floor under which the maximum salary a player can be offered will not fall below at 105 percent of their last year’s salary.

So they’ll make a little less money than their agents anticipated.  Not to worry, they’ll still be okay!

Under a new contract at the maximum salary permitted, Chris Bosh would earn about $16.5 million next season. (The numbers will be rounded; they’re so big it hardly matters.)  Because the Toronto Raptors are Bosh’s current club, they can offer him 10.5 percent raises in each year of the contract. So in the sixth year of the deal Bosh would be earning about $27 million.

Another club trying to pry Bosh away from the Raptors can only offer 8 percent raises and a five-year deal.  So Bosh would have to leave that guaranteed $27 million at risk of injury, changes to the CBA, or just an inability to get a team to pay him that much!  This is the real explanation for why players who can sign these deals don’t run off and sign with another club.

And in case someone might have noticed, the league might just want to lower those maximum raises built into the current CBA when it’s renegotiated.  There are not a lot of guaranteed 8 percent to 10.5 percent raises out there in rest of the world.

So Chris Bosh could be entitled to sign a $130 million contract at the end of this season.  The question that should be on every fan's mind, and more likely on MLSE and Bryan Colangelo agenda, is can they give it to him?

Where does Chris Bosh stand in terms of being the center piece of the Raptors and should he command over 1/3 of the team’s salary cap space on average over the contract?

No one should question the fact that Bosh has been a very good player over the past four seasons.  His averages of 22.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 blocks, 0.8 steals, while shooting 49.5 percent put him in the upper echelon of players in the NBA.

Last season on a per game basis Bosh was 11th in points, 12th in rebounds, 99th in assists, 54th in blocks, and 115th in steals.  On an eight category basis, Bosh was the 23rd best fantasy player in the NBA.

But more straight forward and revealing was Bosh ranked eighth among all players on a combined total of points, rebounds, and assists per game with a score of 35.2.  The players who scored higher were:

  1. LeBron James                43.3
  2. Dwyane Wade               42.7
  3. Chris Paul                     39.4
  4. Kobe Bryant                  36.9
  5. Dirk Nowitzki                 36.7
  6. Dwight Howard              35.8
  7. Al Jefferson                  35.7

Some notables scoring lower: No. 11, Tim Duncan 33.5; No. 13 Deron Williams & Carmelo Anthony 33.0; and, No. 18 Pau Gasol 32.0.  (Stats available at

The only blemishes on Bosh’s record are the 11 games per season that he didn’t play in and his team’s failure to make the playoffs last season.

From a statistical standpoint, Bosh’s agent is going to be able to make a strong case for his player to be paid the max.

Bryan Colangelo and MLSE have a challenging decision ahead.  The initial three years of a new max-dollar contract should be very manageable for the Toronto Raptors’ organization.  The final 3 seasons represent a leap of faith that both the player maintains his productivity and team’s revenues continue to increase at much higher than the rate of inflation of 2 percent to 3 percent per year.  (Will the fans pay more, much more, each season?)

There is also a risk of being trapped under a long-term contract at much higher dollars than will be available when the CBA is renegotiated.  A max contract could be ensuring the Raptors are a luxury-tax-paying team for many seasons.

In several interviews now, Bryan Colangelo has indicated that he will be presenting a max contract to Chris Bosh at his earliest opportunity.  In fact he is even trying to extend Bosh’s current deal now rather than waiting.  (This makes the most sense for the team as an extension would be for fewer years.)

Bryan Colangelo has also said that he would be willing to help Bosh get his deal with a sign and trade scenario.  And fortunately for Raptors’ fans, this time the team has an experienced GM who will not get hosed in the exchange of a star player.  Comparing the Joe Johnson sign and trade to the Vince Carter deal.

There are a lot of games yet to be played and anything can happen in the NBA.  But it seems that Chris Bosh will become a $130 million man next season.

The questions that appear to be in need of answers are: will Chris Bosh be a $130 million man playing in Toronto; should the Raptors be investing in a $130 million player?

Most Raptor fans are going to be answering that with an unequivocal, "Yes!"

See Brothersteve’s Rant about Chris Bosh, Not Going Anywhere