No sign and trade deal, no talent coming back, not even a trade exception to work with. It could happen.
As unlikely as it is that Bosh walks away from over $30 million in guaranteed money, he would have to be stark-raving mad to do it. There is nothing but money stopping the talented power forward from signing a free-agent deal with another team.
And there are a number of teams that appear to have the cap space to sign max free agents to five-year deals worth $100 million or more. They include:
- Miami Heat
- Chicago Bulls
- LA Clippers
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- New Jersey Nets
- New York Knicks
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Sacramento Kings
- Washington Wizards
About a third of the NBA deliberately, or otherwise cleared, enough contracts this season to be able to participate in one of the biggest free-agent free-for-alls in living memory. And over half of the league could be in the unusual position of having at least some cap space with which to pursue players.
To clear that kind of salary space, means there are going to be an unprecedented number of free agents available.
But everyone knows, this is supposed to be the summer of LeBron James. (Wasted days and wasted nights— King James will be staying in Cleveland).
Oh, the mistakes fans should be expecting with so much money in the hands of so many desperate GM’s this summer.
But that’s digressing.
So what would the Raptors be left to work with once Bosh’s $15.8 million contract comes off the books?
Sadly, not much.
Without Bosh picking up his $17 million option, or signing a new contract with the Raptors, Toronto will have nine players under contract after July 1 with total salaries of about $46 million, according to Hoopshype .
And according to recent estimates of the 2010-11 NBA salary cap, that would leave the Raptors with about $10 million in cap space to round out their roster.
Those feelings of more than mild panic that emanated from Raptorland at the end of last season—when fans realized just how little room GM Bryan Colangelo would have to work with if Shawn Marion walked for nothing—have started rising once again.
There is no worse position for a GM in the NBA to be in, than being slightly below the salary cap. You don’t have enough money to go after a big free agent, and if you sign a mid-priced veteran, the team loses the mid-level exception (MLE) that is so often relied upon to bring in that extra rotation player.
And to use that salary cap space, the GM often has to renounce their team’s own free agents.
In the Raptors case, Amir Johnson and Antoine Wright are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. But in order to re-sign them, Colangelo would first have to use any salary cap space that he has available. You cannot sign another team’s free agent first, and then use your team’s bird rights to re-sign your own free agents.
But in a “Disaster Recover Plan” that has resulted from the unexpected loss of Bosh simply walking away from the Raptors, renouncing Johnson and Wright could become the only way Toronto can pursue any of the numerous free agents available.
Another minor detail tossing a wrench into the Raptors' summer if Bosh should walk, is there is also a cap hold for first-round draft picks. That $10 million in available cap space is closer to $8 million. Unless, of course, the draft pick is traded or sold.
As nice as getting another lottery pick is, even good lottery picks usually take time to develop. And relying on a rookie to replace an All-Star most often results in a return to the lottery next season. Rebuilding is not what most fans want to endure.
There are free agents available with more talent than Johnson or Wright have shown to-date. In a “Disaster Recovery Plan," the Raptors could be pursuing:
David Lee , Unrestricted Free Agent
The Knicks made it clear that they didn’t want to give the highest scoring center in the NBA a $60 million deal last summer, but the Raptors could fill a big hole by giving the 20 and 12 big man what he wants.
He is the Raptors first and best choice in their “Disaster Recovery Plan”.
They might have to renounce all of their own free agents and move their draft pick to do it, but it would be worth it.
Al Harrington , Unrestricted Free Agent
In the Knicks drive for cap space, Al Harrington is likely left on the outside looking in. And in a free agent season loaded with teams’ discards, the 30-year-old veteran could be picked up at a very good price.
Harrington’s true value is better reflected in his career stats of 14 points and six boards, but he is still a solid player, and acquiring him likely means the Raptors can keep Amir Johnson.
Brendan Haywood , Unrestricted Free Agent
At 30, Haywood is having a career year of 10 points, 10 boards, and two blocks. A true center, Haywood would potentially fill the big rebounding hole the Raptors are facing.
The risk is Haywood also fills a big hole on the Mavericks and the free spending Cuban could price this career eight and six center out of reach of the Raptors.
It might be just as well. A five-year deal for Haywood comes some big risks.
Luis Scola , Restricted Free Agent
Scola is coming off his rookie deal at age 29. He doesn’t play like a young player, and he doesn’t expect to get paid like one.
It is always risky bidding for a restricted free agent and it will take a long-term deal for significant money to pry Scola away from Houston.
But even at five years and $45 million, Scola is a player who would help the Raptors now and be an up-grade over Johnson. Any offer less and the Rockets might not let another team steal him. They might not even at that.
Drew Gooden , Unrestricted Free Agent
For a 6’10″ 250-pound big man who can get a team 12 points, 10 boards, and a block or two when given modest minutes, Gooden doesn’t get a lot of respect around the league.
At only 28, Gooden should still have some good years left in him. And even if he is considered a bit soft by some, he should come at a bargain price.
When a team is looking to fill a big hole with a little money, Gooden could be the answer.
Rudy Gay , Restricted Free Agent
Gay doesn’t fill the obvious hole left by the departure of Bosh, and he might be too expensive for the Raptors to acquire directly.
But Gay is a major upgrade at the wing, and the historically cheap Grizzlies might be persuaded to move him in a sign and trade to acquire a younger and cheaper version like DeMar DeRozan.
With better talent on the wing, maybe the Raptors could get by with cheaper talent in the post?
Udonis Haslem , Unrestricted Free Agent
This reliable 10-point, eight-rebound veteran won’t be expensive, but he doesn’t want to leave Miami.
However, Haslem would be a nice complement to Johnson if Miami doesn’t have room for him.
Matt Bonner , Unrestricted Free Agent
The biggest factor in Bonner’s favor would be that the Toronto fans loved this guy.
Bonner has limited skills beyond a 3-point shot and hustle. But he should be cheap, and he would be popular. No one has ever faulted this guy for not always trying.
Bring the Red-Rocket back to T-dot. Just don’t spend too much to do it!
Carlos Boozer , Unrestricted Free Agent
Boozer would be a great pick-up. But a $10 million starting salary is not going to get it done.
Tyrus Thomas , Restricted Free Agent
The fourth pick of the 2006 draft has physical gifts that should make him a special player. So far, however, it appears he has been getting in his own way.
The four-year player is good for 10 points, six boards, 1.5 blocks, and a steal in 20 minutes per game. If a coach can get his attention, Thomas has All-Star written all over him.
He's a player the Raptors should gamble on if Bosh walks, as the team should be able to offer Thomas enough to make the money-losing Bobcats back off, and let him go.
Of course, Toronto Raptors management, coaches, and fans would prefer that the "Disaster Recovery Plan" is never put to the test.
Most would prefer Bosh re-signs, and the Raptors make some trades to upgrade the team at the wing and possibly at point guard positions.
But since it seems Bosh has his sights set on moving to a contender, the most likely way for the team to acquire Players Who Can Help the Raptors To Forget Chris Bosh is by way of a sign and trade deal.
And Bosh has over 30 million reasons to cooperate with Colangelo this summer.