In part II of our off-season round-table, the topics change to Chris Bosh's future with the club, and predictions for the upcoming season...
Yesterday we brought part I of our off-season round table discussion with the following representing part II. Again, our panel consists of Chris O'Leary, contributor to Slam Magazine, TSN.ca's Tim Chisholm, Real GM's' Gagan Gandhi, and the Arsenalist from RaptorsRepublic.com.
Part I finished with the Arsenalist wondering if fans, and perhaps even management, were settling for mediocrity considering that four years into BC's regime, we were all seemingly happy if the Raptors
snuck into the post-season.
We'll kick part II off with some further thoughts on that point by Mr. Chisholm, and we'll keep rolling from there...
Tim Chisholm - TSN.ca:
I don't know if sneaking into the post season is entirely what people are getting excited about, but nor should a 6th or below finish be considered a wasted season. This is a wholly reconstructed unit that - unlike the last group to make the post-season - has most of it's pieces locked-up for five years instead of three. While a fourth or fifth seed would be icing for the Raptors, this season should be about proving that the club can compete and will compete on a nightly basis. That hasn't happened for an 82-game stretch since 2000-01 - most Playoff-bound seasons have come as a result of a weak Conference and a healthy run at one point in the season. This club has to not only prove they can win as a unit today, but that they can grow and much more tomorrow.
Two years ago Atlanta just snuck in to the post-season and have managed to use that experience to improve their internal expectations and execution.Orlando, too, took years to understand what it took to survive the post-season grind. That is what Toronto has to be looking towards: sustainable success. Making it into the second round this season just because the club got a weaker first round opponent doesn't really mean anything beyond a superficial glory that says 'we got out of the first round'. In fact, I say it would prove more to push a team like Boston, Orlando or Cleveland in round 1 and lose - it would show a heretofore unseen grit and would make the team hungry to avenge themselves the next season. Sure, they could do the same thing in round 2, but if the goal is pushing back against a powerhouse team (not simply knocking off an easier foe) then it could happen in either round and SHOULD still be considered a successful season.
Instantaneous success is so often clamored for despite how unsustainable it is. This team must focus on how they are going to build a winner that improves each year, not another flash-in-the-pan that burns out as fast as they ignited.
3) RaptorsHQ: That's an interesting point. Earlier this summer on our site we polled our readers as to their expectations of the coming season and the majority of voters stated that for this season to be successful, they expected the club to get out of the first round of the playoffs. I worry that again that's an expectation of "instantaneous success" and like Tim, simply want to see this coming season as a step i the right direction unlike the past two years. Hopefully the moves BC made this summer both help in the short-term (the Hedos and Jacks) and now in the long-term (DeRozan, Johnson, Belinelli and even Weems.)
Let's turn to Chris Bosh
for a second.
Arsenalist, you've mentioned at Raps Repub on numerous occasions that Bosh
has failed to prove his worth as a max-contract player, and many fans worry that Toronto will attempt to overpay to keep his services.
Give me your take on the Bosh
situation; should Toronto do all they can to keep him and/or do you expect to see him in another uniform next year?
Gagan Gandhi - Real GM:
If by "all they can" you mean give him a max deal than I would say no because to me there's only a few players in the league who deserve a max deal: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and maybe Dwayne Wade and Dwight Howard. I was a fan of trading Bosh
prior to draft day in the hopes of getting some solid young pieces in return. Dude has been an all-star, an Olympic gold medalist and has been mentioned in talks of league MVP a couple times, something that some agree with and some (Vince Carter) disagree with. The only problem is that personal success is all well and good, but only if your team is successful as well, and with him leading the Raptors
they haven't won anything but one Atlantic Division title.
After all the moves Colangelo has made this summer, it's best to just wait this situation out and see how the Raptors
do this season. If the Raptors
go on to have a great season and the team is one cohesive unit, it'd be great if they re-signed him. If they have another disaster of a season, bye bye Bosh. Re-signing him to a max deal even if the Raptors
have a great season still makes me uncomfortable, just because up to this point he hasn't shown me that killer instinct that all the deserving max deal players have.
Make no mistake, he's been a star player and the Raptors
best player for years now, now it's time that he takes his game to another level and makes Toronto a threat in the East.
Tim Chisholm - TSN.ca:
The thing is that there are two types of max players; there is the super-max for guys like Kobe, LeBron, Wade, Howard and Paul, and then there is the max for the next tier. While the money going out to each is the same (the maximum allowable percentage of the team's salary cap), the motivation behind the signings is different.
For the super-max group, they are players that any team in the NBA would open up and pay a max salary to if they were allowed. Any team in the league would be made better by having one of those guys, even if it meant removing an existing cornerstone piece from the organization. They are game-changers and are paid accordingly.
The other group of max guys, though, are more subjective. Is Chris Bosh
(or Amaré Stoudemire or Brandon Roy or Carmelo Anthony) on the level of the above players? No, they aren't. However, they do possess a max-like value to certain teams because of their particular circumstances and skill sets. Generally that amounts to a combination of history with a team, existing roster structure and a need for consistency. Sometimes it's about overpaying to keep someone from leaving (though that is becoming less common). Sometimes it's simply a team overvaluing what few assets they have. The point is that some players evoke max-like attributes and that nets them max-level contracts.
In the case of Bosh, the case to be made in his favor isn't so terribly bleak; he's been the Raptors
most consistent player in their history, playing six fairly healthy seasons at great effort with remarkable statistical production. He's a staunch supporter of the city of Toronto and has never shied away from aligning himself with the Raptors
organization. In all his time in the NBA he's stayed out of trouble, worked to make a name for himself through unconventional channels and found success (and tremendous respect) as an Olympian last summer.
However, the conversation must inevitably return to his ability (or lack thereof) to elevate a team to winning on his own. Those super-max guys do it, but Bosh
and people at his level do not. Instead, they are tremendous talents that simply sit atop a talent pile but need the pieces below him to dictate what success they will have. Much like other big men at his position (Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, et al.), Bosh
needs a good helping of talent around him to take him to the next level as an NBAer. By that measure a maximum-level deal would seem large but not uncalled for by today's league standards. One can (and I do, believe me) bemoan the ease by which some players achieve max-level status, but the question really shouldn't be whether or not Bosh
is a max-level player given the current landscape because by that measurement is unquestionably is. Instead, the question is probably about how does one go about levelling that landscape to bring it into closer proportions with league achievement - which is a discussion for another time.
The fact is that Bosh, while perhaps not in the top 1-percentile of the league's players, is certainly a top-tier talent in the NBA and not the kind of player to simply be cast aside. Some franchises spend years (even decades) waiting for a player like him to come along to help shape the direction of their organization. At this point, it would be fair to say that Raptors
management is as, if not more so, at fault for Bosh's lack of meaningful success. The talent pool has never been more than above-average in any year of Bosh's tenure, though his success has risen and fallen with the calibre of players that surround him. If this season proves to be another chemistry dud then (like Gagan said) Bosh
will probably divorce himself from the team. He would be justified, to an extent (much like Carter
was), because the organization failed to put the right kind of talent around their superstar for seven years. However, if the new mix does coalesce and find success, then it will be in large part because of how this new group managed to elevate Bosh
and he them. There really isn't 'another level' for someone like Bosh, but if he starts winning this season as a result of his new team that's how the story is going to be sold. He may learn how to better lead his team or how to manage his game playing with competent teammates, but in terms of individual abilities, he's already pretty close to the top of the heap. He may not be LeBron or Wade, but he's the best player the Raptors
ever had and by today's NBA standards he deserves a max-level deal.
The Arsenalist - RaptorsRepublic:
I'll try to keep this short. They're changing the definition of a max-contract player on me. It was supposed to be that only the top-tier players in the league demand and get that money. The likes of Kobe, Lebron, Wade, Howard, Pierce etc. If we're going by that definition (which I insist on doing so), Bosh
should not be getting a max-deal because sneaking into All-Star teams doesn't mean much, especially given his team's performance. So far he's proved little more than that he's a good player on a bad team. What's concerning to me about Bosh
is that he hasn't developed his game like I had hoped, the only improvement that he's made over the years is on his spot-up jumper and FT shooting. The post-game remains non-existent and the defense comes and goes, his performances against other high-caliber PFs like Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett have been disappointing and his leadership skills in times of crisis haven't surfaced yet. He's basically still making a living on the skill-set he developed two years ago and I think he's much closer to hitting his ceiling than what most think.
No doubt that he could be a very good component on a great Raptors
team and that before we build a championship team we need to secure pieces like Bosh. Some will argue that that alone warrants a max deal, and those some will have to factor in the declining cap and tax-levels in their argument. I don't have a problem with Bosh
getting the max as long as it doesn't hamstring us in the future (we can't expect Steve Fruitman to bail us out every time), or if MLSE is willing to cross the tax to keep the team competitive.
I'd like to have Bosh
on the team and I like how Colangelo has set him an ultimatum this year - do something with the talent on the team or maybe it's us who don't want you and not the other way around.
Chris O'Leary - Slam Magazine:
I think whether the Raptors
is worth max money or not, they're gonna have to pay it to keep him. Like many (all, I think?) of you have said, I don't think Bosh
is in that upper echelon of players in the NBA. He's not a LeBron, Dwight Howard, D-Wade, Kobe or Chris Paul. That's not a knock on him, either. I watch Bosh
and as has been said in the other responses, he's gone out and played hard and produced at a high clip for his entire tenure with the Raptors. Even if he has reached or is close to hitting his ceiling as a player, he's in an elite spot in the League, averaging 22.7 points and 10 rebounds a game last year.
While I don't think their games are all that similar, I can't help but think about Scottie Pippen when I watch Bosh. In the right setting, I think Bosh
could play Pippen to one of those upper echelon-types' Jordan. Whereas Vince Carter
sought this sort of role in his career, I think Bosh
is happy and willing to take on the responsibilities that come with max money in Toronto, but paired with a player better than him, Bosh
would find a lot more success on the court.
When it comes down to it, I think that's been a big problem with Toronto in years past. The Raps have been hoping to get that top-tier type of play from Bosh
when he's just not that guy. Those expectations seemed to have trickled down from spots 2-12 on the roster. Everyone has had to play above their heads for the team to get that elusive 4-6 seed in the East and the even more elusive second-round playoff berth that they've been gunning for the last few years.
be paid the max to stay in Toronto? He'll have to be, because if Toronto won't pay it, someone else will. If the team does well and reasserts itself as at least a force in the East again I think it'll be enough to make Bosh
want to stay. But like Tim said, if the team falters again this year, it'd be understandable if Bosh
went in a new direction.
4) RaptorsHQ: Max deal for Bosh in the end or not, I think this is going to be a key season for this franchise on many fronts. One could argue I suppose that in many ways, this season could set the tone for this team's performance for the next five years. Will winning prove to be what keeps CB4 in town? Or will this off-season's acquisitions again fall flat leading to a Bosh departure and a GM who has again locked-in too many underperforming players for too long?
So final question, time to get down to the nuts and bolts.
Give me your prediction for number of wins, playoff seed, one player you expect to surprise, and one player you expect to disappoint.
Tim Chisholm - TSN.ca:
Man, I hate predictions - everyone only remembers when you're wrong. Okay, nonetheless, here I go:
Number of wins - 45 It's going to take this team a bit of time to gel and for guys to settle into their roles, and until I see this team play consistently for a whole season I'm hedging by bets (though this would still tie for the third best finish ever for the franchise)
Playoff seed- 45 wins would have gotten a team the fifth seed last season, but let's assume Atlanta improves and say they'll finish 6th.
Player expected to surprise- It's tough to say anyone because the expectations are higher right now than they've ever been for just about every player on this roster, but I'd have to say Amir Johnson - he was thurst into the starting five for the Pistons last season and floundered, but he'll be a matchup guy for Toronto and might actually be able to stay with some of the long forwards that have traditionally killed the team (Charlie Villanueva, anyone?). He won't knock anyone's socks off, but he'll be a useful tenth or eleventh guy off of the bench.
Player expected to disappoint- Every year the Raptors
have that one free agent that doesn't live up to their billing (Fred Jones, Jason Kapono, Will Solomon of late), so this year I say it's going to be Marco Belinelli - not because I think he's not going to play well, I just don't see how he is going to live up to the expectations set out at his feet (Sixth Man of the Year? Really Bryan?). He's going to have to split time with DeRozan, Jack and Antoine Wright and he may simply not get the minutes to be an impact guy. He'll probably have a similar role similar to Kapono's last year (first wing off of the bench) but the team won't need him to play such heavy minutes. I suppose 'disappoint' in this case is more relative to the external expectations for him after the trade versus what would be a reasonable expectation for him given his talent, situation and body of work. We'll see.
The Arsenalist - RaptorsRepublic:
I'm aiming for brevity again. I was going to go with 46 wins but I've pulled it back to 44 and a 6th seed. A tough early schedule could mean delayed gel-time. The chances of Bargnani
having a full strong season is low and there's no injury insurance for Turkoglu. Bosh
better be playing out of his mind for 75% of the season for us to have a shot at anything worthwhile. Belinelli and DeRozan could be very average or very good, just don't know which way the pendulum will swing hence the average win prediction.
Surprising player:Quincy Douby. He's worked hard on his game and unless the Raptors
don't sign another tweener point he's going to see some playing time. He's a confident player with good quickness, a decent handle and a respectable jumper. I think he's motivated to stay in the league and will play like it.
Disappointing player:Andrea Bargnani. Half his time in the league has been good, half has been terrible, but that's good enough to earn him a 50M deal. With the new contract behind him he'll be under even more pressure to produce than before. If you're expecting consistent production from him for 82 games you're not going to get it, hence he'll be a disappointment.
Chris O'Leary - Slam:
Wins: 40-45. That's a complete crapshoot guess because as last year, or maybe this team's legacy proves, the potential for legitimate mediocrity is there every year and they often fall short of it somehow. With that logic (read: bitterness), any spot from 6-8 in the East is theirs for the taking.
Surprise player:Belinelli. A pure gut instinct pick here. I saw him play a few times last year in G-State and liked what I saw. He's in a system that can let him flourish and while he could be another Fred Jones, he could also become one of the Raps bench guys that endears himself to the fans like a Matt Bonner, JYD or even a Pops Mensah-Bonsu. Though I'm sure no bench player comes into Toronto saying, "I want to be like Pops."
Disappointment:Andrea Bargnani. I've never been big on Bargnani. He showed promise in his rookie season and save for pretty much all of the games that didn't matter last year, hasn't taken too many steps forward as a player since. I'd like to see him break through this year and make a difference early on with this team. I've gotta admit though, he'd have to be playing on previously unseen levels out of the gate to win me over.
Gagan Gandhi - Real GM:
I'm going to go with them finishing at 44-38. Like you guys have said, early season chemistry and a tough early schedule may set them back a bit, but look for them to get stronger as the year goes on. 44 wins should be good enough for a 5th seed in the East.
Although he's been a known commodity around these parts for a while now and has proved himself to be quality player, this is the year that Jose Caldeorn takes his game to another level. Not only will he have Bargnani
this season, but adding Turkoglu to the mix gives him that one more option that they haven't consistently had. I look for him to be a consistent threat to drive-and-kick now that he's hopefully 100% healthy. Runner-up: Marco Belinelli.
This may be a cop out, but I don't think any one player will really be considered a "disappointment" this season. Some guys will be more consistent than others and DeRozan may hit the rookie wall, but I wouldn't consider that a disappointment. Bargnani
has even more pressure on him this season and it seems like he will always be the Raptors
X-Factor going into a season. I believe with the added depth everyone on the team will benefit. Sure, Bosh
may not put up the same numbers he has in year past, but in the end that should be fine because the team has other players it can rely on.
RaptorsHQ: Thanks for this guys, it's been a great discussion and hopefully we'll do it again mid-way through the season.