There are two situations which downright terrify me about the Raptors future:
- Andrea Bargnani moving to the bench
- A Bosh sign-and-trade
There have been a lot of Raptors fans wanting to see Bargnani move to the bench, or questioning/considering the idea and wondering if it would improve the team, in order to improve the Raptors defensively + general cohesiveness.
Firstly, let me get this out of the way, I fully agree that benching Bargnani will make the Raptors a better basketball team. Those who’ve read my thoughts on Bargnani in the past know why I think that (negatives defensively + rebounding outweigh the offensive contributions). However, while it helps, it becomes one of those situations where the phrase “short term gain, long term pain” applies.
Andrea Bargnani is a 24 year old seven foot sweet shooting center who scores 18-20 points per game and has potential. While he has serious flaws and while there are many teams who will be turned off those flaws … there will always be GM’s who see value + upside in a prospect like Bargnani. Seven footers who can score the ball like he can are rare + valuable.
As long as Bargnani is playing big minutes and producing those type of numbers he’s going to have positive trade value. At least for the next 2-3 years while he also gets the benefit of the “potential + high ceiling” factor.
But the minute Andrea Bargnani’s minutes decrease to 20-25 per game and with that a production decrease down to 10-12 points + 4 rebounds – the minute that happens – Andrea Bargnani will become the most difficult player to trade in the entire league. That $50 million extension will be a massive salary cap problem and one that is very difficult for the Raptors to move away from.
So while benching Bargnani could help the Raptors improve in the short term it will almost certainly destroy their best chance to improve in the medium-to-long term + consequently do vast damage to the Raptors chances of building a contender over the next five seasons.
The Raptors must either (1) play Bargnani big minutes, or, (2) trade Bargnani now in order to avoid a long term mess.
Benching Bargnani = short term gain, long term pain
Edit: I don’t even like Andrea’s minutes falling to 32-33 minutes a night. I want him up around 35-36 so he can stay in that 19/20 point range rather than 17 point range.
Edit: Also, as we’ve seen in the past, Bargnani sitting on the bench hasn’t exactly sparked improvement out of him.
Edit: I don’t think Bargnani is any danger of actually being benched for the time being but if the club continues to struggle over the time … the idea will gain more and more momentum.
Sign and Trade Chris Bosh
I used this example by means of explanation a few days ago
Two years ago Kobe Bryant demanded a trade. He was interested in joining the Chicago Bulls. The Lakers were hesitant to trade Kobe but did take inquiries and when negotiating with the Bulls they wanted Luol Deng + a lot of other parts in exchange.
Kobe Bryant immediately shot down the trade idea because Chicago was going to lose too much talent. He would have been in the exact same situation in Chicago that he was in with LA. The team would have been gutted and there wouldn’t be enough talent left to contend for a title.
Similarly, any of the elite players in next year’s free agency (LeBron, Wade, Bosh) will not be willing to agree to a sign and trade that guts the team that they were heading to.
If those players leave their current teams they will do so in the quest to win a Championship (financial incentives are all with their current teams) … and they will not accept a sign and trade that takes that possibility away from them.
The talent available in these sign and trades will not come close to matching those player’s value.
Edit: The more willing the Raptors are to agree to a sign and trade the less likely Bosh is to re-sign with the Raps. Why play with a worse team when you can get the same money elsewhere? Toronto are being overly positive about sign and trade possibilities. They should be playing hard ball.
The most terrifying part of a Chris Bosh sign and trade is Bryan Colangelo agreeing to take back long term contracts. Trying to get as much talent as possible and agreeing to take back players like a Luol Deng or a Monta Ellis or whoever … in order to say he got the best package available and add the most talent possible to the Raptors squad.
In doing so, another $10+ million contract to a non-elite player when combined with Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, and Hedo Turkoglu will tie the Raptors hands financially ($40+ million for those four players) for the next 3-5 years and make life extremely difficult for the Raptors down the road.
Toronto is better off to let Chris Bosh leave and have the full + instant cap flexibility from that decision … rather than accepting back mediocre to poor long term contracts (even a good contract is problematic).
Once again, this is a short term gain (added talent via sign and trade) in exchange for long term pain (lack of a future, tied to mediocrity) situation.
There is one good case scenario for the Raptors in a sign and trade should Bosh decide to leave.
That they only take back a cheap prospect (rookie scale contract) or future draft picks in exchange for Chris Bosh in a sign and trade. Minimize the finances coming back and try to keep the young talent involved to help spur the club’s rebuilding process.
That money (cap space) can then be put to better use in free agency either in 2010 or in a future offseason.
Edit – Teams who are below the cap and have enough cap space to sign Chris Bosh (or close to it) do not need to send contracts back to the Raptors in an a sign and trade to make the deal work financially + trade rules.
Therefore, the Raptors can simply take the pieces with the most value (young prospects, draft picks) and refuse to accept pieces which do not offer value (long contracts, bad contracts, expiring contracts — why take on extra money?).
If a team does does not have enough cap space for this to work then the Raptors negotiating position will improve. However, Bosh will be less likely to join that team over one who is below the cap if too much talent leaves in the sign and trade. The best incentive for Toronto is in teams who are way below the cap and they can effectively steer Bosh in that direction (intentionally or not).
Anyway, these are two very real possibilities for the Raptors over the next 12 or so months and how they’re handled is going to decide a lot about the Raptors medium-to-long term future.
Short term gain, long term pain