Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh Miami Heat bound

July 8, 2010

Miami: two for three, one day to go

by Jack Maidment

Dwyane Wade has agreed to re-sign with the Miami Heat – and he is bringing the most coveted big man in this year’s free agent class with him.

Chris Bosh will make his long anticipated departure from the Toronto Raptors to head for the sunshine and tax breaks of South Beach.

Details of each player’s respective contracts have yet to be discussed, with one eye on LeBron James and his announcement on ESPN this evening at 9pm, ET.

Should James decide to join Wade and Bosh in Miami the three of them would be setting an unrivalled precedent in the NBA: taking a significant pay cut to play together in the name of a championship, or championships.

It seems at this stage that James is more likely to re-sign with his home town Cleveland Cavaliers because of his stated desire to be a global icon and billionaire.

Leaving Ohio without delivering a championship would be a serious smudge on his legacy and winning with two other All-NBA talents in Miami would not bring the same benefits and respect that winning with himself as the main man would.

The other problem with Wade, Bosh and James playing on the same team, aside from whose team it will be in crunch time, will be signing other players to fill out the rest of the roster, with the Heat only being offer to offer the veteran minimum of $1 million after taking care of the Big Three.

Can three players win a championship with little help?

A tandem of Wade and Bosh with money to fill out the roster might almost be the better option with plenty complimentary talent and no question over who gets the last shot of the game.

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Toronto Raptor’s offensive prowess enough to keep Chris Bosh in Canada?

November 13, 2009

bosh1by Jack Maidment

Best scoring teams in the NBA this year. Phoenix Suns. Golden State Warriors. Toronto Raptors.

Wait.

The Raptors? As unlikely as it may seem, the Canadians rank third overall in points scored this season.

108.12 points per is pretty damn impressive, especially when you consider that the franchise has experienced a fairly radical reshape in the past few months.

Shawn Marion has gone. As has Anthony Parker. Both athletic wing players, both versatile, both missed?

Losing two of your better players doesn’t seem like the type of business strategy designed to keep your restless star player in town next year.

With that in mind, it was far from surprising when the Raptors aggresively pursued Hedo Turkoglu whose value, fresh from a trip to the Finals, was at its peak.

Whether or not the amount of money Toronto splurged on snatching Turkoglu from the clutches of the Portland Trailblazers has had the desired effect on Chris Bosh’s mindset regarding 2010 and free agency, there can be no denying the benefits of having the ex Orlando Magic forward on your squad.

14 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists may not exactly justify the man’s contract, but Hedo is certainly balling as he tries to adapt to a new home town, a new system. The level he was at last year should eventually come back to him as he adjusts to the wants and needs of his new team.

If Turkoglu isn’t blowing up with points every night, how are the Raps so prolific on the offensive end?

Their much coveted big man and his larger frame is perhaps the main reason. Chris Bosh has been putting up the kind of numbers that will have GMs across the land salivating. 29 points, almost 12 rebounds, 2 assists and a block a game. Numbers worthy of the anticipated demand for his services next summer.

The problem for the Raptors is that basketball is a game played on both ends of the floor. They are currently suffering from the same affliction that has dwelt in Golden State for some years. Entertaining for sure, but the ‘we’ll score more than you’ philosophy can only get you so far.

Defense is the key. A boring fact, but a fact all the same. Allowing 108.62 points a game just isn’t going to get it done in the NBA and it is for that reason the the Raps sit at .500, 3 games won, 3 games lost.

Until they develop a defensive identity the Raptors will remain a team on the cusp of greatness. They have enough fire power to worry any team in the League, but the consistency that a solid defense would bring is sorely missing.

Their status as dark horses for dishing out a playoff upset is well founded, especially given the promising play of rookie wing DeMar DeRozan who is right next to Brandon Jennings in terms of chances of excitement when a rookie plays.

The question for Toronto fans is simple: will the Raptors’ collective performance this year be enough to convince Chris Bosh to stay north of the border?

If it is, Toronto should have a promising few years ahead of them: Bargnani is always improving, Turkoglu should have 3 solid years to come, Calderon’s ability to run a team is unlikely to evaporate and the future of DeRozan is undeniably bright.

If not, Toronto will truly feel the sizeable hole left by Bosh, in all probability consigning the franchise to further years in the NBA wilderness, neither awful or great.

Mediocrity. Nothing more frustrating.


Hedo Turkoglu chooses Toronto Raptors, Portland Trailblazers look for Plan B.

July 4, 2009

hedo

by Jack Maidment

Fresh off of a trip to the NBA Finals, the Orlando Magic’s free agent small forward Hedo Turkoglu has elected to join the Toronto Raptors after much switching and swaying.

It was widely believed that Turkoglu had agreed terms with the Portland Trailblazers for 5 years and $50 million. However, Toronto offered $6 million more for his services and looked to have signed Turkey’s finest export.

The move forces the Raptors to allow their free agents, Shawn Marion, Carlos Delfino and Anthony Parker, to seek employment elsewhere or face the penalty of the luxury tax.

Turkoglu’s decision further emphasises the dominance of money in today’s game: he trades playoff contention with the Blazers and the Magic for a team which was flat out awful last year.

The hope for the Raptors is that Turkoglu can fire this team back into the playoffs and in so doing keep Chris Bosh in Toronto. Two big tasks indeed.

But, on paper at least, the Raptors should be infinitely better this year: Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani in the middle, Hedo at the 3, DeMar DeRozan growing into the 2 and Jose calderon running the floor at the point.

Add the toughness of Reggie Evans and the addition of one scorer on the bench and Toronto will be back in the mix for the 5,6,7 and 8th playoff spot in the East.

The Blazers are left to wonder what might have been as Turkoglu’s experience was what they needed to go deeper into the playoffs. It remains to be seen if they will move for anyone else this off season.


NBA Free Agency: Boozer stays in Utah. Cleveland eyeing Charlie V, want Chris Bosh next year?

July 1, 2009

carlos boozer

 

by Jack Maidment

What is the single most important driving force behind a pro-athlete’s career?

In years past the answer would have been success and the pursuit thereof, but in an economy which rewards so richly, money has become the dominating factor in just about every sportsman’s decision making process.

Am I going to get mine? That is the question that players around the NBA are continually asking themselves, especially those who are situated firmly in the shop window: 2009’s free agents.

The date is 1st July and teams can begin wooing the players who they believe can make a difference.

However, the current economic climate has placed huge restrictions on players looking for a new deal with only a handful having at least some of the money to throw at these players, especially the premier talents.

The likes of Shawn Marion and Carlos Boozer would ordinarily be demanding a close to if not max type contract. Big time money for supposedly big time players.

The fact is that team’s are far more reluctant to commit to huge contracts when the margin for error is so small: if a team commits to you for $15 million plus a year and you don’t deliver, that franchise is in an inescapable hole.

The only teams with definite money to spend are the Memphis Grizzlies, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Detroit Pistons.

Regardless of the desirability of two of these locations, both Memphis and Oklahoma will in all likliehood not be flashing cash this year: they both have young cores who just need to grow together.

That leaves the Pistons who could sign two big contracts this off season, but given their isolation as a team with money, they will certainly not be held to ransom by greedy free agents.

Cue Carlos Boozer’s decision to use his player option and stay in Utah. The same Carlos Boozer who around Christmas time would tell anypone who would listen that he was definitely, definitely, definitely opting out to go in search of the max contract that he believes he deserves.

The realisation that the money is simply not their to be had, Boozer will be in a Jazz uniform next year along with Mehmet Okur, his team mate who also was looking elsewhere for more money.

Of all the upper echelon free agents, the money shortage is a major problem, maybe even forcing some of them to accept a mid level exception for a year in the hope that the economy picks up in time for next year’s free agent bonanza.

In contrast, the role players looking for new contracts should do relatively well despite the economy.

Player’s like Trevor Ariza are especially attractive to team’s looking to get over the hump. Lock down defense and 3 point shooting.

It is hardly surprising then that Cleveland Cavalier Anderson Varejao has decided to opt out and test the free agency waters. His energy and tenacity should leave him with plenty of potential suitors to choose from.

It will be interesting to see where Charlie Villanueva ends up after the Milwaukee Bucks decided not to offer him anything at all. His post scoring is allegedly coveted by the Cavaliers, a team with enough money to spend to keep LeBron James happy.

What sort of contract he will command remains to be seen, especially with the alleged rumor that Cleveland wants Chris Bosh next year. If Charlie V takes the mid level the Cavaliers will be financially ok with a substantially improved team and the guarantee that they will have the money to spend in 12 months time.

Money. When did winning become not enough?


Toronto Raptors Trade Jason Kapono, Philadelphia 76ers Real Winners

June 20, 2009
Firepower? You could say that...

Firepower? Kapono's your man.

by Jack Maidment

On June 9 2009 the Philadelphia 76ers sent Reggie Evans to the Toronto Raptors in return for the services of Jason Kapono.

In Evans the Raptors gained a player who can add toughness and rebounding to their front court, something that they desperately lacked this season past: getting banged on the boards was one of the bigger reasons why they were so disappointing this year.

In Chris Bosh and Andre Bargnani the Raptor’s possess two big guys with great scoring ability but little in the way of defensive presence.

Evans, who once led the NBA in rebounds per 48 minutes, should prove effective in compensating Toronto’s existing finesse game inside.

Toronto certainly gain a quality player through this trade, a player that they really needed, but there is a reason why Andre Iguodala was so excited when Kapono’s arrival was announced, a reason that suggests that the Philadelphia 76ers can be more than content with their shopping.

In the 2006-07 season Jason Kapono led the League in 3pt % shooting at a clip of .514, 4th best in NBA history. He has two All Star weekend 3pt scoring titles in his locker. He shoots .454 from 3 for his career.

There can be little doubt that Jason Kapono is the League’s best 3 point shooter. Stats don’t lie.

That is not to say that you want the ball in his hands down the stretch, because, well, because you probably wouldn’t, but for scarily consistent production from down town, Kapono is your man.

For a team like the 76ers, this is the sort of trade that can only make your team better, another piece that can help push you to the next level.

If Andre Miller can be re-signed, Kapono will join a core of players who have been a constant in the East for the past two years: just below Cleveland, Orlando and Boston but competitive.

The Sixers have achieved that largely without their All Star forward Elton Brand and if the pivot man can stay healthy for the whole season, allowing some rhythm to grow in the team, the 76ers have the pieces, and now the fire power, to legitimately challenge in the East.

Samuel Dalembert and Elton Brand holding down the paint, Andre Iguodala slashing from the wing, Kapono spreading the floor and Andre Miller running the show.

Add to that the ever improving Thaddeus Young, Louis Williams and Willie Green and the Sixers may be the force that they were predicted to be last year.

 


It Happens.

March 21, 2009
How far away is summer 2010?

How far away is summer 2010?

Memphis, Sacramento, Washington, Clippers, Oklahoma, Toronto, Minnesota. The 7 teams with the worst records in the NBA. Who is the odd one out? Pretty obvious, right? What the hell are the Raptors doing in ‘The Basement Club’?!

 

The 6 other teams all have excuses for their pretty woeful positions. The good folks in Sacramento have probably accepted their status as the team with the least prospects for the present and the future. No money, no stars: Kevin Martin can try as hard as he likes, but when your franchise is shipping its best players to save money then you really are caught between a rock and a hard place. If I was Blake Griffin I would be worried. Or playing realllllllly badly during the month of March.

 

Meanwhile, Memphis has a dynamite scorer in the shape of O.J. Mayo and one of the most promising young big men in Marc Gasol. They also have, say it quietly, cap room (whether or not anyone will actually want to go play for Memphis in 2009 or 2010 free agency is another problem entirely). But relying on rookies for an entire season? Its hardly a recipe for a successful season. The case is similar in Oklahoma: their young players just need time to develop and mould around the scarily good Kevin Durant.

 

As for Minnesota and Washington, it is highly unlikely that either team would be where they were if their major star(s) could avoid the treatment table. Without Al Jefferson the Wolves are a little lost, lacking his presence inside. And the Wizards have to be sick of the sight of Gilbert Arenas’ extensive wardrobe collection: looking fly does not prevent your team getting blown out everynight.

 

The Clippers are just the Clippers. And that is why they are still one of the worst in the L, despite possessing a talented roster which, at least on paper, should be the perfect match of youth and experience? Apparently not.

 

With the exception of Sacramento, the other teams all have at least some grounds for optimism: injuries can’t last forever, and young players will get better and gain experience. And then there was one. Toronto. Like the Bush administration getting a second term this one takes some explaining.

 

Last year Toronto was a playoff team. One of the franchises seemingly moving forward, toward the next level: Conference Finals, maybe even the Championship. In Chris Bosh they have a player that every GM in the League would like to get their hands on. So what happened?

 

They traded for Jermaine O’Neal. Whether or not this move was wise from an injury viewpoint, there is no denying that a fit O’Neal is a valuable asset, a big man with skill who could take some of the burden from Bosh’s franchise shoulders. Good thinking. Lets gel and crash some skulls. Or not. After a matter of months, O’Neal was shipped out along with Jamario Moon in exchange for the consummate professional and ultimate unifying force; Shawn Marion. That trade is kinda like playing poker and swapping an ace for another ace. Both are quality players who bring different but equally valuable skillsets to the team.

 

So why are the Raps languishing in the dark? They don’t have injuries. And they aren’t young and inexperienced. I guess the answer is simply that, here we go for the big payoff, it just happens. Wow. What an insight. But it is true. It has happened before where other teams with seemingly no major problems just don’t get going. Their season doesn’t ignite and fairly quickly the losing becomes infectious.

 

Look at Tottenham in the Premier League. Good squad, good summer signings, touted as a top four team, and yet they start poorly and progressively get worse, resulting in a scrap to maintain their status as a top division team.

 

The key is to not allow the rot to set in to start with. Losing is infectious and ensures a miserable and confusing season for all involved.

 

The problem for Toronto is that, while the other teams in the basement have bright(ish) futures, losing is one sure way to open the door for your star man to leave. 2010 free agency is not far away, and Toronto must have a huge turnaround next season to have any hope of keeping hold of Bosh. Or they will be back to square one and the drawing board.  

 

It happens.