Should Colangelo Play Hardball?

Bloggers note: I know I promised a Draft Report Card, and I had started writing it, but got too busy. I still may finish it, but I don’t get paid to do this, so who knows.

Bosh SeasonSo hunting season has started and the bullets are flying left, right and centre. For Raptor fans, the good part in this is that we don’t have to read all the premature speculation about where Bosh could be going. On the downside, we now have to read the less speculative reports about where Bosh could be going.

By the time you read this, it’s possible that Bosh, or any of the other big name free agents, could have agreed to sign with a team, but I doubt it. Proving that all the rumours flying around about where players have decided to go were false, I’m going to guess it will at least be a day or so before players start making verbal agreements. They’re going to want to know what’s out there for them and they couldn’t do that until today.

So with Bosh seemingly more open to playing second fiddle to guys like Wade or LeBron than he initially stated, it seems that the likelihood of Bosh leaving is pretty much a reality. Too bad. While he’s certainly not the type of big man I would choose to build around if given the choice, he is the best player, by far, that the Raptors have and the team is worse off without him.

The question now is what to do if Bosh chooses to sign elsewhere, as is predicted. Initially, I felt not doing a sign and trade was pointless and only hurting the team. After reading this article on Raptors Digest, I realized that Colangelo might need to take a different approach. Now, I have no idea what deals are available to the Raptors in a sign and trade for Bosh. Bosh going to Miami seems to be the rumour with the most legs, and there is talk of everything from Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony, to a simple $16 million trade exception and the Raptors draft pick back.

The most frightening rumour out there was that LeBron, Wade and Bosh all agreed to sign with the same team, probably Miami. If you’re a Miami fan, you couldn’t ask for better news. If you’re a fan of the other 29 teams, this would just plain suck. The East would basically be a wasteland and no Western Conference team would have a hope of beating them in the Finals. Personally, I don’t see this happening, and there are recent reports that Wade has given up trying to recruit LeBron.

HardballStill, it got me thinking that perhaps Colangelo might not want to simply sign and trade Bosh to any team he wants. Maybe Colangelo might want to sit back and think about what really is best for the Raptors.

If Colangelo decides to play hardball with Bosh, Bosh could simply sign with one of the teams that have the cap space, but he would be losing out on nearly $30 million and an extra year on his contract. That might be enough to entice Bosh to want to help out the Raptors a little more.

First of all, if I’m Colangelo, I’d forbid Bosh from teaming up with both LeBron and Wade. They could only do that in Miami, so Colangelo would simply have to refuse to take back Beasley and Chalmers. Without Colangelo taking back those players, Miami doesn’t have enough to sign all three. Problem solved.

Of course, simply preventing a dynasty in his own conference might not be enough for Colangelo. He might actually want something of value back for Bosh. Something more than a simple trade exception. Could Colangelo give Bosh a list of teams HE would approve of, and what he would expect back were Bosh to agree to a sign-and-trade to them?

If enough teams are desperate for Bosh, he might be willing to put pressure on those teams to agree to Colangelo’s demands. Obviously the teams without cap space would be able to send the most talent back, but simple talent, with equal sized contracts, might not be exactly what Colangelo wants back. Now obviously a trade of Bosh and Jack for Bynum and Odom would be incredibly enticing, especially if the Raptors could turn around and trade Odom for a young player. Even more enticing might be a trade to the Nets, where they send back draft pick Derrick Favors in return. Sure, the Raptors just drafted Ed Davis, who plays the same position, but getting Favors would give the Raptors an 18 year old athletic big man would give them a great piece to keep or trade, but they’d also be getting a sizeable trade exception to do with what they want.

Casino RoyaleBasically, Colangelo, who has been powerless throughout the Bosh saga, might be able to actually wield some power, and possibly gain some more respect, if he decides to play hardball with Bosh. It certainly could backfire and Bosh could leave for nothing, giving the Raptors less cap space than what the MLE is worth this summer, but Colangelo might actually be able to turn water into wine and come out somewhat of a victor in this whole sordid mess.

It’s a dangerous gamble, and one that will end up affecting the team for years. It’s the dangerous gamble, however, that a great GM would make. Back when Jerry West was in charge of the Lakers, he traded away a top ten center, in Vlade Divac, in exchange for the 13th pick in the draft and the cap space to be able to ATTEMPT to sign Shaquille O’Neal away from the Orlando. Thankfuly, for them, that 13th pick was Kobe Bryant and Shaq decided to walk away from a nice young team in Orlando that had just won 60 games and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Can you imagine if Kobe had been a little more like Kwame, and if Shaq decided he like Orlando better? Talk about your bad moves. West, however, had confidence in his abilities and judgement and decided to trust his instincts and threw everything into the pot. Colangelo has that chance, although unfortunately without the same upside as Jerry West’s bet.

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7 thoughts on “Should Colangelo Play Hardball?

  1. Pingback: Toronto Raptors Morning Coffee July 1 | Raptors Republic - ESPN TrueHoop's Raptors Blog

  2. Am I the only one who thinks that the big three together is not a slam dunk for a dynasty. In 2010, they would have to surround themselves with minimum salary players and 2nd rounders. They would have no interior defense and 3 guys who are used to having the ball in their hands. That may have worked with team USA but over a long season, egos will come into play. In future years, they could slowly add players with the MLE but you still have CB’s knee, Wade’s back, Lebron’s elbow flaring and you could see them get knocked off. Boy would they be fun to cheer against.

  3. Tim, great article. I have felt all along that this is the strategy best employed by the Raptors. I never agreed with Colangelo’s strategy of making it known publicly and to Chris that the Raptors were open to a sign and trade – and even if that were true any public pronouncements should have been qualified by Colangelo to say that the Raptors would only be open to a sign and trade if it was to a team that gave the Raptors players back in a sign and trade that were acceptable to the team.

    The idea of simply negotiating the best sign and trade with the one team that Bosh selects -especially if it is to a team with cap space that can sign Bosh outright without a sign and trade (ex: Miami) – will never net the Raptors any reasonable trade pieces in return since a team like that has few players assets to offer the Raptors in return and the Raptors have no leverage in any trade negotiations with a team like that since that team can sign Bosh without a sign and trade. If I am the Raptors the only way I agree to a sign and trade is if its a deal that works both for Bosh (ie. extra money) and the Raptors get players back they want in return. I think the only teams that would make sense would be Houston, Lakers, Dallas, New Jersey (ex: Derrick Favours) and Chicago (but only if the Bulls are prepared to give up Noah). There is no way I would do a sign and trade with Miami or the Knicks. They have nothing of value to offer the Raptors.

    • Thanks for your comments, guys.


      Ya, I’ve commented how little depth any superteam would have, but I think they would probably get a couple of older, half decent veterans playing for the minimum and scrape through the first season before getting a little depth the next one. The ego thing might certainly be something to watch out for. Still, the thought of the three players teaming up should be disconcerting enough to try and prevent it.


      I just read something on ESPN that talked about the Raptors giving a list to Bosh….
      Playing it safe rarely works in the NBA. As for your teams, I’d probably add San Antonio and Oklahoma City to that list, although I can’t see Bosh choosing either one. With the drafting of Davis, grabbing Jeff Green from the Thunder (as well as maybe a first rounder) would give the Raptors some nice, young talent at every position.

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  5. Hi Tim, great article. I think you have this figured out, and only time will tell how it plays out exactly. Colangelo’s game is to delay Bosh from signing for as long as possible (by playing hardball) and force the other FA’s to split up. Personally I think LeBron will sign with Cleveland, Boozer with Chicago, Stoudemire with Knicks. This leaves only the Nets and Miami as viable options for Bosh to get a max deal without a trade. Nets would be out because they have no hope to compete, that leaves Miami assuming by then Wade has not jumped ship (to the Bulls or the Knicks?). Bosh will then have to decide whether it makes sense to go to Miami with a $30 million pay cut and a team that will not be able to win it all with just the two of them and Beasley. Assuming this plays out, I believe Bosh will rationally decide that Houston, Mavs, Spurs or LA makes more sense for him. More money, and better chance to win. The key to all this, I think, is LeBron. If he signs, as I suspect, with Cleveland, then Chicago will move fast to sign Boozer and also take a run at Wade. Wade should take that deal, leaving Bosh with no friends to play with and Colangelo with a handful of eager teams to trade with.

    • Scott,

      Thanks for the comment. I’m certainly interested to see how Colangelo handles this offseason. One thing I do like about Colangelo is that he seems to view his job as though he were playing chess. He’s trying to figure out how to move the pieces around and he’s obviously got a strategy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When he’s at his best, he’s initiating, but not when he’s simply reacting.

      I do think it’s funny how many people thought the free agents had made up their mind before free agency even started. I never bought it and it’s obvious now that it simply wasn’t true.

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