Colangelo expects Bosh to sign elsewhere

I took a lot of heat (pun intended) over my assertion that the Raptors should have thought about trading Chris Bosh at the trade deadline instead of waiting for the summer.

Now the franchise is coming to the realization that Bosh is very likely on the way out, but they still hope to work out a sign-and-trade with his new team so that he can get a max contract and they can get something in return.

[GM Bryan] Colangelo told radio station Fan590 in Toronto that the Raptors still hope to keep the All-Star forward, but if Bosh does want to leave, he will try to work a sign-and-trade arrangement that could help both sides.

“As we look at Chris as a potential free agent, our own free agent, wanting to re-sign him, I still have that intention and desire,” Colangelo said. “But it’s becoming more and more clear that that’s not going to happen. Now we need to decide what the best way is to come out of this.”

A sign-and-trade would allow Bosh to get an extra year on his contract while enabling the Raptors to receive something in return for losing him. If Bosh simply signs with another team, it could cost him about $30 million.

I still think the chances of a sign-and-trade are relatively slim. That $30 million number is always thrown around, but it doesn’t take into account the money earned in the first year of the player’s next contract, so really the difference is about $10-$12 million. It’s still a consideration, but when a player says his #1 goal is winning titles, it doesn’t make much sense for him to force a sign-and-trade and effectively fleece his new team of its young prospects and draft picks.

The only type of sign-and-trade that make sense for Bosh and the Raptors this summer is one that brings back a player that plays the same position that Bosh does. For example, if Bosh decides to sign with the Knicks, the Raptors could work out a sign-and-trade that would include David Lee. This is about the best case scenario for Toronto, as the other players in the Bosh sweepstakes simply don’t have players of Lee’s caliber.

The Bulls have Luol Deng, but he’s more of a small forward and his salary is pretty steep — I’m not even sure the Raptors would want to take it on. Miami’s Michael Beasley makes sense, but his stock is awfully low right now and the Raptors don’t seem all that interested. Besides, if Bosh leaves, they’d like to move Bargnani to power forward, which seems to be Beasley’s natural position.

Predictably, Colangelo tries to spin the current situation:

“It’s the perfect storm for Chris Bosh to leave and unfortunately we’re possibly going to be on the short end of that, but we will evolve,” Colangelo said. “We will have to evolve and move forward.”

This didn’t happen overnight. If I could see the writing on the wall late last year, then surely Colangelo did too. The sign-and-trade strategy makes sense when there aren’t very many teams under the cap, but with this much cap space floating around, Bosh has plenty of options to sign with another team free and clear, and that may very well leave the Raptors out in the cold.

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Handicapping the players in the LeBron sweepstakes

Anyone outside of his entourage who claims to know what LeBron is going to do is being disingenuous. He loves the fact that he’s the center of attention even though the playoffs are still in full swing. He often speaks of July 1 in grandiose terms and that’s because, like most superstars, he has a very high opinion of himself.

That said, I found myself rooting for the Celtics in their series with the Cavs because as a writer, Cleveland’s early exit throws LeBron’s future to the wind. He could land any number of places.

Though the LeBron Tracker makes me a little nauseous, I thought I’d take a stab at handicapping where King James might end up. I’ll include the six teams that ESPN deemed worthy of making the top banner and add the Mavs for good measure. For each team, I’ll outline why he’d sign and why he wouldn’t. I’ll also rank (on a scale of 1-10) how he fits from a personnel standpoint.

In terms of fit, I look to the last few premier wings who have broken through and won at least one title as the best player on their team. I’m talking about Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, Dwyane Wade and Michael Jordan. What do they have in common? Kobe, Pierce and Wade all played with top notch big men — Gasol, Garnett and Shaq, respectively — while Jordan had Scottie Pippen. In other words, they all got to play with another All-NBA (Top 15) caliber player when they won their title.

They also enjoyed good coaching. Jordan and Kobe had Phil Jackson, Wade had Pat Riley and Doc Rivers did a great job of coaching the ’08 Celtics. They were also all surrounded by good shooters who could make teams pay for double-teaming their respective superstar.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the major players in line for LeBron’s services and try to handicap their chances of signing the league’s most valuable player.

CAVS (25%)
Why he’ll sign: Loyalty, comfort, familiarity. He’s from the area and he doesn’t want to leave town after an early postseason exit, as it would effectively destroy basketball in the city of Cleveland. Shaq will be gone and there’s an opportunity for an upgrade at head coach.
Why he won’t sign: Too much baggage. The franchise has had seven years to build around him and they’ve made just one Finals appearance. Suspect flexibility with the roster.
Fit: 5/10 The Cavs have a pretty good shooter at power forward (Antawn Jamison) and a good shooter at point guard (Mo Williams), but neither player is even average on defense. There are a lot of solid-to-good players on the roster, but no one approaches the Top 15 sidekick that helped the aforementioned wings win their titles. It’s tough to find that kind of player via trade, but that’s how Gasol, Garnett and Shaq came to play for the Lakers, Celtics and Heat. Cap-wise, if they re-sign LeBron, they won’t have any cap space to speak of until the summer of 2012 when Jamison’s salary is off the books.

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Bulls upend Cavs, 86-85

After an 0-2 start to the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers were riding a three-game winning streak into Thursday night’s home game against the Bulls. Here are the highlights:

The Cleveland faithful might think that LeBron was fouled on his last drive, but after taking a couple of looks at it, I think it was a clean play. The defender is entitled to his space, and he’s allowed to jump in the air as long as he doesn’t jump forward. This is called the “principle of verticality,” which means that a defensive player is entitled to his vertical cylinder. Joakim Noah’s defense on the play wasn’t a perfect example of this (as his body was drifting toward the basket a bit), but it was a good defensive play. LeBron was in a tough spot and obviously jumped into Noah looking for the call and the refs didn’t bail him out.

There are a couple of other things to take from this game:

1. Mo Williams’ ineffectiveness
He was 4-13 from the field (including 1-7 from long range). He did have six assists, but Mo is a scorer and he needs to be more efficient than this.

2. The Bulls’ balance
Chicago had seven players score at least seven points, and Luol Deng led the Bulls with 15. Derrick Rose didn’t shoot the ball well, but still scored 14 points and dropped 11 dimes.

The Cavs drop to 3-3 with the loss, while the Bulls are 3-2.

The NBA’s 68 worst contracts

The economy is really starting to take its toll on professional sports, and the NBA is no different. Bad contracts are bad even when the economy is pumping, but they really stand out in tough times like these. So I decided to look through the payrolls team-by-team to try to identify the worst contracts in the NBA. I expected to list 15-20 names, but I ended up scribbling down 68. That’s right, there are no fewer than 68 bad contracts in the NBA.

I didn’t include any of the players that are in the final year of their contracts because…well, what’s the point? They’ll be off the books in a few months anyway. Instead, I wanted to focus on those contracts that are going to haunt teams for years to come, so to be eligible, players have to have at least a year left on their current deals.

It’s tough to compare someone making superstar money to an average, everyday role player, so I split these 68 contracts up into three groups: the Overpaid Role Players, the Not-So-Super Stars and the Injury-Prones. I will rank them from least-worst to most-worst with the thinking that I wouldn’t trade the player for anyone further down the list but I would trade him for anyone previously mentioned. So, for example, if a guy is listed #7 within a particular group, I’m not trading him for anyone ranked #6-#1, but I would think seriously about moving him for a guy that is ranked #8+.

So let’s start with the role players and go from there…

(Note: In most cases, I don’t blame the player himself for his outrageous contract. The fault lies with the general manager that inked the guy to the deal. However, this rule goes out the window if the player has a history of only producing in his contract year – I’m looking at you, Tim Thomas.)

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The NBA’s Top 10 Young Small Forwards

Here’s a quick list of the top 10 small forwards under the age of 26, ranked in the order of a combination of current performance and trade value (regardless of salary).

I’ll also list the player’s age and his Player Efficiency Rating.

1. LeBron James, Cavs
Age: 23
PER: 33.28

27.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists on a 20-4 team – can you spell M-V-P?

2. Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets
Age: 24
PER: 18.50

The Nuggets are sitting atop the Northwest with a 16-7 record and with the arrival of Chauncey Billups, ‘Melo is starting to play defense, as evidenced by his career-high 8.2 rebounds.

3. Danny Granger, Pacers
Age: 25
PER: 18.67

His boards are down, but his points and assists are up. I bet that the six teams that drafted other guys ahead of him – Magic (Fran Vasquez), Clippers (Yaroslav Korolev), Bobcats (Sean May), T-Wolves (Rashad McCants), Nets (Antoine Wright) and the Raptors (Joey Graham) – are all wishing they could have that draft back.

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