Can Toronto Overcome the Loss of Chris Bosh?

Devin Dignam grew up in small town about 45 minutes north-west of Toronto, before moving to Ottawa (you know, the capital of Canada?), where he completed a B.Sc in Human Kinetics and a B.Ed. Devin is getting tired of tolerating the constant hockey coverage in Canada, and wishes for Canada’s lone remaining NBA team to one day re-attain the splendour [Canadian spelling] of a 45 win season in order to kick hockey off of the front page for at least a couple of days.

Last year the Toronto Raptors didn’t exactly have a season to remember; they finished the 2009-2010 season with a 40-42 record and missed out on the last playoff spot in the Eastern conference.

Furthermore, as expected, Chris Bosh left the team as a free agent this off-season. Without Bosh, where does that leave the Raptors for the 2010-2011 season?  To answer this question, let’s look at what the Raptors had last year (numbers taken from the wonderful website of Andres Alvarez).

Okay: it doesn’t look so good for the Raptors. Last season Bosh led the Raptors in wins (with 11.84) and was second on the team in terms of WP48 (at 0.225, trailing only Amir Johnson). Now that Chris Bosh is gone, the remaining 2009-2010 Raptors stand to win somewhere near 30 games and would comfortably miss the playoffs again next season.

But even without considering Bosh, next year’s team will be different from what we saw last year.

In the wake of the Bosh departure, the team’s GM, Bryan Colangelo, has tried to change up the roster, sending the “disappointing” Hedo Turkoglu to the Phoenix Suns for Leandro Barbosa and Dwayne Jones. Last year, Turkoglu produced 1.04 wins for the Raptors, whereas Barbosa produced -0.52 wins for the Suns. Fortunately, even including last years’ data (when he was injured), Barbosa has averaged just over 3 wins a season over the past 5 seasons, and seems to alternate between bad and good years. So given that last year was a bad year, we can hope that his next will be better and that he will be an small improvement over the Turkish Delight (it shouldn’t be too difficult). Throw-in Dwayne Jones has played limited minutes and may even be waived by the Raptors in the coming weeks, so he should not have much of an impact. 

Perhaps a bigger move for the Raptors has been reported in the past few days.  It is possible (although there is some doubt about this move today) that the Raptors are going to come to terms with free agent Matt Barnes. This would be a very good signing. Over the past four seasons, Barnes has averaged 5.37 wins and has not dropped below a WP of 0.100, which is the mark achieved by an average player.  So adding Barnes could help Toronto overcome some of the loss from Bosh’s departure.

Unfortunately, signing Barnes might not be the last move Toronto makes.  There have also been rumblings that the Raptors are going to trade Jose Calderon. To do so would be a big mistake. Although Calderon underperformed (by his standards) last year, over the past three seasons, Calderon has produced the following numbers:

  • 2009-10: 5.8 WP, 0.154 WP48
  • 2008-09: 11.91 WP, 0.245 WP48
  • 2007-08: 15.68 WP, 0.303 WP48

If Calderon returns to the Calderon of 2008-2009 next year, he stands to increase his win total by about 6 wins. If Calderon returns to the Calderon of 2007-2008, he stands to increase his win total by about 10 wins. A return to form for Calderon will not completely make up for the loss of Bosh, but certainly a player who has contributed an average of about 9 wins a season over the past 5 seasons is a good asset.

Using wins produced, is there anything else that can help give Raptor fans a more optimistic outlook for next year?

Three of the four least productive Raptors (Antoine Wright, Patrick O’Bryant, and Rasho Nesterovic) are unrestricted free agents and are unlikely to be re-signed. These players combined to produce -2.0 wins last year, so improving on their production should not be difficult.

The Raptors also managed to add Joey Dorsey and rookie Ed Davis during the off-season. Coming out of the 2008 NBA draft, Erich Doerr was highly optimistic about Dorsey’s NBA career, but Dorsey has only managed to play 112 NBA minutes over two seasons. Hopefully the Raptors give him a chance to prove himself this upcoming season. Ed Davis was a very good college player who projects to have an excellent chance of being a very good NBA player.

As of the writing of this article, the Raptors, as currently constructed, project to win around 35-45 games. This projection is based on past performance (WP48) and an educated guess on the number of minutes played. Barring any injuries, additional trades, or a superb rookie season from Ed Davis, it looks like the Raptors will be fighting for the last playoff spot in the East.  In other words, the loss of Bosh might leave the Raptors right where they were.

Let me close by suggesting that Mr. Colangelo should consider moving a few players: For example, Toronto could move Andrea Bargnani and Andrea Bargnani (yes, that was indeed intentional). Bargnani has a reputation that exceeds his actual value and should be relatively easy to trade. The Raptors also have a large trade exception from the Bosh sign-and-trade deal with Miami. I’d like to suggest some players for the Raptors to pursue through trade or free agency: Troy Murphy, Samuel Dalembert, Andrei Kirilenko, and Brian Zoubek.  Losing Bargnani and adding another productive player might be enough (assuming Barnes comes and Calderon returns to form) to return the Raptors to the playoffs.  And just maybe, put the Raptors on the front page in Canada (at least, for a few days).

- Devin Dignam

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