With very little playoff success as a franchise, the Toronto Raptors have effectively done a better job driving their best players out of town than keeping them happy on this side of the border.
With one year left in Chris Bosh’s contract, it is time for Raptors fans to start considering whether their resident all-star is in for the long haul in Toronto if the team doesn’t make a major turnaround soon.
When the Raptors switched from high-risk and high-flying Vince Carter to the unflashy, but sturdy Bosh as their leader in 2004, it was a major strategic change which re-shaped the organization.
Admittedly, Carter wanted out of Canada’s lone franchise because he lacked faith in where the team was headed. But it was widely accepted that Bosh was ready to handle the responsibility.
Now, after five seasons with Bosh as the go-to guy, the Raptors have little tangible success to show for it.
The most telling stat for a superstar is how they play when it counts. Constantly hailed as a “superstar,” Bosh has yet to lead his team to a playoff series victory and has struggled in the post-season.
At the end of the 2006-07 season, when the Raptors won the Atlantic Division, Bosh had the chance to shine in the playoffs.
Coming off career highs in points and rebounds, many believed this would be Toronto’s year.
It’s amazing how much can change in such a short time.
The Raptors lost in six games and Bosh was outdueled by the other teams’ leader – ironically enough, former teammate Carter.
Carter averaged 25 points per game and outshined Bosh entirely in the series, as the young Raptor leader averaged only 17.5 points per game – five below his season average – and only nine rebounds per game – two below his regular season average.
It started unraveling there.
Expectations were still very high for Bosh and the Raptors the next season as many people chalked the loss to the Nets up to inexperience.
But, the Raptors struggled all season and finished a disappointing 41-41, good enough for a playoff spot in the weak eastern conference, but not good enough to put them in the top half of the league.
Again, in the playoffs, Bosh was outmatched by his star counterpart, Dwight Howard, who roughed up and punished the Raptors’ power forward for the short five game series.
The most telling statistic in the Bosh-Howard matchup is how invisible Bosh was when his team faced elimination.
In game five, Howard poured in 21 points and grabbed 21 rebounds, while Bosh scored a meager 16 points and nine rebounds with the season on the line.
Since then, the Raptors have not returned to the playoffs.
Bosh hardly compares to the other top picks from the 2003 draft class, who have all had success in the playoffs.
LeBron James, picked first in Bosh’s draft, won the NBA’s most valuable player award in 2009 and his team advanced to the NBA finals in 2007.
Carmelo Anthony, the third pick in that talent-rich draft year, has reached the playoffs all six of his NBA seasons and reached the Western Conference final in 2009.
Dwyane Wade, drafted after Bosh, won an NBA championship in 2006 and averaged almost 34 points per game in the finals – one of the greatest NBA finals performances ever.
Unlike Bosh, all of these players truly carry elite status because they have tasted at least some playoff success in their careers.
In addition to his playoff struggles, Bosh’s regular season stats have also hit a plateau.
Since the 2006-07 season, when Bosh averaged 22.6 points per game and 10.7 rebounds, his stats have never improved.
Last year his scoring remained relatively stalled, and he has yet to duplicate those rebounding numbers.
He has also seen his field goal percentage drop steadily each year – meaning he takes more shots, but doesn’t get more points.
It seems that without Bosh improving, the Raptors have actually gotten worse. It’s no wonder they finished 33-49 last year.
With all the pressure of leading Canada’s only basketball team on his slight shoulders, Chris Bosh is not up to carrying it.
With only one year remaining in his contract, Bosh will need some motivation – perhaps a playoff victory – to stay in Toronto before he decides to take the Vince Carter express out of Canada, which would again leave the Raptors, and Canada, in search of a new star to reset their hopes.