Though Henry Thomas, the agent for Chris Bosh denied an ESPN report Friday that Bosh had given the Raptors a list of five teams he would play for next season, those five, along with Houston and possibly New Jersey, have to be considered the favourites.
Hereís a look, in alphabetical order, of why Bosh might consider them, as well as what the Raptors could conceivably expect back. A sign-and-trade is likely because it gives Bosh $30 million U.S. more than any other team can offer.
Chicago has an excellent point guard in Derrick Rose who is only getting better. Centre Joakim Noah would allow Bosh to finally escape the burden of being counted on to grab every rebound for his club. The Bulls also have some decent complementary pieces.
Should Chicago land LeBron James, the odds of Bosh heading there triple.
Who might the Raptors get back from the Bulls? Rose and Noah are staying put. Luol Deng might be the best they could hope for, but he is signed to a pricey deal. More likely Taj Gibson or James Johnson (who the Raptors strongly considered drafting) and a pick or two along with a Jose Calderon for Kirk Hinrich swap (better player, shorter deal) are offered.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
La La landís appeal is obvious. Bosh seems to crave the bright lights and nowhere are they brighter than Hollywood. The presence of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and a championship pedigree doesnít hurt. Some say this is the first choice for Bosh. Phil Jackson has expressed his love of Bosh openly in the past (resulting in a fine). Gasol doesnít love playing the middle, but he plays better with Lamar Odom than he does with Andrew Bynum.
A player like Bynum (young, at times dominant true centre) would never be available if completely healthy. The Raptors wonít get a player back with higher potential in any Bosh trade, but they would also be taking a huge risk considering his long history of injuries.
The Heat only has boatloads of cap room thanks to the Jermaine OíNeal-Shawn Marion swap with the Raptors two seasons ago. That deal ironically gave the Heat the space to go after either Bosh, Amare Stoudemire or Carlos Boozer to pair with Dwyane Wade.
Bosh is a fan of the warm weather and is a pal of and shares an agent with Wade, who seems most likely of the top free agents to stay put.
The cupboard is mostly bare for the Heat. The team could send back Michael Beasley, who is talented but does not have a natural position and does not even pretend to play any defence.
The Heat also owns Torontoís 2010 second-round selection and 2011 first.
NEW YORK KNICKS
The Knicks have long dreamed of adding Bosh and James to the 2011 lineup, but it remains unlikely.
In tearing apart the foundation to clear cap room, the Knicks have also removed most of their talent. New York City might be the self-proclaimed basketball Mecca, but would James and/or Bosh really join a club with so little talent?
The Knicks donít have much to offer via trade to either the Cavs or Raptors. Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler have potential, but arenít great. David Lee has the contractual right to turn down any deal and the Knicks peddled away their best chip, a top 10 2010 draft pick years ago.
Toronto can offer Bosh two things the other teams canít. It is the only place where he will be the franchise player, the face of the organization and it is a city he has made his second home.
Go anywhere else, he will be second or third fiddle and will have to adapt.
The odds of Bosh staying put increase greatly if James remains in Cleveland and if the Raptors find a way to bring in a solid player via trade of picks or prospects.