The end of the Chris Bosh era in Toronto, predicted eons ago but finally consummated this weekend with a sign-and-trade agreement with the Miami Heat, is by any definition a watershed moment in Toronto Raptors history.
Bosh leaves as the all-time franchise leader in most meaningful categories, including points, rebounds, blocks, games started and double-doubles.
He leaves without a championship ring, having caught only a whiff of post-season success, to join a Heat squad with the potential to become the greatest dynasty of the post-Michael Jordan era.
In the season ahead we’ll learn how valuable Bosh was to the Raptors, and whether any of the pieces general manager Bryan Colangelo assembled around him are capable of to filling his shoes.
With Bosh gone, we’ll learn definitively whether Andrea Bargnani, whose game often looked out of place in a Bosh-led frontcourt, ever deserved his No. 1 selection in the 2006 NBA Draft.
Unless Colangelo acquires a new alpha dog this summer – naturally, no one is holding their breath – we’ll learn if a team without a superstar, heavily influenced by European-style play, is viable in today’s NBA.
We’ll also learn if Miami’s “New Big Three” – Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade – will work as well as the triumvirate insists it will, and whether there is enough spotlight to go around.
More interesting for those who will dissect the mess left behind in Toronto is what we’ll learn about Colangelo, both as an executive and an evaluator of talent.
With Bosh gone, the Raptors have only one player left from before Colangelo’s tenure in Toronto began four and a half years ago.
That player is Jose Calderon, who Colangelo re-signed in 2008 and essentially crowned his point guard of the future.
What’s left in Raptor land is a team entirely of Colangelo’s making, one that could go a long way to solidify or tarnish his reputation as one of the league’s elite front-office dons.
It’s true Colangelo built the team around Bosh, and life without his franchise player could be something like riding the Tour de France with one working leg.
But it bears mentioning that Colangelo was unable to build a winner around Bosh, and his personnel decisions – from signing Hedo Turkoglu and re-signing Amir Johnson to selecting Jay Triano as head coach – have left more than one observer scratching his head.
The formula Colangelo has applied in Toronto is to some degree the same he employed with the Phoenix Suns, one that thumbs its nose at North American basketball orthodoxy and regularly looks overseas for talent.
It’s a formula that worked well in the desert, but hasn’t translated to meaningful success north of the border.
The linchpin in Toronto is likely Bargnani, who has been compared to Dirk Nowitzki but shown few signs of becoming that type of player, despite improving over the past few season.
If the placid-faced Italian blossoms post-Bosh as Bosh did after Vince Carter was traded in 2004, Colangelo’s status as a basketball savant may be preserved.
If Calderon steps out of the haze he’s seemingly been in since signing a big contract, and if other pieces of the puzzle find their place, all bets are off.
But if they flounder and Colangelo is unable to right the ship, chances are good he and the Raptors will part ways sooner than later.
Whatever transpires over next season ahead, we’ll learn something about Colangelo’s mettle as an executive.
We’ll learn if Midas has lost his touch.