Bosh wanting to be 'the man' in free agency

Chris Bosh isn’t waiting for some summit to determine his landing spot
next season. The soon-to-be Toronto Raptors free agent is determined to
chart his own course and forge his own identity apart from the
star-studded field of peers also entering the open market.

"I don’t want to be mentioned as an addition to a team," Bosh said prior
to the season. "I want to be mentioned as the guy that
people want to center their team around."

Bosh hasn’t changed that stance, adding recently that he’s making his decision separate from LeBron James or anyone else. Bosh is frequently mentioned as the bronze medal in the Free Agency Olympics headlined by LeBron and Dwyane Wade. Bidders can do a lot worse than bronze. While the pairing of Bosh with one of his former Team USA teammates could form the foundation of a title contender, the 26-year-old power forward could just as easily strike out on his own.

Bosh’s independent streak is a significant variable in a marketplace that so many assume will be dictated by LeBron. Bosh could be the first domino to fall if he decides to leave Toronto when free agency begins July 1, causing a ripple effect among the teams with significant cap space and those angling for a premier free agent through a sign-and-trade.

Unlike the situation facing James in Cleveland, Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo acknowledged that he would be agreeable to a sign-and-trade if a new deal isn’t worked out with Bosh. Toronto’s first priority is to re-sign its five-time All-Star and career scoring leader. The Raptors can offer a max contract of six years and $130 million.

There’s no inkling that such a sign-and-trade agreement exists between James and the Cavaliers, a franchise currently without a coach and with a new general manager. Bosh’s willingness to negotiate with several of the nine teams that have significant cap space (more than $14 million) and those putting together attractive sign-and-trade packages could create a feeding frenzy more dynamic than what LeBron is heading into.

The list of realistic suitors for LeBron appears to be more exclusive, led by Cleveland, Chicago and New York, with several long shots such as New Jersey, Dallas and the Los Angeles Clippers possibly in the mix. While those squads focus their energy on James and most assume Wade is staying in Miami, the rest of the league looking to upgrade could zero in on Bosh as its most practical superstar alternative.

As long as Bosh settles on at least two teams as a possible destination for next season, the bidding war can begin. The more teams, the more heated it becomes. That would benefit Colangelo in his hunt for the best possible package — players, draft picks and/or cap space — should Bosh split town.

Bosh is keeping his options open. Reports have surfaced of a list of teams, ranging from five to much more, that Bosh would be amenable to in a sign-and-trade. His agent, Henry Thomas, has shot down the existence of such a list coming from the Bosh camp, adding that his client is evaluating his choices. Thomas and Bosh have also said that a "free agent summit" isn’t on the horizon.

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