Tuesday , Jul , 19 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Toronto needs to build around Bosh

(Sports Network) – Toronto is struggling to find a direction to steer its
franchise. The Raptors have become a team that is still trying to find an
identity.

The Raptors finished the 2004-05 regular season with a 33-49 record and did
not qualify for the playoffs for the second straight year. They had two picks
in the first round of this year’s draft, and decided to draft Connecticut
forward Charlie Villanueva with the seventh overall selection and Oklahoma
State’s Joey Graham at No. 16.

Villanueva was a reach at No. 7, while the athletic Graham is a solid pick who
should fit in well with Toronto. The 6-11 Villanueva is a power forward and
Graham, who is 6-7, will make his living at small forward.

Twenty-one-year-old Chris Bosh is arguably Toronto’s best player. The 6-10
power forward has strong offensive skills down low and had a great sophomore
season during the 2004-05 campaign. After a solid rookie season in 2003-04,
Bosh worked on his game last offseason and was able to raise his production
and improve his overall game.

Originally drafted selected out of Georgia Tech in the first-round (fourth
overall) by Toronto in 2003 NBA Draft, Bosh averaged 16.8 points and a team-
high 8.9 rebounds in 81 contests for the Raptors last season. In his two
year’s in the league, Bosh has registered 14.2 points and 8.2 boards in 156
contests. On June 27th the Raptors exercised the contract option on the
second-year forward, keeping him with the club at least through the 2006-07
campaign.

Bosh is the cornerstone of the Raptors franchise. He has shown that he is
dedicated to working on his game and proved that he has the ability to
continue to get better. He is not the most physical player, which makes it
difficult for him to matchup against certain centers in the league. However,
he is more than capable of going against the other big forwards in the league.

Toronto did draft BYU center Rafael Araujo with the eighth overall selection
in the 2004 draft. The plan was to put Araujo next to Bosh with the hope that
the two would become a competent duo down low. The jury is still out on the
6-11 center, who averaged just 3.3 points and 3.1 rebounds in 59 games during
his rookie season.

Even though Araujo, like Villanueva, was a surprising pick, at least Toronto
had a plan. This year’s pick of the Connecticut product at No. 7 is mind
boggling. Villanueva plays the same position as Bosh, who logged over 37
minutes per game in 2004-05. The Raptors do have a pair of talented swingmen
in Jalen Rose, who led the team in scoring (18.5 ppg), and Morris Peterson,
while Rafer Alston, who led the club in assists (6.4 apg) is a solid point
guard.

Believe it or not, the Raptors do have some talent. The Graham pick can
certainly be justified as he should mesh very well next to Bosh. The two
forwards could give Toronto a very athletic and talented tandem up front for
many years to come.

If Toronto had Graham on its radar with the 16th selection, maybe going
athletic would have been the right path to follow. After all, North Carolina’s
Rashad McCants and Antoine Wright of Texas A&M were available and the club
would probably have been able to trade down to get one of them while
acquiring other assets. The Raptors could have benefited more from selecting
an outside shooter with one of their picks. Bottom line, the Villanueva pick
is a tough one to understand.

With the seventh overall pick, the Raptors did not need a player to take away
minutes from Bosh. They should have been focused on surrounding their talented
forward with a player who can play with him and help the team win games.

Bosh is developing into one of the more talented players in the league. He is
still very young and his best basketball is still to come. The Georgia Tech
product needs to be on the court for the Raptors to be successful. The Raptors
already have a player to build their team around in Bosh, maybe they just
don’t know it.

TOR