CHICAGO -- While the NBA draft combine is a time for the top prospects to showcase their skills in front of league executives, much of the intrigue occurs after the drills end. In restaurants and lobbies in downtown Chicago, general managers chat with one another about everything going on in the league, including potential trades and free agency.
In speaking with a number of NBA personnel and player agents over the past two days, I realized that while LeBron James may be the "it" guy in the 2010 Free Agent frenzy, there seems to be as much or more speculation in Chicago about the future of Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh.
Why? The NBA GMs I spoke with are convinced that Bosh is the most likely top free agent to leave for another destination. They also believe the Raptors will be willing to do a sign-and-trade, potentially putting all 29 other teams in play for his services.
That idea wasn't disputed by two sources close to situation. They told me Thursday that Bosh's agent has informed the Raptors that he has whittled his potential list down to five teams and has given the list to the Raptors. (See this Bosh news story, published earlier on Friday.)
Bosh's wish list, according to sources, includes the Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat and New York Knicks, in no particular order.
If he were to leave Toronto, Bosh would prefer to do a sign-and-trade, which would allow him to get an extra year on his contract and larger year-to-year raises. In short, he can earn considerably more money with a sign-and-trade as opposed to just signing with another team. By giving the Raptors the list now, it gives the team time to construct potential deals that they could live with.
Of course, the Raptors would love to re-sign Bosh if he's willing, but, according to sources, they've told him that if he decides to go elsewhere, they're open to doing a sign-and-trade if they can get back a player they like -- preferably a big man.
One of the sources told ESPN.com that Bosh's ultimate decision will likely be heavily influenced where LeBron decides to play: "If LeBron decides to go to either New York or Chicago, I think that's where you'll see Chris land. If LeBron stays in Cleveland, I think the process is more wide open."
Of the four teams left, the Lakers clearly hold the most interesting sign-and-trade options for Toronto. The Raptors have shown interest in both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. But a source cautioned, "If the Lakers win the NBA title, I think the chances of them shaking up the roster go down dramatically."
To acquire Bosh, the Knicks could sign-and-trade David Lee, in whom the Raptors have shown great interest.
The chances for the Bulls and Heat to participate in a Bosh sign-and-trade are a bit less clear. The Bulls could offer Luol Deng, but his huge contract would be an issue, and he’s not a big man. Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah could be in play, but a source in Chicago told me the Bulls really want to hang onto Noah.
The Heat don't have a lot to offer unless the Raptors would be happy with Udonis Haslem (via sign-and-trade) and/or Michael Beasley.
The list, sources said, did not include any of the three teams in Bosh’s home state of Texas – the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs -- nor did Bosh express interest in the up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder, as some thought he might.
This could come as especially bitter news to the Rockets, who sources say have a strong interest in Bosh and would be willing to offer the Raptors a number of players.