The Miami Heat went into the 2011-’11 season without a true center, instead starting Joel Anthony.
Since no player has stepped up to the call and performed well on a consistent basis at the five, the Heat simply decided to convert one of their better players into a center.
When the 2012-’13 season starts on October 30th against the Boston Celtics, it may not be Joel Anthony or Dexter Pittman starting at center. No, it could very well be Chris Bosh, who has played at power forward for a large majority of his career. Standing at 6’11″, Bosh is the Heat’s big man by far and is their only realistic solution to solving the vacancy at center, with no chance that the Heat end up signing a reliable center due to the heavy demand for their services.
Bosh experimented playing center in Toronto, but with little success, even when he bulked up momentarily near the tail-end of his tenure. It wasn’t until he lost in the 2011 NBA Finals did Bosh take an approach to playing multiple positions on a consistent basis, something that LeBron James also improved on with tremendous results over the same offseason. Bosh bulked up and played more minutes at center than he had in his entire career.
While he still played far more minutes at his natural position, he caught the coaching staff’s eye with several quality performances near the end of the regular season, as well as in the playoffs. Bosh’s play at center, as well as Shane Battier’s superb play at power, came as close as you could get to rendering Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka useless. Ibaka’s famed shot-blocking was hardly a threat in the series, while Perkins was moved to complaining about minutes.
Bosh had some of his best rebounding performances of the season, including 14 rebounds against New York and 15 rebounds against New Jersey on back-to-back nights. In limited postseason appearances, he had three games with at least 10 boards, with two of those games coming in the Finals.
He may find himself making it a permanent residence this upcoming season. Bosh expressed his positive thoughts on the matter:
“It’s becoming natural to me. I have a very unique opportunity to do something very special for myself and my team. I think all the time that you have to evolve and get better. This is me evolving as a player.”
Basically, he saw what happened when LeBron James began to dabble in other areas and now wants a part of it. James experimented playing multiple positions more than he ever had in his career and found more success than he could have ever dreamed of–a league MVP, an NBA Finals MVP, a championship and a gold medal. It also made him a much better player with more comfort zones and positions on the floor, which makes him closer to unstoppable than he was before.
Bosh now wants in on the action, and has bulked up as a result. He took similar action last year going into training camp, coming back visibly larger with the idea of playing more time at center. His minutes at the five were spotty, but the Heat were impressed (desperate) enough to give him a chance at the five; because if Pittman, Anthony, Ronny Turiaf, Jamaal Magloire, Udonis Haslem, Erick Dampier and Zydrunas Ilgauskas couldn’t do it long enough to hold the position, then why not give Bosh more of a run at it?
Plus, the Heat don’t have much of a choice. Anthony is better as a power forward and is being rendered obsolete because of his waning role in the offense and Pittman failed to make good impressions heading into the new season after a disappointing summer league. Pittman averaged over five fouls per game against D-League level talent, which might have made Pat Riley and the Heat staff wary of giving Dexter that contract Riley guaranteed earlier in the offseason.
You may remember the Heat rescinded their guaranteed contract to Eddie House heading into the 2011-’12 season, instead going with Terrel Harris.
Among other options to play center include recent workout attendee’s in Mickell Gladness, Josh Harrellson, Chris Andersen and Hassann Whiteside–all free agents for a reason.
Miami has to start Bosh at center, and why not? The competition at the five isn’t exactly stacked and there isn’t one center in this league that can consistently score and, yes, I am speaking of Dwight Howard as a center who can’t consistently score. For someone as large and imposing as he is, for him to never average over 23 points per game on an Orlando Magic team that focused their entire offense on him is disappointing.
Think about the incentives that come with Bosh on the offensive end. He’s an unconventional big man who is most comfortable when the ball is in his hands near the perimeter and he’s facing towards the basket, opposed to the traditional back to the basket game employed by most power forwards and centers. Most opposing players Bosh’s height aren’t comfortable defending along the perimeter, which usually results in Bosh getting up a jumper or blowing past his defender for an easy drive.
Throw Rashard Lewis out at the four along with Bosh and you have two big men who are going to require each of the defender’s big men to stray towards the perimeter.
Miami is going to use the regular season as an experiment. They only care about the results that come at the end of the postseason, so they’ll end up utilizing a number of different lineups, in order to declare what lineups are the most effective come postseason time.
With the team most likely to employ the “small-ball” and positionless approach, they should end up having Bosh at the five and possessing one of the most volatile and dynamic lineups in the league.