It wasn’t until the Miami Heat’s most desperate hours when critics finally began to realize how significant a role Chris Bosh played as the team’s lone threat at the power forward and center positions.
The Heat were able to skate by the Indiana Pacers in Game 1, thanks to valiant efforts from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but found a way to lose to the same Pacer team at home in Game 2. The absence of Bosh only became magnified when the team suffered arguably their lowest point of the season–a 19-point loss in Game 3 that featured Dwyane Wade scoring five points and unleashing his frustration out on coach Erik Spoelstra.
Bosh could have played a huge role in the series, possibly ending it well before it got to Game 6 in Indiana. He was the most dominant player on the floor in the short time he played in Game 1, abusing Roy Hibbert and David West, while spreading the floor to keep the 7’2″ behemoth out of the lane.
The Heat going 5-4 in the nine postseason games Bosh missed made it painfully obvious that they were in need of their safety blanket and best mid-range threat.
It’s always been a bit of a nuisance to hear the knocks on Bosh’s game. The “passive” style of play he’s employed over his NBA career has earned him seven trips to the All-Star game, a spot on the All-NBA second team, and an NBA championship that couldn’t have been won without him. The Heat may not have even made it that far if not for Bosh nailing three three-pointers on his way to 19 points in Game 7 against Boston.
Critics tend to forget that Bosh was one of the league’s top scorers in his time in Toronto. As the team’s primary scoring option, Bosh averaged over 20 per five consecutive seasons, including going for 24 points per game on 52 percent shooting the year before he made his move to Miami. While some may attribute that success to being a contract year for Bosh, it was known beforehand that he was capable of putting up elite numbers.
His PER maxed out at 25 in the 2009-’10 season.
Bosh appears like a different player with the Heat because he isn’t that primary scoring option he was with Toronto and Georgia Tech. It’s an extremely trying transition for a player, who is just going into their prime, to learn how to play the game when going from having the ball every possession to sometimes being ignored on entire possessions. Sure the pressure is off, but there are certain players like Bosh who actually embrace the pressure of performing as a number one player.
Being a third option puts a lot more stress on each possession Bosh is a part of. Since receiving the ball has become sparing, Bosh feels as if he must make the most out of it because he doesn’t dominate possession like his two fellow All-Star teammates. Wade and James are constantly dictating the show, while Bosh can only wait for his turn. The Heat do work him into plays, such as a lethal pick-and-roll, but he’s fortunate enough to be one of the few players his size who can create their own shot with ease.
That’s what makes Bosh such an elite threat if he’s given the opportunity to produce on a greater scale. There aren’t many players out there who are capable of defending him along the perimeter. No player that stands at 6’10″ or taller can stay in front of him and you can’t defend Bosh with anyone shorter than 6’10″ because of the threat of his jumper. It puts opponents in an awkward position, and it’s only going to get worse for them once they find out Bosh is going to play center.
Just look at how significant a role Bosh played against Boston and Oklahoma City when he wasn’t even close to being 100 percent in terms of his health. The mere threat of him making a jumper and getting into a rhythm kept Kevin Garnett, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins out of their comfort zones and into Bosh’s world along the perimeter, allowing Wade and James to do what they do best.
It’s just a shame how he isn’t being utilized and looked at as the former All-Star in Toronto, rather than as a third option in Miami. It worked for LeBron James. Dwyane Wade didn’t like seeing himself and LeBron attempting to not step on each others toes, so he told his MVP teammate to become the dominant juggernaut he was in Cleveland. Once he started playing comfortably leading the team and dominating possessions from inside and out, he started becoming reminiscent of the All-Star who could take over in Cleveland.
The same goes for Bosh. When he’s treated as a first or second option, he brings up a lot of memories of the guy who used to play for the Raptors. He’s allowed to build his confidence early and often. Since he’s a dual-threat who has trouble being defended by the elite defenders at his position, he is capable of consistently producing throughout.
Take a look at his numbers when the Heat are without Wade and Bosh is looked in higher regard:
There are four 30-point games there for Bosh in that span and Wade didn’t play in any of those games. Bosh is obviously going to perform since there’s a void to fill with Wade being out of the lineup, but it still shows just how dominant of a player Bosh can be–even when LeBron James is on the floor. The two work together better because of how well a facilitator James is and how accustomed he is to playing with shooting big men; Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Antawn Jamison and Drew Gooden were all shooting big men he connected with in his time in Cleveland.
Basically what I’m trying to allude to is that the Heat may be an even better team if Chris Bosh, not Dwyane Wade, is the second scoring option.
This isn’t something that should happen this year, unless it needs to happen. I’m a firm believer in the idea that Wade will make a harrowing return this season, much akin to how well he responded from a slew of surgeries that took place a few months prior to the 2008-’09 season when he won the scoring title. Although Wade is older, he has proven to respond well to surgeries and treatments–Games 4 and 6 against Indiana after having his knee drained–and should return to his explosive self come mid-season.
However, Wade is turning 31 in January and Bosh will be 29 in March. Dwyane just dealt with his first injury-plagued season in four years; Bosh hasn’t missed more than 15 games in any season throughout his career. Wade will obviously be a better player than he was last year, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to ween Bosh in as a second scoring option from time-to-time, in order to give Wade the rest and recovery he needs as a boost for the postseason.
Bosh is the second most significant player on this team and this is coming from a long-time fan of Dwyane Wade’s work. The fact is, however, that Bosh is one-of-a-kind and Wade has a playing style similar to LeBron James. The team can manage if it’s just Wade and Bosh or James and Bosh, but they wouldn’t last if it was just Wade and James because of the lack of a scoring threat at the four and five positions.
As you saw in the Heat’s postseason run without Bosh, 5-4 in nine games isn’t winning a title. They need Bosh out there to keep the opponent’s post defenders out of the lane. However, rather than using him as a distraction, perhaps it’s time for the Heat to begin involving Bosh more. Let him get into a rhythm early, let him get his shots off and make him feel that he’s a larger part of this team.
The Heat went 14-1 without Wade last season. That’s not saying the Heat are better off without Wade, but that they’re just as good a team when Bosh is filling in as the team’s second scorer and playing with someone who is a natural-born facilitator. Unfortunately for Bosh, he doesn’t get those opportunities because he’s playing with two All-Stars who are at their best when the ball is in their hands, as well as having the benefit of being at two positions where ball-handling is a common occurrence.
Miami will monitor Wade’s minutes and track his health throughout the season. He just returned from July 9th knee surgery and looked hardly like the All-Star we know him as, at least on the offensive end. On defense, Wade was up to his usual tricks; recording four steals, including this magnificent takeaway, and two blocks.
There isn’t any need for a move in the rotation, yet. After all, this team just won a championship and you can’t exactly argue with that. However, there is always room for improvement, especially after championships as to avoid a nightmare that was the 2006-’07 Heat campaign. Miami will most likely repeat as champions with Wade as the team’s number two scorer, but it’s still a need from the Heat’s coaching staff to begin recognizing that the younger Bosh could be the more logical option in the regular season.