Much of the chatter about the possibilities the 2012-13 Miami Heat will be able to repeat as NBA champions will no doubt be centered on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. However, Chris Bosh is the Heat's key to hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy once again.
Bosh is a very unique player with a set of skills that hold even more importance, considering the Heat's roster as it is. Just recall the difference in the Heat's performance when Bosh was on and off the court during the 2012 postseason.
But even more than last season, Bosh is the team's true X-Factor, the key to a repeat.
Here are five reasons why.
After playing 37.5 MPG in 62 games in a grueling shortened season filled with back-to-backs, LeBron James played another 23 postseason games in which he averaged 42.7 MPG. And, shortly after that 23rd postseason game in which LeBron achieved NBA glory by winning his first ring, he began preparing for the Olympics in London.
Simply put, LeBron has put himself through a heck of a lot physically, so it's hard to categorize him and his legs as "fresh" entering the season. Even though LeBron is still the best player in the NBA and a physical freak, he is human and does require some rest.
But after skipping the Olympics, Bosh should have fresh legs. And if the Heat are to start out their title defense in the way they want to, Bosh is going to have to step up and play some of the best basketball of his career with LeBron likely needing an extra rest or two early on.
With the way the Heat's roster is currently constructed, it relies heavily on Chris Bosh as the cornerstone down low.
Just like we saw when he missed nine games in the 2012 postseason, the Heat without Bosh are in big trouble inside, especially on offense. The Heat simply don't have any other big men who can come close to replicating what Bosh does on both sides of the floor.
The Heat desperately need Bosh to stay healthy this season, and also, without a true center, they need him to pick up even more of the rebounding slack (averaged 7.9 RPG in 2011-12).
First of all, let's not forget that Dwyane Wade remains one of the very best players in the NBA.
Still, Wade struggled, at times, as the Heat got deeper into the playoffs primarily due to the breakdown and betrayal of his body. In July, he had knee surgery, and although he will almost assuredly be ready for the start of the season, there should be some concern about Wade's ability to stay healthy throughout the season.
The unpleasant truth is that Wade is getting older and more prone to getting dinged up. Wade cannot shoulder the load on a night-to-night basis to the incredible degree he used to, and because you can't really ask anymore out of LeBron James, Chris Bosh is going to have to pick up the slack, especially on the offensive end.
As briefly mentioned earlier, Bosh's importance to the Heat was clearly evident in the nine games he missed in the postseason.
One of the biggest weapons in Bosh's arsenal is his midrange jumper. When Bosh is on the floor, opposing big men have to focus heavily on slowing him down and preventing that deadly shot.
Even when he's not shooting or even touching the ball, Chris Bosh has a huge impact on making the Heat offense the threat that it is.
For most of his career, Bosh had been thought of as a one-dimensional player. But recently, the big man has done a great job of shedding that label. He did so, especially, in the 2012 NBA Finals with his tremendous help on defense.
Because of the team's lack of size inside, Bosh will probably play more at the 5 in 2012-13 where his defensive presence will be keenly needed, just like he did in the 2012 NBA playoffs.
If Bosh can continue to take the defensive strides he has since joining the Heat, he should be more than up for the challenge. And that's good news for the Heat, because they absolutely need him to be at peak performance if they want to achieve their goal of another title.