Who Will Be Heat's No. 2 Option When LeBron James Goes Cold?
The Miami Heat have the benefit of having four players who can create their own offense and lead the team in scoring on any given night.
On most nights, that player is the reigning MVP, LeBron James.
James has led the Heat in scoring in 10 out of 17 games this season, and more times than not, he paces the team in rebounds and assists as well. While James lowest scoring output this year has been 20 points, there will certainly be games that the King fails to register MVP-caliber numbers.
So, if LeBron does go cold, who can be relied to be the Heat's solidified No. 2 option?
Obviously, the answer to the headline of this article comes down to two players: Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The reason this article has any relevance is because of the 180-degree shift in perception of those two superstars.
Ever since the 2012 playoffs, in which Wade averaged a rather (for him) pedestrian 22.8 points per game, there has been this sudden notion that Wade is past his prime and that his best days are behind him.
People have accused him of falling off, saying he's lost a step in his athleticism and driving ability that has always been the staple of his game.
Conversely, Bosh was always considered the odd man out in the Heat's Big Three, the overlooked guy who was just there along for the ride. He was called soft and not given much respect for someone who is a seven-time NBA All-Star.
Then, he went down with an injury in the second round of the playoffs, and it appeared Miami was falling apart without him. And being how fickle the media is, Bosh suddenly became "the Heat's most important player" if the team was going to win a championship
This shift in perception for both players leads to a legitimate debate as who is the Heat's unquestioned No. 2 option.
The Case for Dwyane Wade
So has Dwyane Wade lost a step in his game? Is he less athletic? Has he fallen off a bit?
Sure, at 30, Wade is less athletic, and maybe he has lost some of his explosiveness. From that, you could infer that the all-around game that made Wade a household name has declined a bit.
But, let's be real for one second. His decline has been LARGELY exaggerated.
Wade has suffered from nagging injuries for the past two seasons, and it's caused him to miss some time, but nothing to the point where he is no longer reliable.
Remember, Wade played in 76 games and averaged 25.5 points per game just two seasons ago. He is not far from that kind of player.
If you would like to use last year's decline in production as an example, where he averaged just 22.1 points in 49 games, know this: Wade actually shot worse in his first 12 games last season than he has this season and still ended up with the third-highest Player Efficiency Rating at season's end.
So, there is still plenty of time for Wade to showcase why he's undoubtedly the team's No. 2 option (and still could be the No. 1 option on any given night).
As Wade displayed in his highly-efficient 34-point, seven-assist, zero-turnover effort against the Brooklyn Nets last week, he is still highly capable of breaking out for 30-point games.
Wade has led the team in scoring only four times this season, but that's more a product of handling and shooting the ball less this season than losing a step in his game. The fact is that with LeBron James on the roster, Wade isn't going to get as many looks or opportunities to create his offense.
However, Wade still possesses above-average athleticism, great finishing skills at the basket and the ability to score at will.
The difference is that he is no longer the alpha male; no longer does the entire offense run through him. His injury issues and athletic decline are very small factors in him no longer being the D-Wade we were all accustomed to seeing.
When he's feeling it, he can go off for 34-point nights like we saw against the Nets.
The Case for Chris Bosh
Now that people have finally realized how great Chris Bosh is, there can be a legitimate argument for him being the No. 2 option over a two-time champion and Finals MVP like Dwyane Wade.
Bosh is an extremely unique player. He's a 6'11" forward-center who can shoot very well from almost all areas on the floor. His range is impressive for someone his size. He's a finesse player who still has a power game.
Bosh's game allows him to manipulate opposing defenses. His height allows him to be a threat in the post, but his outstanding shooting ability forces opposing centers to leave the paint and guard him on the perimeter.
That is a nightmare for opposing centers, as it leaves the paint open for the Flying Death Machine known as Wade and LeBron James.
Bosh's case is furthered by the fact that he's having his best year in a Heat uniform (19.3 points, 1.3 blocks, 56 percent shooting from the field and 86 percent shooting from the line). It appears that the gap between Wade and Bosh has tightened since the first season of the Heat's Big Three experiment.
Overall, Bosh is a great scorer and could be the No. 1 option on many other teams. He is a dynamic shooter from 16-to-23 feet and is much faster than most opposing centers, meaning he can score inside on the block or drive past slower defenders.
Bosh has shown his ability for breakout offensive games, posting 40 points against the Denver Nuggets earlier this season, which is the highest for any Heat player so far this season. He has also scored fewer than 18 points just four times this year.
His versatility makes him a very sound No. 2 option if LeBron goes cold on a given night.
Who Will be the Heat's No. 2 Option?
It's clear that both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are capable of filling that role, which is a big advantage that the Heat have over other teams.
But, if you have to pick one guy as your solidified No. 2 option, it has to go to the 2006 Finals MVP, Dwyane Wade.
The main reason for this is because No. 2 option implies a No. 2 scorer. Sure, a No. 2 option should have a productive all-around game, but if we're talking about who should take over if LeBron James goes cold, we are talking about scoring.
And, Wade is still a very solid all-around player. His Player Efficiency Rating of 21.79 is still top 20 in the league. Wade averages nearly 20 points per game and is shooting nearly 49 percent from the field. While those aren't typical Wade numbers, his scoring is still slightly higher than Bosh this season.
However, it's Wade's explosive ability that makes him the clear-cut choice for the No. 2 option. It's true that Wade isn't as explosive on a nightly basis as he used to, but he can still score at will on any given night.
Bosh is a reliable 20-10 guy, but a 40-point outburst from Bosh (like he had earlier this season) is a surprise. When Wade pours in 40 points, no one is shocked.
If LeBron goes cold or is not playing, the offense clearly runs through Wade. Wade is still a dynamic slasher who can get to the rim very efficiently, draw fouls and score in bunches. Wade is the same type of player that James is—a rim-attacking guy who can take over a game and dominate on the offensive end.
Bosh doesn't often take over games offensively. He gets his points quietly. Sure, he's capable of 30-plus point games, but they just don't happen as consistently as Wade.
More importantly, Wade is starting to get his scoring back on track recently, averaging 24.6 points over his last five contests (excluding tonight's game vs. the New York Knicks) on an efficient 51 percent shooting.
Who is the Heat's unquestioned No. 2 Option?
Make no mistake about it, Wade is still a phenomenal offensive player. While both Bosh and Wade are reliable No. 2 options, Wade has the ability to take over a game offensively like few players in the NBA.
If LeBron James isn't feeling it one night, there is more than enough reasons to hand the ball to D-Wade with confidence.
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