Chris Bosh's Miami Heat Future Rests on NBA Finals Performance
As the Miami Heat find themselves locked in what could be a Finals for the ages against the San Antonio Spurs, Bosh finds himself not only playing for a second straight title, but also for the opportunity to remain a member of this team with dynastic aspirations.
With the looming salary cap restrictions and LeBron James having the freedom to bolt next summer if he chooses, Miami may very well be forced to make a tough decision regarding its prized "Big 3".
And considering the circumstances, Bosh would seem to be the odd man out.
Is it fair? Most would say it’s not.
But is it true? That answer won’t truly come to fruition for at least another week or two, but there are many factors pointing in the direction of yes.
LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers and headed to South Beach for one reason, and that’s to win championships. Not one title, but multiple.
Miami having Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley were undoubtedly two of the biggest factors when James, a student of both the game and the NBA, decided the Heat would provide him with the best opportunity to win multiple rings. The signing of Bosh certainly sealed the deal and was integral to the foundation of the plan, but he by no means carried the same weight Wade and Riley did.
Wade is one of James’ best friends. Riley is a mastermind and arguably the top general manager in the league at the moment. At the very least, he’s top three.
Bosh was just the final piece to the puzzle three years ago, the cherry on top for James’ new arsenal of weapons in his new home.
If Miami has to dispose of one of Wade or Bosh, who should it be?
Much of Miami’s offense may be run through Bosh, but make no mistake, a majority of the blueprint for long term success surrounds James and Wade.
Yes, Wade has had his share of struggles, particularly in the health department over the past few seasons. And his contract might end up being a little over the top for what he’s going to be able to provide Miami with over the coming years.
But Wade isn’t going anywhere. The Heat might currently be the King’s team, but Wade is still a face of the Heat franchise. He’s made it known he plans on finishing his career in Miami, and Riley has no intentions of creating a future strategy that doesn’t include Wade at its forefront.
Even as he played a vital role in winning Miami’s second championship in franchise history last year, Bosh has found himself to be a focal point in the scrutiny surrounding this polarizing ball club – both in and outside of Miami.
It’s not difficult to see why, especially after a quick glance at the stat sheet.
Since arriving in Miami, Bosh’s production on the boards has steadily decreased. After failing to average less than 10 rebounds per game only once from 2006 to 2010, he has yet to have one season in which he averaged 10 rebounds or more.
In fact, Bosh produced a career low average of 6.8 rebounds per game this past season. And that average has only continued to decrease throughout the playoffs, with Bosh standing at 6.7 boards per contest through Miami’s first 18 postseason games.
Some will argue Bosh isn’t much of a presence on the boards anymore because Erik Spoelstra’s system has him further away from the rim. While that’s true, that isn’t the case on defense and the numbers there aren’t any more encouraging in Bosh’s favor.
Then there’s the inconsistency on the offensive end.
To be fair, when looking at the overall big picture, Bosh did have an efficient year offensively, hitting a career high 54 percent of his shots. However, that snapshot doesn’t exactly display the countless times when Miami’s third member of its big three disappeared for stretches throughout the season.
And the playoffs have been particularly rough for Bosh, shooting just 45 percent from the field thus far. Against the Indiana Pacers, he was just 38 percent from the floor while averaging just four rebounds per game.
Going back to Miami’s system, Bosh must be given credit for being the perfect fit for the Heat to play its signature style of “small ball”, or as Spoelstra likes to call it, “positionless basketball”.
However, while this has been effective for Miami and Bosh, there have been times when it appeared perhaps the system might get the best of both Chris and the Heat.
Always having been more of a finesse player as opposed to a physical presence, Bosh has been a big man who’s had a tendency to fall in love with his jump shot and forget about the high percentage shots in the paint. And it’s not like he has a difficult time scoring down low, especially with his exceptional footwork and quickness for his size.
When Bosh falls into one of these lulls, it can be dangerous for Miami if he’s not hitting his long or mid-range jumpers. After all, the whole purpose of Bosh taking those shots is to stretch the floor.
And when he’s not hitting those, Miami’s style of play makes them a whole lot easier to defend.
LeBron: "Wherever CB [Bosh] demands the ball in the post, we'll give it to him...We need that paint attack from him"— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelCBS) June 8, 2013
Also, while Miami's system does run through Bosh most of the time, and Spoelstra does like it when his big man can stretch the floor with his jumper, there is a growing sense many in the Heat organization would like to see Bosh in the post more often.
This came to a head during Friday's media session, when James publicly revealed that Miami would like to see more of its starting center in the post.
To put it simply, a majority of the frustration Bosh is responsible for comes down to his tendency to fall into a passive playing style. If Miami is going to win its second straight title, Bosh will need to have performances similar to his showing in Game 2, when he put up a double-double with 12 points on an efficient 6-of-10 shooting, while pulling down 10 boards.
Statistics and performances aside, the biggest issue when it comes to Bosh for Miami moving forward is his contract.
It’s fair to say that it all boils down to one question: Is what Chris Bosh gives the Miami Heat on a nightly basis worth over $19 million next year, and potentially upwards of $40 million over the following two years?
If you’re a firm believer in Miami’s small ball plan of attack, then you likely say yes.
However, if you look back at that Pacers series and examine Indiana’s blueprint, you might think Miami needs to get bigger to succeed in the years to come. If you’re of that opinion, chances are in you’re in the boat that wouldn’t mind sending Bosh packing.
$19 million is a lot of money.
And with the new salary cap restrictions going into effect next season, Miami will be one of the teams in what we like to call “luxury tax hell”.
Is there a better way that Riley could spend Mickey Arison’s money in the Heat’s best interest?
Only time will tell, but Bosh can have a say in the matter himself with his play on the court in this series.
After all, it'd be pretty difficult to argue with two rings in three years.
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