LeBron James needs help. Consistent, ever-present help.
On the off chance Wade wouldn't rise to the occasion, there would be Chris Bosh. A champion himself. Eight-time All-Star. Former No. 1 offensive option with the Toronto Raptors. Self-proclaimed future Hall of Famer.
Together, those two would provide James with the support he never had as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. And for a majority of the last two-plus years they have. Both have struggled previously, but they've always resurfaced in time to lend a helping hand.
Those same limbs are no longer as readily outstretched. They haven't been for quite some time.
Bosh and Wade have struggled immensely during the postseason, both averaging career lows in points per game. They're only combining for 26.4 points between them, a metric James is nearly eclipsing himself (25.2).
Their collective shortcomings have left James alone, where he was never supposed to be. Contrary to previous sentiments (mine included), James can't do this alone. It couldn't be done in Cleveland and it can't be done with the Miami Heat.
To be sure, James still needs to take over. Deferring excessively isn't (always) going to coincide with a victory the way it did in Game 2 against the San Antonio Spurs. Not when Bosh and Wade are playing the way they are.
James needs to attack. Channeling his inner Michael Jordan is the route to take, but he can't travel that path alone. Not even Jordan could.
Someone else needs to emerge as a reliable, consistent source of production. They don't need to rival the sorely-missed output of Wade (or even Bosh). They just need to be there, unwavering in their efforts and execution.
Where might James find those additional backbones? Let's take a look at a few unnamed players' production through the first two games of the NBA Finals:
|Player||MP||FGM||FGA||FG%||3P%||PTS||REBS||ASTS||STLS||AVG +/-||2012-13 Salary|
The salaries all but give their identities away, but that's the point.
Player C is Bosh and Player E is Wade. They earned nearly $35 million between them this season and the Heat are a combined minus-3.5 with them on the floor during the finals.
Meanwhile, Player A is Ray Allen, whom Miami is a plus-16 with through the first two games. Player B is Chris Andersen, who sits at plus-nine. And Player D is Mario Chalmers, who comes in at a plus-13.
Add up all three of their salaries and they don't surpass the income of Bosh or Wade. Yet they're the ones James needs to trust in. I'm not saying he needs to milk Chalmers like he's the 2006 version of Wade, because he doesn't. That likely wouldn't end up well. He does need to place faith in them, more than he has in Bosh and Wade at the moment.
Birdman played some of the best pick-and-roll defense we have seen all season against Tony Parker in Game 2. Without his complex switches and rotations, Miami's defense doesn't pilot that 33-5 surge.
Allen has been exceptional, working well off the ball and drilling six of his first 11 treys for the series.
Then there's Chalmers, who led the Heat in scoring with 19 points in Game 1. Led. Not behind James. In front of him. Aside from guarding the pick-and-roll to perfection, he's proven to be the Carmelo Anthony of point guards. He won't always score at the most efficient of clips, but he'll score from anywhere. That includes using his bulky frame to barrel his way into the paint much like 'Melo does.
Those three are James' new sidekicks. Just like they were in Game 2.
Here's a look at how that 33-5 run played out for Miami:
Bosh and Wade combined to play just over two minutes during the Heat's 33-5 stomping of the Spurs. Two minutes. They're supposed to be superstars, yet contributed virtually nothing to that impressive cause. Wade actually didn't contribute anything.
Allen, Birdman and Chalmers provided James with the necessary backup. Behind The Chosen One's 5-of-5 showing from the floor during that time, the Heat shot 85.7 percent from the floor, hitting on all five of their three-point attempts.
People will be quick to point out that neither Bosh nor Wade played much because the Heat didn't need them. But what does that tell us? That the Heat didn't need them during the most pivotal part of the game, of their victory?
Inquiries into their standing as superstars can be lodged later. After all Wade has accomplished, his future especially can't be mutilated before he has ample opportunity to redeem himself.
But this isn't about the future or next season. Now is when the Heat are fighting toward their second straight championship. Now is when James needs the help of players he can trust. And right now, those players aren't Bosh or Wade. They're three other role players—one of which is a future Hall of Famer—who were never supposed to mean this much.
Which combination of players can LeBron James count on more right now?
Chalmers was never meant to be a more vital or even keeled component than Wade. Andersen wasn't intended to emerge as Miami's most legitimate pick-and-roll threat and lifeline on the glass. Allen didn't join Miami so that he could become a more dependable second or third scoring option than Bosh or Wade, two current superstars purportedly in their primes.
None of this was supposed to happen and it hasn't transpired voluntarily. The situation is what it is, though.
Bosh is waning. Wade is attempting to play through pain he just can't supersede this time. And James is left to find companions who can deliver what he needs. Who can do what the Heat need to be done. Who are neither Bosh nor Wade but instead a consort of complementary players now tasked with providing James the help he both needs and deserves.
*All stats from Heat's 33-5 run compiled from NBA.com.