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Why Chris Bosh Could Be Biggest Flight Risk for Miami Heat Big 3 in Free Agency

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Why Chris Bosh Could Be Biggest Flight Risk for Miami Heat Big 3 in Free Agency
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The NBA world has talked about LeBron James leaving the Miami Heat this summer ad nauseambut there's been nary a mention of Chris Bosh potentially taking his talents to a new locale. 

That needs to change, because it's actually the big man who is emerging as the biggest flight risk during what's sure to be a busy roller coaster of an offseason. 

LeBron, Bosh and Dwyane Wade all have early termination options that they can use at the conclusion of the 2013-14 campaign, but you wouldn't know Bosh does based on the amount his potential departure gets discussed in basketball circles. 

Guess what?

He does have one. And he could easily use it, regardless of whether or not the Heat successfully complete their three-peat attempt. 

 

The Other Two Are Established in Miami

David Alvarez/Getty Images

There are three members of the Big Three, but only two have been firmly adopted by Miami. 

Obviously, Wade is one of them. 

The shooting guard is so popular that back in 2010—before he had brought another two titles back into the clutches of South Beach—there was a vote to rename Miami-Dade County into "Miami-Wade County" for a week. Per ESPN.com, the vote was unanimous. 

Wade was born in Chicago. He went to high school at Harold L. Richards, which is also in Illinois. Then, he travelled all the way to Wisconsin so he could attend Marquette for his collegiate days. 

But from the day he was selected by the Heat at No. 5 in the 2003 NBA draft, he's had Miami flowing through his veins. And his arteries. And his capillaries. 

The man has been nothing but loyal to the franchise he's always played for, and he's rewarded his city with three titles, one of which he was almost solely responsible for. Wade's performance during the 2006 NBA Finals remains one of the most impressive individual series of all time. 

And of course, there are all of the charities that he helps support throughout the city with which his life has become so intertwined. 

Wade has become one of the athletes who you just can't picture wearing a different uniform. Back in 2011, I called him one of 10 such NBA players (two of which—Paul Pierce and Steve Nash—have since changed teams), and that opinion hasn't changed in the slightest. 

David Alvarez/Getty Images

LeBron isn't quite in the same boat, but he's still been completely adopted by a certain city in Florida. 

Hint: It's not Key West. 

This is what happens when you voluntarily change teams and then go on a run of dominance nearly unmatched in NBA history. Since LeBron joined the Heat, he's been the central figure for a team that has gone to the Finals three times and held up the Larry O'Brien Trophy twice. 

He's also been the—nearly—unquestioned best player in the world throughout his time in South Beach, and he's been rewarded accordingly with back-to-back MVPs

All the while, Bosh has been the third option. Although he's played fantastic basketball and contributing invaluably to the photobombing and videobombing efforts of the two-time defending champions, he just doesn't feel like he belongs in the same category. 

The city is in love with Wade. The city is in love with LeBron. 

The city likes Bosh. 

 

????D-Wade's Future????

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to his knees, D-Wade's future is completely surrounded by question marks.

It's not like this is a new problem, either. Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears writes that it dates back all the way to Wade's time at Marquette:

Wade's knee problems go back to his college days at Marquette. He had surgery to remove a meniscus from his left knee in 2002 after his sophomore season. He has said he regretted having that surgery because he thinks it has contributed to his chronic knee issues. Wade underwent shock-wave knee treatment last July, which is a procedure that typically needs six months to fully take.

Perhaps, the most dramatic moment in Wade's injury history came during last year's playoffs, when he nearly had to miss the crucial game against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. According to the Associated Press, via ESPN, Wade even had to receive hours of treatment so he could play in the final game of the NBA Finals. 

This year, things have been just as rough. 

The shooting guard has already missed 13 games, and he's been less involved in the Heat offense than ever before. Basketball-Reference shows that he has a usage rate of 27.1, which would be the lowest mark since his rookie season. 

"Wade is tired of the constant questions about his knees," writes Spears. "He also knows they likely won't end anytime soon."

They won't, and they'll only get more important as Miami nears its inevitable postseason run. But it's about more than this season and the ability to three-peat. 

Why would Bosh continue functioning as the de facto No. 3 option for a team that can't compete for a title? He'll have the opportunity to go elsewhere this offseason, and it's one he should pounce on if Wade isn't going to be healthy. 

Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

This is a team whose success is predicated on the two-man game played by Wade and LeBron. That's why championships were won in the past, and that's the only way they'll be won in the future. 

Miami needs a "Big Three." 

Not a "Big 2.5." Certainly not a "Big Two." 

It's easy to look at LeBron's dominance and forget about Wade's importance to the Heat's winning efforts. But Miami is only 7-6 when the starting shooting guard has sat out during the 2013-14 campaign, as the vaunted depth of Pat Riley's organization hasn't lived up to the billing. 

Going forward, his presence is even more important, and enduring question marks give Bosh a nice reason to make an exit from South Beach. 

 

Re-Establishing Himself as a Potential No. 1 Option

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Bosh has been on an absolute tear lately. 

Over his last seven games, the power forward masquerading as a center in an undersized lineup has averaged 24.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, and he's doing so while shooting a mind-boggling 61.1 percent from the field. 

What makes it truly impressive, though, is the fact that he's shooting so well while spending so much time on the perimeter. During the handful of games in question, Bosh has attempted 3.7 three-pointers per contest, and he's hit 46.2 percent of them. 

All of a sudden, he looks like a No. 1 option again.

Really, it's nothing more than the latest progression in Bosh's career, as he continues the trend that he started when he left the Toronto Raptors

Take a look at how his field-goal percentage and scoring averages have shifted, starting with his final season north of the border: 

Infogr.am.

Bosh really struggled during his first seasons with the Heat, but he's been on a steady upward trajectory over the last few years. His scoring is improved, and he keeps getting more and more efficient as he continues honing his perimeter jumper. 

The three-pointer, in particular, has been impressive.

Bosh had never even taken a triple per game until the 2012-13 campaign. That year, he took exactly one, and he made his attempts 28.4 percent of the time. 

However, he's lofting up two three-point attempts per contest in 2013-14, and he's shooting 37.2 percent beyond the arc. His game is developing, and he's now proving that he can function as a No. 1 option once more. 

"It makes things a little bit easier as Dwyane has been struggling with his injuries and everything," Bosh told Spears. "It's allowed me to kind of get into a groove. My mentality coming in is to be aggressive. Sometimes, some shots that I shoot if he's into a good rhythm and playing, I probably wouldn't take them."

The big man is only 29 years old, and he won't turn 30 until the end of March. 

Will Bosh remain with the Heat in 2014-15 and beyond?

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Especially since his game is predicated more on technique, finesse and intelligence than sheer, unadulterated power and athleticism, he has a number of prime seasons left in the tank. The question is: Would he rather use them as a leading option on a different team or a background choice for the Heat?

The question of staying or leaving applies to all members of Miami's trio of superstars, but it's most pressing for Bosh. 

Even if he doesn't receive as much attention as his teammates, Bosh has the most to gain by leaving, especially if his recent play is any indication. 

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