Houston Rockets or Miami Heat: Which Is Better Fit for Free Agent Chris Bosh?

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Houston Rockets or Miami Heat: Which Is Better Fit for Free Agent Chris Bosh?
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What should he do?

No, not LeBron James—well, yes LeBron James, but what about Chris Bosh?

According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Bosh would prefer to remain with the Miami Heat but is intrigued by the Houston Rockets' offer of a four-year contract worth well over $80 million.

And, really, who wouldn't be? That's a ton of money and might be more than what the Heat would be willing to offer. Right now, there's no telling what, exactly, will go down between Bosh and his incumbent squad before he puts pen to paper somewhere.

But both clubs can and will make convincing cases to the Boshstrich. Before he makes up his mind, let's consider what those pitches might sound like.

 

Happiness in Houston

The list of reasons why Bosh might flee Miami to join the Rockets is extensive enough to think that a move to Space City might actually be in the cards for him.

For one, Bosh is a native Texan.

Not of the Houstonian variety—he grew up in Dallas and idolized San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan, per Fox Sports Florida's Chris Tomasson—but a Texan nonetheless. With a return to his roots would come an absence of income taxes similar to what Bosh currently enjoys in Florida.

More enticing than the homecoming, though, is how seamlessly Bosh could slip into a starring role with a team that's poised to contend for years to come.

According to RealGM, the Rockets boasted the sixth-youngest roster in the entire league and the youngest in the playoffs this past season, with an average age of 25.2 years. Compare that to the Heat, who were the NBA's oldest squad, with an average age of 30.3 years.

Dwight Howard, who doesn't turn 29 until December, is under contract for at least the next two seasons, with a player option for 2016-17. James Harden, a 24-year-old until late August, is guaranteed to be around for the next three and figures to have his salary for 2017-18 locked in once the time comes for Houston to do so. Chandler Parsons, a restricted free agent at 25, will have his fair share of suitors this summer, per Woj, but may well have any and every offer that comes his way matched by the Rockets.

Those three make for a strong nucleus—strong enough to snag a top-four spot in the ultracompetitive Western Conference but (evidently) not strong enough to stop the Portland Trail Blazers from advancing in the playoffs.

That's where Bosh comes in. As Grantland's Zach Lowe pointed out:

Flash back to Houston’s first-round loss against Portland, when the Rockets had to assign Howard and Omer Asik to defend LaMarcus Aldridge on the perimeter. Doing that compromised their spacing and shifted a rim protector away from the basket. Imagine how devastating they might be if they could shift those assignments to Bosh, who is taller and rangier than Terrence Jones, while leaving Howard to whack away shots near the hoop.

Asik is soon to be gone, with a trade to the New Orleans Pelicans looming once the league's moratorium is lifted on July 10. It's not as though he and Jones were all that effective against Aldridge in that series anyway. Portland's power forward torched them for 29.8 points per game, including a pair of 40-point performances to start the postseason and a 30-point effort to close out the Rockets in six.

That constant mismatch took its toll on Houston's overall defensive effort. According to NBA.com, the Rockets gave up 111.8 points per 100 possessions—the most of any team among the 16 that qualified for the playoffs this past spring.

In truth, the Rockets weren't exactly dynamic on the defensive end to begin with. They gave up 103.2 points per 100 possessions (12th-best in the NBA) prior to the postseason, which wasn't terrible but was hardly indicative of an honest-to-goodness title contender.

Bosh could do plenty to change that. He's taller and longer than Jones and far more mobile than Asik. He's more than capable of chasing smaller players on the perimeter and can even disrupt passing lanes with his Jurassic wingspan from time to time.

As for Bosh, he'd benefit handsomely in Houston on that end as well. No longer would he have to expend his energy trying to fend off bigger, stronger centers; that's clearly Howard's job in Houston.

Instead, Bosh could spend the majority of his time at his natural position: power forward. He was more resigned to the move up in Miami than excited about it, even after the switch helped the Heat hoist the first of their consecutive Larry O'Brien Trophies in 2012. 

Bosh spoke about the move in September 2012 to ESPN.com's Justin Verrier:

It's been happening since my rookie year. When I signed in Miami, I said, 'That's it. No more 5!' Next thing I know, I'm there again.

And the coaches, I was just listening to what they were saying. They said, 'We're a much better team with you at the 5.' I said, 'Well...OK.' Next thing I know we win a championship. It's like, 'Well. I've done myself a great service. And I'm gonna be at the center.' There's really no debating that. I just accept it and see how I can get better at it.

In Houston, Bosh wouldn't have to simply "accept" the discomfort that has come with his predicament in Miami. He could still play some 5 from time to time, when Howard needs a breather. But, for the most part, Bosh would save himself the wear and tear that opposing pivots might otherwise exact on his 30-year-old frame.

If there's any way in which Bosh's time in Miami has prepared him for a key role in Houston, though, it's on the offensive end. Slowly but surely, he has shaped his jump shot into a legitimate weapon from beyond the arc. He shot a career-high 2.8 treys per game during the regular season and upped that number to 3.7 per game in the playoffs—with a 40.5 percent success rate, no less.

That's the sort of shooting that the Rockets have longed for since Howard came to town last summer. Neither Jones nor Donatas Motiejunas qualifies as a reliable option in that regard at power forward. Bosh would undoubtedly draw more defensive attention than either of those two (or the two of them combined), thereby freeing up space in the middle of the floor for Harden to slash to the cup and for Howard to post up.

And if the addition of Bosh isn't enough to get the Rockets over the hump, Houston won't be stuck with the team it has on hand. General manager Daryl Morey, a veritable master of cap manipulation, has assured the Rockets of ample flexibility with which to retool their roster for the foreseeable future.

Outside of Howard, Harden, Jones, Motiejunas and Jeremy Lin, the Rockets don't have any guaranteed money on their books. Chances are, Lin will be gone once the need to clear cap space comes around, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein.

Which is to say, whenever Bosh commits.

Either way, Lin will be off Houston's books no later than next summer, when his contract expires. The Rockets might have to part ways with a first-round pick to move Lin into someone else's cap space, but they don't currently owe any such selections. In fact, according to Basketball Insiders, Houston has four second-rounders coming its way between now and 2017.

All told, the Rockets were already a really good team without Bosh, could be a great team with him and will have the resources to get even better thereafter, should the need for another move or two arise.

 

More of the Same in Miami

Even so, Bosh's path to title contention would be far from assured out West. His Rockets would still have to contend with a gauntlet of stacked squads, from the burgeoning Blazers and the ever-improving Los Angeles Clippers to the Oklahoma City Thunder of the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook-Serge Ibaka vintage. And, of course, the San Antonio Spurs, who just made a mockery of Miami in the 2014 NBA Finals.

Not to mention Dirk Nowitzki's always-dangerous Dallas Mavericks, the grit-and-grind Memphis Grizzlies, the rising Phoenix Suns and the potentially Kevin Love-loaded Golden State Warriors, among others. Any one of these teams could realistically send the Rockets home reeling—or anyone else, for that matter.

There wouldn't be quite such concerns for Bosh's championship aspirations were he to remain in the East with Miami. 

The Indiana Pacers could lose Lance Stephenson this offseason. As much as his departure would weaken the Pacers, it's not as though they were much of a challenge for the Heat with him making mischief in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Chicago Bulls might give Miami a run for its money, but only if Derrick Rose can stay healthy after three injury-riddled seasons and if GM Gar Forman lands another impact player, like, say Love or Carmelo Anthony. At this point, it's entirely possible that the Bulls won't find another superstar and that Rose settles in as the Penny Hardaway of his generation.

Who else could give the Heat their comeuppance in the East?

What should Chris Bosh do?

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The Washington Wizards, whose backcourt is young and promising but whose frontcourt is old and injury-prone, particularly in Nene's case?

The Atlanta Hawks, who could be due for an upgrade on the wing but can only hope Al Horford won't tear his pectoral muscle a third time?

The Toronto Raptors, who will be running it back with a roster that went 0-4 against the Heat last season? The Charlotte Bobcats, who just lost one of their key role players in Josh McRoberts to Miami?

Or is someone expecting a team from among the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic to leapfrog the Big Three in Miami?

At the moment, that reunion isn't yet a slam dunk. According to Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick, LeBron James will meet with Heat president Pat Riley in Las Vegas on Wednesday. He could take sitdowns with other organizations—including the Cavs, Suns, Mavs and Lakers—shortly thereafter.

James looks like he'll be germane to Bosh's plans, just as he is to everyone else's right now. Take note of this line, in particular, from Woj's report (the emphasis is my own): "Bosh's stance on his intentions has remained unchanged: His preference is to stay with Miami on a new deal and play with LeBron James."

This doesn't necessarily mean that Bosh won't re-up with the Heat if LeBron bolts, but the odds of the former returning would seem slim, at best, if the latter takes his talents elsewhere. Miami isn't realistically eyeing more titles without LBJ, even if Bosh and Wade stay put and even in the weak East.

But if James re-signs in Miami, Bosh's return would seem like a no-brainer, assuming Riley is willing to meet Bosh's contract demands. Thus far, there's been little to indicate Riley's intentions one way or another. However, according to USA Today's Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt, Riles isn't exactly panicking:

This much is clear: Riley is confident James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade will return, according to people who have had phone conversations with Riley in the last week.

And why wouldn't he feel confident? Riley has done right by his three superstars, and then some. They've been to four straight Finals, becoming just the fourth team in NBA history to do so and the first since Larry Bird's Celtics. They've won two championships. If they don't trust in Riley to build a contender around them after what he's done since 2010, the Big Three (Bosh included) would be hard-pressed to find a safer bet elsewhere.

No wouldas, couldas or shouldas about how Bosh may or may not fit in Houston. No deep concerns about the quality of competition in the conference. No questions about whether ownership and management are committed to winning, or if he can win there at all.

It's one thing if Bosh wants a change of scenery. But if the money is right and LeBron comes back to South Beach, Bosh would be silly to think the grass is any greener in the Lone Star State.

 

Where should Bosh go? Tweet me your suggestions!

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