Chris Bosh may be bigger, better and more capable on the pivot than ever before, but the Miami Heat still need to find a legitimate center if LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and company are to win an NBA title this season or any going forward.
According to the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, Bosh showed up to American Airlines Arena on Thursday looking bulked-up and speaking in a way to confirm what his appearance suggested—that he'll be lifting a heavier load in the paint this season. Said CB4 of his likely expanded role:
“You know, as much as every time I try to run from it, it just comes and pulls me back in. So I accept it. If I’m a five, put me down there, have me guarding the biggest guy, I accept the challenge. It is what it is. Every year that I’ve said, ‘Oh, no, I’m not doing it,’ I’m in there anyway. So, I accept it.”
The Heat hardly have what anyone would describe as an imposing frontcourt, especially now that free agents Erick Dampier and Jamaal Magloire have left behind the likes of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman to man the middle in South Beach.
Certainly, having Bosh in proper shape to play the 5 on both sides of the court would be a boon to the depth and versatility of Miami's roster.
However, no number of hours in the weight room or extra Muscle Milk shakes can change the fact that Bosh is a natural power forward, both in physique and skill set. To be sure, Bosh is proficient with his back to the basket and can defend and rebound when called upon.
However, to ask Bosh to adjust to such a role on a regular basis would be to misuse a player of his particular talents. Like Lakers forward and fellow All-Star Pau Gasol, Bosh is at his best as a face-up 4 who can knock down jumpers from 16 to 17 feet with regularity and use a series of up-fakes to get around his man on the way to the basket.
Then again, at 6'11", it wouldn't exactly be wise for head coach Erik Spoelstra to not use Bosh's height to spread the burden amongst his frontcourt.
Ultimately, though, the Heat can't hope to overcome the likes of the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Lakers, with their mammoth front lines, if they're to bring another Larry O'Brien Trophy to Miami.
They already tried that trick and it proved to be too difficult of a proposition, at least against the Mavs.
Help appears to be on the way, though. Samuel Dalembert has been mentioned as a strong possibility, given both his ability to defend the paint and his cultural ties to south Florida as a native of nearby Haiti. Convincing Dalembert to take an eight-figure pay cut won't be easy, but then again, Pat Riley put Wade, LeBron and Bosh on the same team...
The Heat could also seek out the services of some lower-tier big men, such as Joel Przybilla, Francisco Elson and Hilton Armstrong.
Not the most exciting options, but they're still serviceable players whose size and defensive ability would be more than enough to shore up Miami's muddled middle. If the Heat can somehow find a way to strengthen their presence in the paint (and sign a point guard), they will easily vault to the top of the list of likely title contenders.
Chris Bosh will be a part of that equation in the paint. How big a part he plays in that regard may make or break how real the championship dream becomes for him and his high-profile buddies.