Chris Bosh has been mocked by just about everyone outside Miami since he joined Dwyane Wade and LeBron James on the Heat. Most thought he wasn’t on the same level as the other two. Many thought he wasn’t even a true elite player. It wasn’t rare to hear the super group referred to as “The Big 2.5”. The rest of the league rejoiced when Bosh shot 1-18 against Chicago, as that provided more fuel for the fire. Bosh was a non-factor, except to play third fiddle when LeBron played the first and second.
Once it was announced that LeBron would be heading back to Cleveland, it was basically assumed that Bosh would take the maximum contract offered by the Houston Rockets. That would give him a chance to play a vital piece in what would instantly be a championship contender. No more being the top dog on a team that was never really in contention.
Then reports came that Bosh signed with Miami.
I had the same, shocked response as I’m sure many of you did, so I waited until I had a full night of sleep before diving in to write this article. I wanted to be able to properly contemplate this rather perplexing move. What did I come up with in that time? Simply the fact that many seem to be forgetting, especially during this 2014 free agency period, that nothing is black and white.
Sure, if you want look at it in the simplest of ways, Bosh took the most money. The max deal he could sign with his current team, the Heat, was more than the max deal that any other team could offer him. A 1 year and $30 million difference to be exact. It’s easy to forget how much money $30 million is when dealing with contracts of this scale, but who knows what Bosh’s game will be like in four years. He is 30 years old, and in the NBA, the difference between signing a 30-year-old player and a 34-year-old player can be gigantic. Inking this deal provides a security and peace of mind that can’t be given a price.
But the dollars and cents are easy to analyze. Is this the best basketball decision for Bosh?
On the surface, it would seem that it isn’t. Houston has two superstars in Dwight Howard and James Harden. They’ve cleared the space to resign Chandler Parsons, a young and valuable offensive weapon. They did well last season, but with the addition of one more star, it’d be very surprising if they aren’t near the top of the Western Conference next season.
On the other hand, the Heat have essentially no one of real value under contract. They have Norris Cole and Shabazz Napier, two competent point guards if they’re surrounded by better players, but certainly not guys you can structure a franchise around. They’ve reached agreements with Danny Granger, a guy who was a star a few years ago, and Josh McRoberts, who can potentially help a team, but again, isn’t a starter at the caliber where you can base everything around him.
Miami is still going to pursue another mid-level free agent. And I only say mid-level because James and Anthony are both available this offseason, setting standards fairly high. Any other year the likes of Luol Deng or Trevor Ariza would be a top prize. Assuming the Heat are able to nab one of them, they’re looking at a starting lineup of something like this in 2014-15:
There’s nothing about that team that screams title contender. That being said, they definitely should be a playoff team in the East. But the top of the East is getting stronger and stronger, and there just doesn’t seem to be any way the new Heat can contend with the Cavaliers, Pacers, Bulls, or even the Bobcats or Raptors at this point.
It’s worth remembering that Bosh really is an all-star player. In his career he’s averaging 19.2 points and 8.7 rebounds. Last season, he had three points and two rebounds per game less, but I’d say that’s more a result of playing alongside the game’s greatest player than decreased skills due to his age. I wouldn’t be surprised if he bounces back to over 20 points per game, especially if Wade is either too hurt to contribute or leaves Miami.
Oh, that’s right. Dwyane Wade isn’t a sure thing for Miami next season. He, like James and Bosh, opted out of his contract to keep options option. Unlike Bosh, Wade doesn’t have the ability to be the top dog on a contender anymore. There has been talk of the Chicago native returning to his hometown to join the Bulls.1 While Wade’s spot on the Bulls is a discussion for another article, if he leaves, that means Bosh really is the guy in Miami. He’ll become the face of a franchise that has had a superstar as its face since 2004. Can Bosh be that face? Well he seems to think so, and at this point, I suppose that’s all that matters.
Bosh turned down almost certain contention to stay in Miami. The Rockets with Bosh would have been a sure fixture in the playoffs, and I would have been surprised if they didn’t make the Western Conference Finals. At this point, I’d be happy for the Heat if they’re a #5 seed. I wouldn’t be completely shocked if they miss the playoffs. That’s a stark difference, especially for an all-star player now in his 30s.
Maybe he wanted to be the number one guy for a team again. Maybe he thinks Wade will come back and the Heat really can be a contender. Or maybe he just wanted the money. There’s no way to really know. Bosh isn’t going to follow in LeBron’s footsteps and write a letter. He’s not going to hold a press conference detailing all the inner workings of his thought process. The only thing that is certain is that Miami’s got some work to do if they really want to remain a contender.