Miami Heat power forward Chris Bosh has been absent from his team ever since a calf injury ruled him out of last month’s NBA All-Star game.
It was initially feared that Bosh was suffering from blood clots in his calf, which occurred in his lungs last year and forced him to miss the second half of the season.
Thankfully, that was confirmed to not be the case and Bosh is expected to return for the Heat soon, but what impact can he have on the streaking team?
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Heat have fared well without Bosh
Ever since Bosh’s injury the Heat have been rolling through the Eastern Conference, going an impressive 11-5 in their 16 games since All-Star weekend.
This was capped off by a huge 122-101 blowout win last night against LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers, the runaway favourites to advance from the East to the NBA Finals.
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The Heat fans took great delight in mocking James, their former hero who won two titles over a four-year span in South Beach, but they would love a playoff series victory over LeBron infinitely more.
But how would Bosh, one of Miami’s two truly star players, fit back in with this team which has been performing at such a high level without him?
It seems relatively simple to just reinsert one of your top players, but that may not be the case after the Heat’s current run.
Dragic, Deng stepping up
Without Bosh, point guard Goran Dragic has finally found his rhythm in the team’s line-up, and is currently enjoying his best period at the franchise since joining at last year’s trade deadline.
More importantly, small forward Luol Deng has been transformed since taking Bosh’s spot at the power forward position after the Heat acquired another small forward, Joe Johnson.
Prior to last night’s game, Miami Herald writer Ethan Skolnick tweeted that Deng is averaging 17.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game since the All-Star break.
This is all the more impressive when you consider his season average’s in those categories are just 12.2 points and 5.7 rebounds, and that he is now defending tougher and stronger opponents on a nightly basis.
When Miami took Johnson on, Bosh’s status for the year was still unclear, with Heat general manager Pat Riley making a signing he hoped would give the team a possibility of making the Finals even if Bosh did not return.
Yet now with the Heat performing at such a high level, a return by one of their best two players could make them the most serious threat to Cleveland’s dominance in the Eastern Conference.
After last night’s loss Cleveland have now lost all four of their games in Miami since James returned, something which could provide a slight worry to Cleveland fans if the teams were to meet in the playoffs.
Change of position on the cards?
Miami’s thoughts must now turn to the conundrum of where Bosh fits in with his return, as it would be a bold decision to move Deng or Johnson to the bench to make room for Bosh in his normal position.
It would, therefore, be a much smarter choice to opt to shift the big man along to center, a position he is already familiar with having played there on regular occasions during his time in Miami.
This would now be a much easier decision to make, as Hassan Whiteside, who started the year playing the five position, is now coming off the bench, and performing better while doing so.
That means Amar’e Stoudemire is now starting in place of Whiteside at center but, although he is giving the Heat useful minutes, Stoudemire is not the player he once was and re-inserting Bosh into the starting five would be taken without any second thought.
A starting five of Dragic, Wade, Johnson, Deng and Bosh would be dangerous to face for any team, but the strong bench and sudden discovery of Josh Richardson give the Heat even more hope.
If Tyler Johnson, who looked impressive before suffering a shoulder injury earlier this season, can also return the Heat will head into the playoffs with one of the best 12-man rosters in the NBA.
Bosh re-entering the fray would give Miami with even more scoring firepower all around the court and provide even more crucial title-winning experience in their side.
If he can come back fully fit and quickly readjust to his slightly altered role, Miami could ensure that the Eastern Conference playoffs may not be the cakewalk that many have expected for Cleveland…