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LeBron James
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Bosh
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

For a great a job as LeBron James did while in Miami, paltry predictions for a non-LeBron-led Miami Heat are a disservice to the mostly intact team that went to four-straight NBA Finals. A historically good San Antonio Spurs team made everyone but LeBron look like amateurs but they’re far from a non-threat. In fact, the LeBron-less Miami Heat could do loads better than projected.

As a man forced to play third fiddle to James and Dwyane Wade for four years, Chris Bosh will be the key to Miami’s underdog run. And as much as he and the rest of the Heat looked like non-factors surrounding LeBron in the 2013-14 NBA Finals, Bosh and Co. can only be faulted to a point. They were simply a supporting cast molded to complement James’ supreme game, after all. If the equation doesn’t work out as intended, it’s rarely the fault of the math.

Bosh remains one of the most sound players in the game. He really can do it all: defend the pick-and-roll, shoot from deep, hit the high post jumper, play the inside game, guard wing players, play to big moments, and contribute efficiently and unselfishly. He’s not the marquee player that LeBron is but might just be the centerpiece this teams as composed needs.

The 2014-15 Heat have perhaps a little less youth than one would like but will be able to make up for it with dedicated coaching, established cohesiveness, and a batch of players who play to their strengths.

To start, this will be a good defensive unit. Josh McRoberts is the only glaring weak link but isn’t the type of liability that disrupts a top-five defensive unit as seen last season in Charlotte. Wade, too, isn’t the defender he was when the Big Three first linked up, and he continues to fall back on plays while yelling to referees, but can still work well against most NBA teams for stretches. Plus, in Deng, Chalmers, and Cole he’ll have three capable to very capable defenders to throw at the other team’s best wing scorers. Behind them will be Bosh and/or Chris Andersen who both know a thing about making up for defensive lapses.

A major point of concern with be the team’s depth as there’s no real second option behind Wade and Haslem subbing in for McRoberts won’t exactly lead to 6th Man of the Year debates. As health will remain a place of worry for Wade and possibly Haslem, bringing in more bodies will be a must.

On a similar note, the Heat don’t quite have the shooting they did when LeBron was still an asset. McRob, Bosh, Deng, and Granger are fine shooters but nothing on the level of a healthy Ray Allen, James Jones, or Mike Miller. A lack of bombers actually stands to be a major detriment to Bosh’s game if he’s going to be their inside presence. Bosh’s newfound inside-outside game will help space the floor for himself but just won’t be enough against the Bulls, Wizards, and Raptors of the world who will be able to close out on his jumpers while keeping a man on other shooters.

With some capable shooting, however, Bosh has the tool to be a major weapon and lead Miami to a respectable postseason run.

Though he did it under LeBron’s shadow, Bosh was the fourth-most efficient finisher (66.5 percent) within eight feet of the basket. Leaps better than guys who thrive in the paint like Al Jefferson (62.2), Anthony Davis (61.8), and Kevin Love (58.8). He’ll have guys to get him the ball into the paint and at the elbow, where he is also deadly—Chalmers, Wade, and McRoberts were all in the top-100 for assist percentage—but it remains to be seen if the players around him will be enough to draw the needed attention away from scouting defenses.

Still, this is a man who was able to hit game-winning shots against playoffs and finals-bound teams when LeBron, Wade, or Chalmers were resting. As the primary option around a unit that complements his playing style, Bosh will remind the world why people shouldn’t be sleeping on a team that’s won championships.

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