"I want to play with another marquee player. And I want it to be in Miami. Miami has always been my first choice."-- Dwyane Wade to SI.com in April
In the end, Dwyane Wade got his wish. As SI.com's Ian Thomsenconfirmed, Wade will be joined next season in Miami by Raptors All-Star power forward Chris Bosh, creating the building blocks of what could be the next superpower in the Eastern Conference.
While there has been some skepticism among NBA scouts as to whether a Wade-LeBron James pairing would be as efficient as it would appear on paper, there are very few doubts about Wade and Bosh. Miami's offense is at its best when there is a consistent inside threat. It's why the Heat acquired center Jermaine O'Neal in 2009 and why they invested their No. 2 pick in the 2008 draft in power forward Michael Beasley. But O'Neal's poor play and Beasley's up-and-down efforts often left the Heat searching for low-post options, a search that frequently ended with wing players like Wade and Quentin Richardson operating from the block.
Bosh instantly solves that problem. One of the NBA's most prolific interior players, Bosh, 26, has developed a diverse offensive repertoire. According to 82games.com, 54 percent of Bosh's attempts last season were jump shots, of which he converted 44.1 percent. The remaining 46 percent of Bosh's shots came on the inside, where he connected on 61.2 percent, numbers vastly superior to O'Neal's (33 percent on inside, 59.8 percent) and Beasley's (30 percent, 55.6 percent).
With defenses having to devote extra attention to Bosh, the driving lanes that were clogged with bodies in front of Wade suddenly open up. The jump shots will still be there -- 66 percent of Wade's attempts last season were from the perimeter -- but with Bosh on board, Wade will have more opportunities to get the ball to the rim, where he is one of the best finishers in the game.
"It's a very good match," an Eastern Conference scout said. "Wade likes to attack the rim and Bosh can hit the mid-range shot and space it out. And they both run the floor well."
The personalities match, too. James and Wade are both alpha males and there is some concern that if the two teamed up neither player would be happy to defer in the fourth quarter. Not so with Bosh, whom many believe would happily defer to Wade in late game situations.
"He just wants to be an All-Star," said the GM of a team that was in the hunt for Bosh. "He wants to score, rebound and win games. He will have no problem letting someone else be the hero."
Of course, there are no guarantees that a Bosh-Wade pairing will even be the best team in the conference, much less the league. When Boston assembled its Big Three in 2007, they had Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins already in place. Miami, however, had to gut its roster to create enough cap space to sign Wade and Bosh, leaving them with only two players (Beasley and point guard Mario Chalmers) with contracts for next season.
"It will be interesting to see who they fill in around them," the scout said. "They have some work to do. Bosh and Wade aren't better than Pau [Gasol] and Kobe [Bryant]."
Finding a center will be a top priority. Sources say Bosh has no desire to play center and subject his wiry frame and balky right knee to the wear and tear that comes with playing the position. To that end, Heat president Pat Riley has met with power forward David Lee (who played out of position at center for the Knicks) and Mavericks center Brendan Haywood. Of the two, Haywood, a 7-foot, 263-pound big man who averaged 9.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks last season, would appear to be the best fit. Depending on Haywood's salary demands -- he made $6 million last season and league sources say Haywood is likely to command a new deal starting at $8 million per year -- the Heat might be able to sign him outright.
"They need a center," the scout said. "No doubt about that."
Miami has met Wade's demand and lured a top free agent to South Beach. But in order to meet the championship expectations that come with it, there is still much work left to do.