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Chris Bosh is NBA free agency's quiet game-changer

A player of Chris Bosh's ability should command big money and tons of attention in free agency, yet the rumor mill has been largely silent. Where he goes will have a huge impact.

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In normal times, Chris Bosh would be a coveted player in free agency with teams tripping all over themselves in a race to offer him a maximum contract. Still just 29 years old, Bosh is a nine-time All-Star with two championship rings and is coming off a season in which he established himself as the league's most versatile defensive big man. And big men get PAID in free agency, especially players of his caliber who are healthy and still near their prime (see, Gortat, Marcin.)

Yet Bosh has been undervalued for so long and so amenable to performing a tertiary role that his stealth free agency has played out according to type. He has taken no meetings, and until the BronBomb late Thursday night that LeBron and his agent were planning to meet with other teams, there have been no rumors attached to the big man.

If he wanted, Bosh could upset the entire rhythm of free agency by making a decision ahead of the other available stars.

There's the belief that Bosh genuinely enjoys living in Miami and doesn't want to leave his adopted home. There's also the notion that LeBron wants to take at least one other max player with him wherever he goes, and while Carmelo Anthony makes the recruiting rounds and drives the headlines, Bosh is the more logical choice as a sidekick.

It has long been speculated that Dwyane Wade held the key to the Miami Heat's free agency plans. Once LeBron exercised the early termination option on his contract, all eyes turned to Wade. Would he also opt out and forego more than $40 million in guaranteed money over the next two years for a deal more in line with his production and availability? He did, and so did Bosh, but Wade is still the one that drives the discussion.

Wade's long ties to the franchise have made him the youngest member of a small group of iconic players whose psychic value to a franchise has to be measured along with their physical contributions. That group includes Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki, all of whom signed new deals in the last calendar years. Kobe, of course, opted for one more huge payday, while Duncan and Nowitzki re-upped for far more sane numbers.

Wade represents something of an unknown, because it has always been assumed that Bosh would do whatever was necessary to make the numbers work. That's strange in that Bosh is far more important on the court these days. Big men who can do what he can do and who don't complain about doing it are the rarest and most valuable players in the sport after superstars like LeBron and Kevin Durant. If he wanted, Bosh could upset the entire rhythm of free agency by making a decision ahead of the other available stars.

It seems inconceivable that Bosh would strike on his own, but plug him into in any of the teams rumored to be chasing after the big offseason prizes and they immediately become better. Take Houston, for example, which was the first team to enter the Bosh rumor mill. A defensive-minded frontcourt complement to Dwight Howard would be frightening, especially one who can shoot like Bosh and who has already shown a willingness to play a lesser offensive role for the good of the team. All of which makes you wonder why Darryl Morey put the full-court press on Melo rather than Bosh.

Or, consider the Phoenix Suns, who are loaded on the perimeter but notably thin up front. Floor-spacing big man Channing Frye is a free agent and Bosh could easily slide into the stretch four role while offering an upgrade defensively. It's not inconceivable that Bosh could also return to his back-to-the-basket roots in the right situation like Phoenix, where his post-up ability would be an asset, not a luxury.

The fit is less clear in Dallas with Nowitzki and recently re-acquired center Tyson Chandler already in the fold, but one suspects Rick Carlisle could figure something out. A Laker team with cap space is always a factor.

All of which is to say that Chris Bosh has options. Whether he chooses to use them or not is as much of an interesting subplot as anything else that will happen in the next few weeks.


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