The status of Chris Bosh has to be the biggest story-line for the Miami Heat as they head into the off-season following their game seven loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday afternoon. Miami was able to push themselves all the way to the brink of a return to the Eastern Conference Finals, even despite not having Bosh around for the entire post-season run.

The question, of course, is can they count on him for a deep run next year, or are they better off cutting ties and starting fresh?

Bosh’s Future

Early signs out of Miami suggest the team is closer to the latter, with some speculating already that Bosh may never play an NBA game again. Bosh had his season ended prematurely due to blood clots for the second year in a row, and at 32 years of age, it may not be worth the risk to push Bosh back onto the court.

The situation has slowly grown into an ugly battle of wits between Bosh and the Heat, as the player contests he’s fit to play, but the team isn’t willing to take on the risk. The first order of business will be Miami’s team doctors deciding whether or not he should play again. And, quite naturally, that decisions isn’t necessarily just health based. With Bosh on the Heat’s books for a cool $75 million over the next three years, the medical staff may make the best decision for Bosh and Miami. That could lead to Bosh being taken off the books for medical purposes, which would wipe his salary, but the star would still get paid.

To this point, that is the direction the two sides are headed in. Bosh thinks he can play still and certainly would like to, but Miami may not ever be willing to take that chance on him again. If that’s the case, they will have to start thinking about their future down low at the power forward and center positions.

Securing Whiteside

One of the first things Miami has to do is over-pay to keep budding center, Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside is scheduled to hit free agency and could see a ton of big money offers due to his youth, upside and ability to rebound and block shots already at an elite level. He’s even added an offensive game and is starting to round into a complete center. His post-season was also cut short due to a knee sprain, but Miami can ill afford to lose both of their best big men. Securing Whiteside is huge for next year and even bigger for the long-term.

Finding Another Big

They can’t stop at Whiteside, however. Wiping Bosh off the books for medical reasons won’t kill all of that money for them, but it should help. How much exactly could detail their next move, but it could be wise to bypass someone like Joe Johnson in order to get stronger at the four spot. Sliding Luol Deng to power forward and running a small ball lineup worked in round one, but he was far less effective in that role in round two. Miami needs a more stable presence at the four spot, and if Bosh can’t be it, they need to look for a trade, draft a big man or find one in free agency.

The draft isn’t normally the way to find a quick fix and teams usually don’t send quality big men away in trades on a whim, so hitting up free agency is probably the way to go here. Perhaps with Dwyane Wade opting out of his contract this summer, he can re-sign at a discount and help free up some cash to facilitate a move. It’s tough to know precisely what direction Miami could go in at the position until their financial situation is cleared up, but there is no shortage of options to consider.

In fact, if Bosh is suddenly out of the picture, several quality power forwards could see South Beach as the perfect destination when it comes to lifestyle off the court and trying to win on it. The likes of Pau Gasol,  Al Horford and Ryan Anderson stand out as the three best options for the Heat. A lot needs to happen before we can really think about a big signing like that, but all three would be solid additions for different reasons.

Finals Bound?

If Bosh returns and can put the blood clot issues behind him, the Heat are going to be a tough team. If Bosh is done via medical reasons but the Heat can keep Whiteside and also add a key big man like Horford, Anderson or Gasol, they’ll again be a very tough out. For now, Miami’s future hinges to Bosh’s future. They would probably love to keep him and believe his blood clot issues are a thing of the past, but for his and the team’s sake, it may be best to just play it safe and move on.

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