With the announcement that LeBron James will return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, it was expected that Miami's Chris Bosh would accept a four-year, $88 million max contract from the Houston Rockets.
However, the Miami Heat swept in at the last minute and got Bosh to come back with a five-year, $118 million deal. We won't get to see Bosh team up with James Harden and Dwight Howard this season, but had he decided to join the Rockets a new big three in Houston could have made them one of the top teams in the NBA.
Earlier today Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Rockets plan to match Dallas' offer sheet for Chandler Parsons, so it appears as if Houston's starting lineup from last season will return. Bosh would have replaced Terrence Jones at the four spot.
To simplify Bosh's impact, Houston would've replaced a second-year player with a nine-time All-Star, but it means a lot more than that. It's true that Bosh can do just about everything Jones can do but better, but he also opens up a lot more options for the Rockets both offensively and defensively.
First, let's look at the two players' shot charts from last season, courtesy of vorped.com.
The Rockets wanted to use Terrence Jones as a stretch four, and while it was somewhat effective, Jones shot below league average from every spot on the perimeter except for the left corner, where he was a respectable 39 percent. Bosh is much more effective in this role, especially from the top of the key where he connected on an impressive 42.6 percent of his shots.
But perhaps the most important thing to look at is the mid-range game. Bosh is one of the best players in the league from that area, shooting at or above league average from every mid-range zone.
With Daryl Morey in the front office the Rockets are perhaps the most analytically driven team in the league, and as a result take the fewest mid-range shots in the league by a wide margin.
According to Basketball-Reference, only 6.5 percent of Houston's field goal attempts last season were two-pointers greater than 16 feet away from the basket, and an even lower number of 4.9 percent were from 10-16 feet. Both numbers rank as the lowest in the league. As a contrast, the Rockets also attempted a league-high 33 percent of their shots from beyond the three-point arc.
Presumably, the Rockets would have Bosh cut down on the mid-range shots and move them back to the three-point line. Bosh is a much better shooter than Jones, and with more three-point attempts he'll command the respect of his defender. As a result, this will open up more driving lanes and room around the basket for Patrick Beverly and James Harden.
Defensively, the addition of Bosh can make the Rockets an even scarier team. Last season Houston ranked 22nd in the league in opposing points per game, but this had more to do with their lighting-fast pace than sub-par defense. When adjusting for tempo, the Rockets ranked as the 13th best defense in the league, giving up 104.0 points per 100 possessions.
Bosh is an underrated on-ball defender down on the blocks, and when paired up with Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverly the Rockets easily could have been a top-10 defense in the league.
The Rockets with Bosh likely would have contended for the top seed in the West, but now we'll probably never get to see the Houston big three that could have been.