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NBA AM: The Chris Bosh Problem

Miami has an interesting window to rebuild their team this summer if they medically waive Chris Bosh.

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The Chris Bosh Problem

The Miami HEAT currently sit at 5-12 on the season and roughly three games out of the playoff picture. The HEAT are competitive, which is something you expect from Miami, but they are not going to be much more than a borderline playoff team on their best day. That means, at some point in the not-so-distant future, they are going to have to make some tough choices.

By now, you have likely heard all about HEAT forward Chris Bosh and his medical status. He suffered a second blood-clot-related issues last February and has been taking blood thinning medication to keep that very serious condition under control. His hope was that he could find a balance in when in the day he took medication and how much, so he could play again.

The problem with Bosh’s situation is it’s not a physical one. He is not nursing a sore knee that won’t get better or a problematic bone that won’t heal. For all purposes, Bosh feels great and is ready to play. His issue is internal, something he does not feel every day, which makes hanging it up tough – especially for a player who has spent his life getting to this point.

So what’s the holdup? Well, the medication Bosh takes thins his blood significantly, so much so that even the slightest cut or bruise could become life threatening because his body would not be able to stop the bleeding. The specific medication Bosh is taking does not have a counterpart that could be injected to help halt the bleeding either, making it a risk on the part of his NBA team and obviously Bosh himself.

Bosh signed a five-year, $118 million contract with Miami in the summer of 2014. He is owed $23.7 million this season, $25.28 million next season and $26.83 million in his final year during the 2019-20 season. The good news for Bosh is every penny of that money if fully guaranteed. The good news for Miami is that 80 percent of that money is covered by the NBA’s disability insurance carrier, so there is no practical reason for either to risk Bosh’s life to get him back on the court.

Miami is approaching an interesting window on February 9; that will be one year since Bosh played his last game and when he becomes eligible to be medically waived. How that process works is the HEAT’s medical staff would need to decide that Bosh is no longer fit to play and the HEAT could then file for a waiver – the same action teams use to cut players. They would then apply to the NBA for Bosh’s salary to be removed from their salary cap going forward. The NBA and the Players Association would then have an independent doctor review all of the materials related to Bosh and a third party medical decision would be made. If the third party agrees with the HEAT’s medical determination, Bosh’s salary comes off the HEAT salary cap and they would gain that money back.

Bosh would still get every dime owed him, it would just create relief for Miami to move on, which according to sources close to the situation and public statements from both HEAT president Pat Riley and HEAT general manager Andy Elisburg is what the team is planning to do.

Now there are a couple of things worth noting. If Bosh is ever able to play 25 or more games in the NBA, all of his cap money goes back on the HEAT’s salary cap. This is meaningful because Bosh has every intention of trying to play again. Bosh recently hired Rob Pelinka of Landmark Sports to be his new agent, and that wouldn’t happen if Bosh didn’t believe he could play again.

Another part is in waiving Bosh, the HEAT would place him in the free agent pool since no team in the NBA has the cap space to claim his $23.7 million contract. So after clearing the waiver process, Bosh would be free to choose whatever team he’d like to sign with, and there may be more than a few teams willing to sign Bosh at the minimum to get him on their roster and in their medical program to see if he can be salvaged at some point. If Bosh can get off the blood thinning medication, his return to the court could be very quick, as again, he’s in perfect condition physically and has been staying in shape, which could make the situation a little sticky for Miami.

If Miami waives Bosh, they have to be mindful of the 25-game number. To gain cap space in July, Bosh can’t play this year, so while the HEAT can opt to waive Bosh on February 9, they may be better suited to wait until mid-March to ensure that Bosh can’t play those 25 games.

The next part for Miami is if they are going to go through with medically waiving Bosh, should they also opt to clear out the older players on the roster, namely Goran Dragic and his remaining $54.3 million? If so, what does he return?

If the HEAT are successful in getting Bosh’s salary off their cap figure and move off Dragic for an ending contract or two, the HEAT could find themselves with with just shy of $60 million in usable cap space this summer.

There are issues there, as Bosh playing next season could push Miami into the luxury tax if his contract comes back on their books after they sign free agents. This is a real possibility if he can get off the medication. Typically two blood clot issues keeps you on blood thinners for the balance of your life, but every case is certainly unique.

The HEAT have an interesting window to re-make their team quickly, but it would require more than just Bosh coming off the salary cap. Nonetheless, they have a window and seem like they will explore it.

As the 13th seed in the East, the smart play for Miami might be to tear the whole thing down and aim for a high pick in a very loaded 2017 NBA Draft class. Follow that with a run in free agency with what could be the most money to spend and hope for a win or two on the open free agent market.

The Bosh situation is one to watch on a number of fronts. Bosh could end up helping Miami re-build quickly, while at the same time if he can get himself right, he could be a cheap solution for a would-be playoff team. Especially a playoff team willing to take a risk early on that he can play again because after all, the HEAT will be paying him all of his original contract regardless.

PODCAST: Talking Trades

In case you missed it, Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler and Senior NBA Writer Joel Brigham jump into the Trade Eligible Players on both December 15th and January 15th as well as some of the teams that should be looking at making trades sooner than later.

The Insiders Podcasts are typically recorded on Tuesdays and Saturdays and feature different hosts and co-host with each episode. The podcast can be found on your favorite Podcast app and on iTunes.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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