Basketball almost lost Chris Bosh last winter.

Fresh off his 10th straight All-Star appearance, Bosh was in the middle of his best offensive season since joining the Heat back in the summer of 2010. His 21.1 points per game were his highest average since leaving Toronto, and he was once again one of the main focal points of an offense, thriving in the role even as the Heat struggled to get going.

With the addition of Goran Dragic and the out-of-nowhere ascent of Hassan Whiteside, the Heat looked ready to make some serious noise in the second half of the season, equipped with one of the most loaded starting lineups in the East.

Before coming back from the break, Bosh checked himself into a Miami hospital—on the day the Heat acquired Dragic, no less—to get a nagging pain in his side checked. He was diagnosed with a blood clot in his left lung, which put Bosh’s career in question and initially had the Dallas native fearing for his life. After some scary days, Bosh walked out of the hospital, but his 2015 season was done.

Bosh is back now, fully cleared for Heat training camp. One of the most overlooked stars in the League is set to remind everyone that he’s still one of the best bigs out there.

With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as the headliners of the Heat’s run to four consecutive NBA Finals, it was easy to forget that Bosh’s willingness and ability to defend centers allowed Miami to play its aggressive style of defense. His rapid adoption of the long ball turned the Heat offense into a five-out, whirring machine.

Even with his evolution—Bosh jacked up and made more threes than ever in his shortened 2014-15 season, and at the best clip of his career—the defense hasn’t slipped, with Bosh still capable of bodying opposing bigs or chasing ball handlers on switches.

He’s still a player capable of providing a lynchpin for a team on D. He proved the same last year on the offensive end, when he upped his usage rate to the highest level of his career after four years as a third wheel.

Over the years, Bosh’s game has changed out of necessity. This year, he finally gets an adjustment that isn’t asking him to sacrifice; Bosh should be back to starting at the 4, something he’s rarely done over the last few seasons.

Whiteside became a problem for opponents just a few weeks before Bosh was lost for the year, but the two helped the Heat put up solid numbers when they were on the floor together last year, including on the boards—an area where Bosh has taken some criticism in Miami.

There are big questions with the Heat: Wade’s health, Whiteside’s ability to stay on the floor, how the new starting five will come together and more. But with added depth (Justise Winslow falling to the Heat at the 10th slot in the Draft helps), this Miami squad has the makings of a dark-horse contender in the East.

With two crafty slashers in Wade and Dragic and a potential monster rolling to the hoop in Whiteside, there’s going to be plenty of room for Bosh to operate in his sweet spot in 2015-16. An 11th consecutive All-Star nod seems inevitable, health pending.

Bosh’s varied interests are well known, things like coding, Spanish and acting (he plays a killer French Horn at Eagleton High). After a winter and spring of uncertainty, the smooth lefty’s focus is back on the hardwood.

Basketball is lucky to have him back.

21_bosh_chart

SLAM Top 50 Players 2015
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Rajon Rondo Kings PG 14
49 Giannis Antetokounmpo Bucks SF 8
48 Rudy Gobert Jazz C 10
47 Al Jefferson Hornets C 9
46 DeMar DeRozan Raptors SG 7
45 Goran Dragic Heat PG 13
44 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 11
43 Jeff Teague Hawks PG 12
42 Bradley Beal Wizards SG 6
41 Joakim Noah Bulls C 8
40 Eric Bledsoe Suns PG 11
39 Tony Parker Spurs PG 10
38 Andrew Wiggins T-Wolves SF 7
37 Kyle Lowry Raptors PG 9
36 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 10
35 Gordon Hayward Jazz SF 6
34 Pau Gasol Bulls PF 9
33 Paul Millsap Hawks PF 8
32 Mike Conley Grizzlies PG 8
31 Andre Drummond Pistons C 7
30 Dirk Nowitzki Mavs PF 7
29 Draymond Green Warriors PF 6
28 Kobe Bryant Lakers SG 5
27 Dwyane Wade Heat SG 4
26 DeAndre Jordan Clippers C 6
25 Tim Duncan Spurs C 5
24 Derrick Rose Bulls PG 7
23 Al Horford Hawks C 4
22 Paul George Pacers SF 5
21 Chris Bosh Heat PF 5



Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2015-16—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.