Chris Bosh's value to the Heat

Shaq's comments have called Chris Bosh's status as a "Big Three" member into question. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Shaq's first controversy as an NBA television analyst has come in the form of a reference to the Miami Heat's "Big Two." His comment reflects a legitimate question that many NBA fans continue to debate: How much respect does Chris Bosh's level of production for the Heat actually deserve?

From a statistical point of view, there's little doubt that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are significantly better players than Bosh. James and Wade both had higher PERs than Bosh this past season, and both accumulated more win shares, which broadly measure a player's added value to his team.

A look at usage rates, which assess the importance of a player's role in a team's offense, indicates two things. First, James and Wade were on a very similar level this season regarding their relative importance to Miami's attack. Second, Bosh's usage rate isn't even close to that of James or Wade.

It goes without saying that when one of your teammates is the best player in the NBA and another is a perennial first-team All-NBA candidate, it's not exactly easy to position yourself as being in the same club. However, Bosh's annual salary of $14.5 million -- right up there with James and Wade -- set the expectations of many fans at that level, and Bosh certainly didn't seem to shy away from the Big Three moniker.

Instead of trying to put Bosh on James' level, though, let's consider another relevant question: Is he worth his near-max level salary to the Miami Heat? Since James and Wade are almost certainly underpaid for their talents, a performance-per-dollar comparison with those two players is pretty unfair, but it's still possible that Bosh is indeed at least pulling his weight, relative to a larger sample of comparable players.

Put another way, even at $14.5 million a year, Bosh may still be a solid investment for the Heat, and a franchise-level talent who indeed deserves a place in the Big Three -- even if he is the third wheel.