Is Chris Bosh Ready to Be the Man in Miami?
LeBron James is taking his talents back to Northeast Ohio, and Carmelo Anthony is sticking with the city that raised him by re-upping with the New York Knicks. Homecoming has been the theme for the two biggest marquee free agent signings this summer, and Chris Bosh - a native Texan - had the opportunity to continue that trend when the Houston Rockets offered him a max deal worth approximately $88 million over four years.
It looked like LeBron choosing to go back to Cleveland and leaving Miami behind would inevitably lead to Bosh doing the same by choosing to team up with James Harden and Dwight Howard in Houston. The move seemed almost certain when the Rockets traded both Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin to clear the cap space for Bosh. But Miami swooped in at the 11th hour to offer an even sweeter deal with an extra year and $30 million to boot.
Bosh accepted the five-year, $118 million deal almost immediately, and is now officially off the market.
After years of being a third wheel, CB looks like he’ll play out the remainder of his prime basketball years as a top option in Miami. The Heat are likely to do right by Dwyane Wade and give him the chance to finish his career in South Beach, but his knees are degenerating at an alarming rate and his effectiveness is on a clear downward trajectory.
That means that Bosh, after years of absorbing tons of criticism and being jokingly referred to as the half in the Heat’s “Big 2.5”, will likely be the top dog again like he used to be when he played for the Raptors.
Does he still have it in him?
In looking at the last five years of Bosh’s career (his last season in Toronto, plus his last four in Miami), his stat line tells two completely different stories. In some aspects, Bosh has displayed a seemingly steady decline in a number of areas. If we look at just the basics, we could jump to the conclusion that Bosh’s alpha days are behind him.
If you look at the purest and most basic stat line for a basketball player - one that just includes points, rebounds, and assists - Bosh certainly seems to be a player whose career is on a downturn. His averages for those three categories have dropped each of the last four seasons since leaving Toronto; that much is undeniable. Something that is often overlooked in this argument, however, is how different the demands have been on Bosh as a member of the Heat compared to what was asked of him as a Raptor.
Look no further than the difference in his minutes played per game and usage rate over that same time frame if you’re looking for an explanation for the supposed drop off:
In the five years that have passed since Bosh was a Raptor, his minutes per game have dropped by 4.1 and his usage rate by 6.1%. Calling that a significant difference would be a severe understatement. That’s what happens when you go from having Andrea Bargnani as your next best teammate to playing with two surefire Hall of Famers in LeBron and Wade.
For a better idea of what’s going on with Bosh, let’s examine his numbers per 36 minutes played over that time frame:
|Year||Team||PTS / 36||REB / 36||AST / 36|
The drop off in the changeover season from Toronto to Miami (2010-11) of 5.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 0.5 assists per 36 minutes had a lot more to do with role and usage rate reductions than a decline in talent. Does anyone truly believe that Bosh was a significantly worse player from Year 7 of his career (last in Toronto) to Year 8 (first in Miami)? If not, the slight decrease by 0.3 points, 0.9 rebounds, and 0.7 assists per 36 from Year 8 to Year 11 is negligible. If anything, it speaks to Bosh’s consistency and sustained ability and certainly doesn’t indicate any sort of nosedive.
The only things that really dropped off, as mentioned, were his minutes and usage. When you consider that Miami has had one of the best rosters in the NBA over the last four years (including the best basketball player on the planet, for the record), it's not hard to understand the reason for the change. Bosh sacrificed his stat line for wins and it paid off. The Heat blew out a lot of opponents and had plenty of reasons and opportunities to rest their stars when they could to keep them fresh for the playoffs. With four Finals appearances and two rings to show for it, it’s hard to deny that it was the right move.
Besides, lost in all the Bosh bashing, people lose sight of the fact that he has improved in a lot of important areas as well.
Over his last four seasons in Miami, Bosh was not relied upon as a scorer quite as much as in the T-Dot, so he reinvented his game. Instead of getting the majority of his possessions off post-ups (he’s down to only getting 7.1% of his offensive possessions in the post), he can now be considered a stretch big, using 33.7% of his offensive possessions on spot-up jumpers (per Synergy).
This season, 22.9% of Bosh’s field goal attempts were threes, almost triple his previous high. In the playoffs, in particular, Bosh has been an assassin from deep, shooting over 40.5% in each of the last three Finals runs by the Heat. The added volume and increased efficiency from long range this past season resulted in a career best effective field goal percentage (weighted twos and threes) of 55.5%.
Bosh, a natural power forward, is slightly undersized at center at 6’10” and only 228 pounds. By stretching his game out and getting out of the post, he’s probably putting years on his already healthy career. It’s probably one of the reasons for the drop off in his rebounding numbers, but the added miles might be worth it.
Another reason for that might actually be that his focus has shifted to being a solid defender instead of inflating his rebounding numbers. The vast improvement in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions by his team when he’s on the floor) from his time in Toronto to Miami is no accident. Bosh’s defensive counting stats are as good as they’ve ever been, but it’s his rim protection that is now bordering on great.
Despite the aforementioned size deficit at the five, Bosh has done an admirable job of protecting the rim for Miami over the years. This past season, Bosh held opponents to 52.4% shooting at the rim on 7.1 attempts per game. For a couple comparison points, Tyson Chandler allowed 51.5% on 6.9 attempts and Andre Drummond allowed 52.3% on 8.1. That’s pretty nice company, especially considering Chandler has 3 inches on Bosh and Drummond outweighs him by over 40 pounds.
With Bosh now the primary option in Miami (or at least 1A to Wade’s 1B), don’t be surprised if he puts up another 20-point, 10-rebound season like he used to in Toronto. The only signs of a drop off are likely due to decreases in minutes played and usage rate and you can expect those numbers to increase with the King taking up court elsewhere (CB did average 23.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per contest in the three games he played without LeBron this season, for what it's worth). With improved range and a strong defensive prowess added to what was already an elite package, Bosh could soon remind everyone why he’s a nine-time All-Star and former All-NBA honoree.
Hopefully his critics enjoy the taste of crow.