Chris Bosh doesn’t care that he’s the most underappreciated star in the NBA.
Chris Bosh‘s story as an overlooked and undervalued player is one that has followed him his entire career, his entire life. Jonathan Abrams’ profile on Bosh, The Third Banana, traced the roots of this phenomenon back to his high school days at Lincoln in Dallas, Texas, where he played in the shadow of dynamic guard Bryan Hopkins. During AAU ball, per Abrams, Bosh would defer to teammates Ike Diogu (future first round pick) and Daniel Horton (later the Big-10 Freshman of the year at Michigan). Even at Georgia Tech, he still averaged just the third most shot attempts on the team behind B.J. Elder and Marvin Lewis.
After several years as “the man” in Toronto, Bosh joined forces with superstars Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, forming “The Heatles,” as they called themselves. In doing so, Bosh became the George Harrison to LeBron and Wade’s Lennon & McCartney (Coach Spoelstra was Ringo in case you were wondering). Bosh was publicly derided for deferring to two legitimate superstars instead of pursuing a ring as the first or second fiddle. He was viewed as a third wheel, whose star power couldn’t compete with his Miami cohorts.
LeBron’s return to Cleveland last season, coupled with Wade’s sporadic health meant that Bosh once again found himself as his team’s top option. He was embracing his new role as co-leader with Wade before disaster struck. His usage rate (28.4), field goal attempts per game (16.9) and points per game (21.1) were his highest since his days in Toronto. As a result, he was selected to his tenth consecutive All-Star game. Immediately following the All-Star break, Bosh was admitted to the hospital, where doctors found a blood clot in his lungs, a potentially fatal ailment if not discovered in time. Bosh was forced to miss the rest of the season and unable to partake in any physical activity for about six months.
Bosh’s pulmonary embolism forced him to put his career into perspective - Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
If he felt any rust in this year’s season opener, he didn’t show it, putting up 21 points and 10 rebounds in a win over the Charlotte Hornets. Since, Bosh has proven through 34 games that he is the linchpin of a promising Heat squad that sits just three games behind the top ranked Cleveland Cavaliers. Bosh is unquestionably the most important player for the Heat, as evidenced by his on/off court statistics. When Bosh is on the floor, the Heat outscore opponents by 7.5 points per 100 possessions, a top-four league rate. When Bosh is off the floor, the Heat get outscored by 1.8 points per 100 possessions, a rate equal to the Portland Trailblazers.
No other player on the Heat roster has this kind of impact on the game. In fact, Miami actually has a better Net Rating when Wade, Luol Deng, and Hassan Whiteside are each off the floor. Further, Goran Dragic‘s on/off court impact in Net Rating is negligible.
The reason for Bosh’s effect on the game stems from his length, athleticism, versatility and intelligence on both ends of the floor. His most tangible contributions, though, come on the offensive end due to his shooting ability.
The last time the Heat won the championship in 2012-13, they finished third in three-pointers made and second in three-point percentage. This season, however, has seen the Heat fall into the bottom-five in three-pointers made. With non-shooting rotation players like Dragic, Wade, Whiteside and Justise Winslow, every inch of spacing becomes precious. On the Whiteside/Dragic pick and roll shown below, Charlotte’s Al Jefferson just sags way off Whiteside. Meanwhile, Nic Batum is unconcerned about Deng, and Kemba Walker has no reason to worry about Wade spotting up:
This is where Bosh comes into play. The Heat power forward is one of the few players in the league that can give you spacing at the four or five without sacrificing interior rebounding and defense. Only two players this year are averaging 8 rebounds per game and shooting 40% on three-pointers: Draymond Green and Bosh. Bosh’s three-point shooting has become so reliable that Coach Spo is running crunch time plays for him from behind the arc.
NBA TV (@NBATV) January 5, 2016
Another thing Bosh’s shooting allows the Heat to do is run pick and pops for Wade and Bosh, thereby utilizing both players’ strengths. In the video below, the threat of Wade’s dribble penetration is enough to force the Knicks’ Kyle O’Quinn to commit, and Wade makes a nifty no-look pass look easy as he kicks it back out to Bosh.
This play has truly been the backbone of Miami’s offense. No roll man in the NBA has been more prolific in scoring off these types of plays per NBA.com.
The spacing created off these picks forces defenders to run out on Bosh as he gathers to shoot a jump shot. Bosh is smart and skilled enough to use defenders’ momentum against them and get to the rim. In the video below, Bosh is aided by Whiteside being on the bench, because it allowed enough spacing for Bosh to gain steam before meeting Andre Drummond at the rim. If Whiteside were on the court, clogging up the paint, we’d never have this gem:
By now, we should no longer be surprised that Bosh’s brilliance is unheralded. The NBA released preliminary All-Star game voting numbers on Christmas that showed Bosh is in seventh place among Eastern Conference frontcourt players with 91,896 votes. That puts him one spot ahead of rookie Kristaps Porzingis, and one spot behind the Cavaliers’ Kevin Love. For further perspective, Bosh is barely the second most popular player on his own team, despite being its best player. Wade leads all Eastern Conference guards with 300,595 votes, and Hassan Whiteside is nipping at Bosh’s heels with 72,923.
In a recent interview with the Miami Herald, Bosh gave some insight into how his attitude may have changed coming into this season. He said about dealing with disappointment:
“Well, I mean, you just be in it,” Bosh said. “You just enjoy it. Enjoy the ups and enjoy the downs. Because the NBA is a gift. It’s something that I’m lucky to be in. Everybody doesn’t get that chance. A lot of guys would kill to be in it. So, like, man, when we’re up, cool, I’m enjoying it. When we’re down, hey, it’s not that bad, I’m enjoying it. And these are emotions we all asked for. So, a tough loss, just shake it off, come back, try the next time.”
Bosh remains one of the most interesting, thoughtful, and quirky players we have in the league today. Regardless of whether he receives the national attention he deserves or not, he has certainly been through worse, and his new perspective is a testament to that. Just don’t expect him to feel sorry for himself, because he’s going to keep producing whether you notice or not. And at the end of the quarter, game, or season when you look at the statistics, the first name that pops will be the last you expect. Bosh has a knack for coming out of nowhere to surprise you.
Edited by John Ray.
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