There are two ways to look at a player like Chris Bosh. If you’re the negative, glass half-empty type, the kind of person who, rather than enjoying a movie like Gravity instead harps on the scientific fallacies littered throughout the film, then you’re probably going to focus on all the things that Chris Bosh doesn’t do on the basketball court, all the ways he frustrates. The jumper that he often falls in love with, the passive nature that he often seems to play with, the rebounds that he often seems to have nothing to do with (I’m not really sure how someone his size and who plays more than 30 minutes a game can finish a season averaging less that seven rebounds).
But that’s such a depressing and cynical way to look at Chris Bosh. Also, it’s ignorant of how the game of basketball is actually played and what on-the-court actions actually lead to winning. And 6-11 big men who can shoot from the outside and score in the post and don’t demand the ball. Big men who can shut down pick-and-rolls, play help defense and are willing to sacrifice their bodies—and numbers—and guard opponents 40 pounds heavier than them…Those are the players that lead to wins, and to actual sustained winning.
You know what the Heat’s plus-minus (per 100 possessions) was when Bosh was on the court last year? I’m going to assume you don’t, so the answer is 9.8, meaning the Heat outscored opponents by 9.8 points per 100 possessions when Chris Bosh was on the court. For what it’s worth, LeBron’s was 7.9. Oh, and when Bosh was off the court, the Heat were outscored by 0.4 points. That’s a lot of fancy numbers, but the point should be clear: when Chris Bosh is on the court, the team played better. Much better. That’s not a fluke.
It starts with the jumper, the smooth left-handed stroke that he’s improved each year, to the point where Bosh might now be the second best big-man shooter in the NBA (the crown belongs, and always will belong, to that German guy in Dallas). Last year Bosh shot 34 percent from behind-the-arc, while taking nearly three a game, and 48.5 percent on spot-up attempts. His effective field-goal percentage was 55 percent. Yeah, he only averaged 16.2 points per game, but does that number really matter? To Chris Bosh it doesn’t, which is another trait that makes him so special.
Bosh understands that its not about how many points he scores, but, rather, how many he points he allows his team to score. Understands, which kind of connotes a sort of reluctance, probably isn’t even the right word. Bosh seems to relish playing this way, spacing the floor for teammates and devoting his energy to banging and running around on defense.
And, while we’re on defense, it’s worth mentioning just how good Bosh is on that side of the floor, and just how big a role his defense played in Miami’s four-year run, semi-dominant run. The plus-minus number is mentioned above, but here’s another stat: Synergy Sports had Bosh graded last season as the best pick-and-roll defender in the NBA, and, as you know, NBA teams run pick-and-rolls pretty much all the time. Being able to shut down the No. 1 ran play in the League—like the quick-footed Bosh does with his sharp mind and 7-4 wingspan—yeah, that’s sort of a valuable skill.
What Bosh was the past three years (Year 1 in Miami was a trial and experimental period for all) was the ultimate secondary star, an elite No. 2, if you will. He could carry the offensive load at points if needed, but, if he wasn’t asked to, no big deal. And his willingness to adapt and evolve to his surroundings—that’s something rarely seen from a player with his talent. Usually the star requests (demands?) the opposite—that the team adapt and evolve in a way that best fits him and his skills and the way he wants to play. Remember, the Heat only turned into the dominant team we all expected it to be only when it started going small in Year 2 during the Playoffs against Indiana. If not for Chris Bosh, that transformation could never have happened.
Now, though, with LeBron gone and Bosh earning a true max salary, is where things get interesting. No longer can Bosh stand on the sidelines and play the secondary role. Now it’s up to Bosh to combine the player he was in Toronto with the one he’s become in Miami. Maybe he can do it—I’m more optimistic than most when it comes to the Heat’s outlook for this season—though the basketball fan in me, the one raised in a house where the Old Knicks were revered, is going to mourn the loss of the player Bosh had become. So yeah, maybe on this list Bosh is just No. 24. If I was building a team from scratch, though, I’d pick him much higher. Again, you got to take the glass-half-full approach with evaluating Bosh. Only then can you begin to appreciate just how special a basketball player he truly is.
|#SLAMTop50 Players 2014|
Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’14-15—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.