Let's get one thing straight: Chris Bosh is essential to the Miami Heat's success. His dead-eye mid-range game makes him invaluable to the offense, as well as the smarts and quickness he offers. Bosh's footwork is fantastic and helps on both sides of the ball as well.
His rebounding, however, has been extremely streaky this season.
One of the biggest points of discussion surrounding the Big Three is Bosh's ability (or inability) to rebound the ball. Since their formation, he has not lived up to expectations as a double-double player.
Bosh did so in back-to-back years with the Toronto Raptors before joining the Heat, and while partnering with solid rebounders in Dwyane Wade and LeBron James has undoubtedly had an effect, nobody expected it to drop this low.
Bosh is currently averaging 17.3 points for the Heat, converting 54.8 percent of his shots. He's also shooting a remarkable 52 percent from mid-range, which has been phenomenal for Miami this season. All are career highs for the 6'11" center, yet his rebounding has plummeted significantly.
On the season, Bosh is snatching a career-worst 7.2 rebounds per game. When his rookie season average of 7.4 is higher than the output 10 years into his career, you know something is wrong.
In per-48 minute stats, the Heat average 38.5 rebounds with Bosh on the court. This falters to 37.7 with him on the bench, yet you'd expect a much bigger difference. If your team secures an almost identical number of boards without your third All-Star, it doesn't say much for his services.
It should be noted that Bosh is seeing the lowest playing time in his career. While the 33.5 minutes per game ties his rookie season, it is a shade below last season's 35.2 minutes. Bosh grabbed 7.9 boards that season, so while his lower totals on the glass would seemingly indicate less time on the court, it remains a bigger issue.
Bosh is averaging a miserable 3.6 rebounds over the Heat's last three games. After a string of three straight double-doubles, the big man's ability to rebound has seemingly disappeared. Headlined by his one rebound against the Sixers on February 23, Bosh has secured five or fewer rebounds in 21 of Miami's 50 games he's played in.
To grab just a single rebound in 25 minutes of playing time, especially at Bosh's position, is disastrous. He unfortunately accomplished an identical feat last month, totalling one board in 27 minutes against the Utah Jazz on January 14.
While it is fortunate the Heat's success does not rely on Bosh's rebounding, it remains a glare in an otherwise perfect team. Head coach Erik Spoelstra is pulling him from the game more and more, as Bosh is getting just 31.7 minutes this month.
When reviewing his abilities on the glass in a per-48 minute window, Bosh averages just 10.3 rebounds. That has him alongside guys like Ronny Turiaf, Jason Smith and Antawn Jamison, who are notably poor rebounders. While the latter two are face-up forwards like Bosh, it would indicate an issue with spacing and/or placement around the rim.
It has been a confusing trend throughout the season, as Bosh will do as well as 18 rebounds only to flip the switch and secure two boards. As aforementioned, the team does not require a double-double performance to be victorious. Yet if it continues as poorly as it has of late, Bosh could seemingly find himself on the outs in South Beach.
The Heat will take a hit from the NBA's luxury tax in the future. The tax limit is about $70 million, and Miami's cap of $82.5 million this season means a $12.5 million penalty. However, starting next season there will be an incremental system deployed, meaning there is a harsher penalty per dollar the team is over the limit.
You can view a broader overview of the new tax system here. Thus, realistically, playing $12.5 million in penalties this season would mean a $22.5 million bill next season. It is a steep difference, yet that is the aftermath of the notorious lockout and the new collective-bargaining agreement.
While team majority owner Micky Arison has gone on record stating he'll pay the tax as long as the team is winning, there is a plethora of players that do Bosh's job at a cheaper price tag. He's owed $61.7 million over the next three seasons, with an early-termination option in the 2014-15 season.
Miami's tax issue could certainly be remedied by ridding itself of contracts like Mike Miller's or Joel Anthony's, but neither are as crucial to the team as Bosh.
Not that the Heat would be able to acquire either, but guys like LaMarcus Aldridge and David Lee are both capable of filling in for Bosh with a lesser contract. They earn $13.5 million and $12.7 million this season respectively, and both have the combination of mid-range shooting, footwork and quick hands required in the Heat's system.
While it would only be a matter of time for either to adjust to Miami's defensive philosophy, it is an example (however unlikely) of players who could replace Bosh and do a better job. That isn't to say he isn't performing well with the team, though.
He's having a great season, but the glare that is his rebounding column in the box score is becoming alarming. It might be an overreaction at this point, yet you'd be mad to say Bosh's invisibility on the glass isn't a concern.
It is ultimately a combination of the looming luxury tax and Bosh's inability to be effective rebounding the ball. The central concept around a decision to move him would be said issue. If the Heat begin losing games because of it, expect Bosh to be in a different uniform.
It's a difficult idea to grasp, but quite realistically, it's either Bosh rebounds or he's out. The team won't be willing to pay that much luxury tax for a player that isn't active on the glass. There are groups of forwards and centers that would love a chance to play for the defending champions and would likely come at a fraction of the cost.
This shouldn't be misinterpreted as Bosh being expendable to the Heat. He, James and Wade are essential if Miami wishes to repeat in the Finals. However, the issue of rebounding that has continued since early 2010 remains. Calls to big men all over the league were made, yet it is something that must be solved internally.
Miami has one of the best defenses in the league, and to see Bosh get just 5.1 defensive rebounds a game is poor. As aforementioned, this is not a knock on his contributions or a call to see him traded. I would personally love to see this group continue for the next few seasons, but whether or not the Heat front office will be as tolerant remains to be seen.
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