Despite being the one member of the trio that can never grasp the offensive spotlight, Chris Bosh has been at the center of more trade rumblings, at least amongst the masses of bloggers and analysts, than any other member of the Miami Heat.
Back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals and the highest PER of his Heat career coming this past season won't help Bosh's cause. His game that's been described as passive, since all passive forwards go for 20 points and 19 rebounds against the Chicago Bulls, has warmed up on his former critics and naysayers who once wished to trade him.
Winning a championship can help do that for you. Bosh was instrumental in the Heat's Game 7 Conference Finals victory over the Boston Celtics, dropping 19 points and converting a career postseason-high three three-pointers, and he also played a heavy role in Miami's NBA Finals victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, stretching out the offense and rendering the roles of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins obsolete.
However, it wasn't until the Heat were without Bosh that his significance to the team came to light for many of his critics. When Bosh went down with an abdominal strain in Game 1 of last year's semifinals, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were able to pull out a victory in the same game but would go on to lose the next two.
Miami failed to score more than 76 points in either outing, scoring 75 in their Game 2 home loss and then matching it with arguably one of their worst postseason efforts in the "Big Three" era when they lost in a 19-point laugher on the road.
It took a mammoth effort from Wade and James for the Heat to win the next three games. They combined for 70 of their team's 101 points in Game 4 and 67 of Miami's 105 points in Game 6.
The two combined for 58 in Game 5, but that game was mostly heralded by Miami's ability to hold Indiana to 34 percent shooting and using their defense to convert into immediate offense.
No, it wasn't until after their three consecutive losses to the Boston Celtics that the importance of Bosh truly become appreciated. With no reliable third option on the floor, Kevin Garnett and the Celtics immediately started double-teaming Dwyane Wade, which led to a greater burden on the shoulders of LeBron James.
It took arguably the greatest postseason performance of LeBron's career in Game 6 and arguably the most improbable postseason performance of Bosh's career in Game 7 just to beat Boston. LeBron would be propped up on everyone's shoulders because of his magnificent Game 6, but Miami probably doesn't make the Finals without Bosh nailing three threes, including two in the fourth.
Even though Bosh wasn't able to drive to the rim as he would with an abdominal that wasn't strained, his influence alone as a perimeter threat is enough to force defenses to adjust because of how difficult an assignment he is.
There are so few players in the league who can shoot as well as Bosh and can drive as well as he can for a 6'11" center. He continues to buy into the Heat's offensive system of spacing the floor. Even though his post-up attempts are down, his spot-up attempts are up, and it's resulting in some of the best numbers of his career.
The 54 percent he shot this season was a career-high by a mile, as was the 52 percent he shot in the range between 16 and 25 feet. In the middle of critics wanting to trade him for a flashier, more aggressive option, Bosh quietly became the league's greatest mid-range threat.
With nearly 33 percent of his offense generated off of spot-up opportunities, Bosh was a 47 percent shooter overall and ranked 154th in the league, per SynergySports.
Compare that to Portland Trail Blazers' power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, also considered an excellent shooter for a player his size, who shot under 44 percent and only saw 15 percent of his offense stem from spot-up, according to SynergySports.
Aldridge was also a 15 percent three-point shooter, while Bosh has shot 32 percent, including the postseason.
Spot-up shots are what Miami is relying on when LeBron and Dwyane aren't taking shots near the rim. Those spot-up shots are what pay the bills for the likes of Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers and Bosh, who has seen a significant increase in the amount of spot-ups he's taken.
Bosh, not one to complain, has raised no quarrel in seeing his role on the offense diminish as he becomes a glorified shooter who is given the green light to drive when the matchup is right.
Miami leads the league with 1.09 points per possession of spot-ups, per SynergySports, shooting 43 percent from the field and 41 percent from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, they rely on their post-up game for only seven percent of their offense.
To put that into perspective, the Miami offense is more reliant on isolations (10.8 percent) and cuts (8.3 percent) than they are on post-ups. So much for the idea that a team can't win a championship without an established post threat.
Bosh has been one of the key reasons why Miami has been so successful with their innovative offensive and defensive systems. He is a perfect fit for this Heat team because there is no other player his size that can command as large an influence as a perimeter threat.
You can compare the spot-up percentages of many other power forwards and centers, and they won't come close to matching Bosh's numbers. Even if they have a higher shooting percentage than Bosh, they fail to come close to shooting that high of a percentage at the same volume and magnitude of Chris.
Dirk Nowitzki shot 47 percent on spot-ups but only saw 23 percent of his offense stem from those types of plays. Garnett shot 50 percent on 190 attempts, which is solid but fails to compare to Bosh shooting 47 percent on over 300 field-goal attempts on the same plays.
For Heat fans who wish oh-so-badly for the flash and athleticism of Blake Griffin, take note that he's a 36 percent shooter on spot-up opportunities. Miami's offense would come to a crashing halt on many possessions if they had Griffin as their resident stretch 4/5.
He'd be fun in the open court, but as you saw with the Los Angeles Clippers, they're not that great of a team when they're forced into the half court. If Chris Paul has trouble generating offense for you, chances are you're not a multidimensional player.
I'm aware I'm putting a lot of emphasis on each player's spot-up ability, but that would be the position they'd be in with this Heat team. The question this article creates is how any other power forward or center would react and adjust to becoming a player in the position of Bosh, who is now a perimeter shooter that has range beyond the three-point arc.
Wish they had a rebounder like Zach Randolph? He's a 44 percent spot-up shooter who relies on that play for four percent of his game, according to Synergy, and also converted two of his 20 three-point attempts on the season.
His future matchup in David West was only a 43 percent spot-up shooter that has shot 18 percent on 22 three-point attempts. Like so many other forwards/centers not named Chris Bosh, West was primarily dependent on his post-up game.
What happens when you throw these guys like West and Randolph on the Heat and relegate them as spot-up threats? Does David West willingly say, "Sure, I'll gladly abandon my post-up game so I can become a spot-up shooter?"
Sacrifice has been a key theme of this Heat team. Don't forget that Bosh was not a fan of playing center when he was a member of the Toronto Raptors and even made some mentions of not wanting to play it in Miami, yet he played all 74 games this season as Miami's center.
Look at it this way. How many of Bosh's peers willingly take a paycut so that they can become third scoring options and watch as their statlines are cut in half from what they previously were when they were the primary or secondary options on their former teams?
This game is so much more mental than it is physical, and what Bosh has done has been incredibly difficult, including what he has done as a shooter this season. It is not an easy feat to shoot so well on jumpers when you're hardly allowed to ever establish a rhythm since the ball doesn't run through you.
Bosh is the only player at his size and position that can play with this Heat team. As you can see by the offensive numbers of some of his competitors, there just wouldn't be a suitable replacement on that end of the floor for the Heat.
Miami isn't the same team without the shooting expertise of Bosh, which is primarily a reason why they chose him over Carlos Boozer, a 41 percent spot-up shooter that took only two three-pointers on the season, and Amar'e Stoudemire in the summer of 2010.
Boozer and Stoudemire just don't stretch out the floor like Bosh can. Nor do they match the defense that he provides.
Yeah, I said it. Chris Bosh, who is constantly described as passive, had an excellent season on the defensive end of the floor for Miami this season. The 1.4 blocks per he averaged was the highest he's posted since his second season in the league.
The 3.4 defensive win shares he had was the fourth-highest of his career. Three of his five best seasons in that category have come with the Heat.
SynergySports has Bosh among the league's top defenders, ranking him 55th in the league giving up 0.79 points per possession. Those who attempted to post-up on Bosh were held to 38 percent shooting, while pick-and-roll men were allowed to shoot only 35 percent, per Synergy.
The defensive numbers are staggering for Bosh. Naturally, he's going to benefit from being a part of a defense that is composed of brilliant defenders in a brilliant system, but it takes one busted pair of busted legs of this centipede for the entire system to fail miserably.
This Heat team requires extremely disciplined and talented defenders. Because the team relies more on constantly rotating, rather than traditional man-to-man or zone settings, there is always a need for communication and synchronicity between all five players on the floor in order for it to work.
Say the opposition runs a pick-and-roll. The Heat are going to need Bosh, or whoever the player is in that situation, to shield the ball-handler from getting a good look at his intended target and then must race back to his original assignment who has cut into the lane.
Bosh has been one of the league's top defenders in the pick-and-roll, ranking 26th and giving up 0.73 points per possession, per SynergySports.
Miami could have better defensive options than Bosh, obviously. Joakim Noah and Marc Gasol would be huge additions to Miami's defense, but they're not going to provide what Bosh can provide on the defensive and offensive ends.
And let's not look too hard at the rebounding statistics. Bosh may have averaged some of the lowest numbers of his career on the boards, but Miami hardly suffered significantly and found their rebounding problems overstated.
Miami's rebounding differential was only minus-1.5, ranking 21st in the league. However, the differential is inflated by the offensive rebounding numbers, which heavily favor Miami's opponent because of the high percentage the Heat shoot at.
If there are fewer shots being missed, there's not as large a need for offensive rebounds. It hasn't seemed to affect the Heat too badly, especially after beating the Bulls and their vaunted frontcourt in five games.
Rebounding has never been as large an issue as so many would like to indicate. Miami does get beat up on the boards occasionally, but they hardly ever allow their opponent to beat them on the boards when the games matter.
The 2011 Chicago Bulls with Boozer, Noah, Taj Gibson and Omer Asik? Five games to dispel of. The 2012 Indiana Pacers with Roy Hibbert, David West and Tyler Hansbrough? Six games, and that came without Bosh.
Per 82games.com, the difference in defense when Bosh is on and off the court is minimal, with the Heat giving up 105.6 points per 100 possessions when he's on the court and 104.5 points per 100 possessions when he's off.
However, the offensive numbers clearly indicate Bosh's influence in the offense. When he's off the floor, the Heat are scoring 111.6 points per 100 possessions. It's quite the difference from the 115.4 points per 100 possessions the Heat score when Bosh is on the floor.
While the numbers indicate the Heat are a better defensive unit when Bosh is off the floor, some of the best defensive units of Miami come with Bosh playing center. That includes the clutch lineup that features Wade, Allen, Battier, James and Bosh at the 5, which gives up only .98 point per possession.
No other Heat lineup that has played more than 100 minutes together has put together better defensive numbers. A lot of it has to do with the situation and implications, but don't think that Bosh's defensive influence hasn't played a role.
Per 82games.com, Bosh has had seven blocks in clutch situations, including five that have come near the rim.
Remember the adage, "The grass is always greener." It couldn't be more true in these circumstances involving Bosh, who has been the brunt of many complaints surrounding this Heat team that include their "problems" on the boards and the occasional games where Bosh's spot-up game isn't up to par.
But there isn't a player who can fill the role Bosh can. Not only do the Heat have an improved defender who has helped anchor arguably the league's greatest defense, but they have a shooter who cannot be compared to any other player that plays his position or is his size.
Mostly, however, there isn't a player that's going to make the adjustments and sacrifices Bosh has made. Even as the underrated and unappreciated member of the "Big Three," Bosh has taken every last jab at his game, face and emotions in stride as he continues to quietly oil the gears that make this Heat team run as volatile and lethal as they have over the past three seasons.
We can analyze the rebounding numbers and influence of guys like David West and Roy Hibbert all we want, but remember how important those spot-up shooting numbers are when Chris Bosh is splashing home 20-footers over a 7'2" center who will be baffled when defending the Heat's versatile power forward.
And the Heat wouldn't want it any other way.
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