HEAT: Overrated Bosh Returns as Underrated Star

February 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Miami Heat, NBA

If you are looking at statistics to determine power forward Chris Bosh’s value to the Miami Heat this season you’d be asking to be misled. If you are still stuck with the image of Bosh trying desperately to find his groove among his new elite level teammates Dwyane Wade and LeBron James early in the season you’d be advised to look again. If you think everything isn’t going according to plan in Miami – Bosh included – you’d be wrong.

Bosh has become what any all-star big man should be for his team; an anchor, though to the casual eye his 18.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game (lowest in six years) may seem like a step back. His shooting percentages, assists and blocks have essentially remained the same. So have his minutes per game, which tells you that while his burn isn’t producing his career numbers – and shouldn’t be rolling with Wade and James – his worth on the court remains high.

Miami’s big three has the best plus/minus rating of any other trio in the league at +20 with Bosh holding a team-best +10.8. The plus/minus rating in basketball is a formula used to determine how a team performs while a player is on (and off) the floor and the team’s comfort zone coincided exactly with Bosh’s own ability to finally settle in.sbiancamento denti It also has to do with a higher calibre of teammate. Early in the season the six-time all-star admitted he was still finding his way, still looking to his numbers as a measure of contribution. It was when he stopped caring about statistics that the team finally started to gel. His transition from franchise player to supporting role wasn’t easy, but it was a challenge conquered fairly quickly considering the hype, expectation and pressure surrounding the controversial assembly.

After the Heat’s 9-8 record to start the campaign it was Bosh’s slow start out of the gate that took the brunt of the blame. He disappeared for important stretches in those early games and visibly struggled to manage his moments next to ball hogs Wade and James. He had his minutes cut in November as he angled to mark his territory. The rumour mill was spinning trade talk and scenarios about an experiment that was only a few weeks old. FOX Sports went so far as to call Bosh’s Toronto Raptors numbers inflated because NBA players were more interested in sleeping with white women in Toronto than schooling Bosh and his squad. The team struggled to rebound and throw around muscle and beef in the paint. Bosh was the easy blame there too, a laughable spin and the safe scapegoat with a non-combative personality that often stands in contrast to those of Wade and James. His list of accomplishments is short by comparison and his brand name lower on the totem pole. Everything that made him a superstar in Toronto was tempered and pared down in Miami. The mental fight in transition was the real obstacle for Bosh.

Eventually though, Bosh forgot about the numbers and focussed on impact, which the point of his plus/minus rating. So what if it took a LeBron James return to Cleveland and drubbing of the Cavaliers to jumpstart it?

Since that slow November rollercoaster the Heat are 31-7 and have become one of the top defensive teams in the NBA. Their +7.82 point differential leads all 30 clubs and holding opponents to a league low 42.6% shooting has been impressive. Offensively they are ranked second in the NBA in field goal shooting with a 47.4% mark and tenth in points per game with 101.9. That particular difference displays an efficiency and confidence in execution.

To watch Bosh play now is to watch an unselfish player and a low-post facilitator. With a three-man committee approach to the centre position and in the absence of the injured forward Udonis Haslem Bosh is the go-to on most nights for everything frontcourt. The off-court business of being a member of the new Miami Heat are no longer a distraction for Bosh but the haters and doubters lurk. The entire city of Toronto awaits him at the Air Canada when he returns on February 16 as a member of the unholy trinity, ready to jeer their departed son. More recently NBA legend Scottie Pippen had words for Bosh calling him half the player his star teammates are and voicing doubts that Bosh could ever help elevate the Heat to the heights of his former Michael Jordan-led Hall of Fame Chicago Bulls teams.

Next week Bosh will play in his sixth All-Star game, an accomplishment everybody threw into doubt when he joined a star-studded cast. His rants about northern obscurity didn’t help his image, nor did the reality that he had mentally checked out at times during his final season with the Raptors. Still, for all his public-relations missteps and reputation as a soft player (Shaquille O’Neal once called him the ”RuPaul” of big men, Kevin Durant called him a fake tough guy) Bosh finds himself exactly where he wants to be; an all-star piece on what is arguably the NBA’s best team on a collision course with some kind of twisted NBA history. The first leg of that journey will end with his return to Toronto. Closure.

Then it’s back to being wide open.

Bosh has never shied way from the off-court criticism but hasn’t exactly answered it either. He can fence sit with the best of them and calling him a jerk for the way he tweeted his smart-ass commentary on his Toronto departure would be quite excusable. Not that any of it matters now with the Heat dominating most of the NBA landscape (Boston not included) and much of the team’s lore will be built on the backs of James and Wade. Alas, the truth is that Bosh left Toronto considered an overrated player by some and returns underrated by many. Squeezing a championship or two or five out of what has been built on South Beach is expected but what wasn’t is Bosh’s suddenly critical presence. Quietly he has started to answer the critics and if you think he hasn’t, you’d be wrong about that too.