Miami Heat: Why Chris Bosh Will Play Center Next Season

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Miami Heat: Why Chris Bosh Will Play Center Next Season

For the past two NBA seasons, the Miami Heat has been harshly criticized for their roster moves.

They did not sign a legitimate center in the first season of the Big Three, and instead of pursuing one in free agency this year, they signed perimeter players. Fans, the media and just about anyone can tell you that having an adequate big man down low is imperative to winning games.

Many believed power-forward Chris Bosh was too ‘soft’ to play the 5, and did not have the mental or physical toughness to compete on a nightly basis. However, with a clear match-up against the New York Knicks and their Defensive Player of the Year in Tyson Chandler, head coach Erik Spoelstra made some rotation moves that were surprising.

As the playoffs approach, coaches will start to form what they call their ‘playoff roster’. This can change based on their predicted opponents, or purely on who is playing well. As Miami locked up the second overall seed in the Eastern Conference, their forecasted playoff opponent was the New York Knicks.

As the Heat had no real threat to start at center up against Chandler, Spoelstra moved Chris Bosh, and inserted Udonis Haslem at starting power forward in the lineup. It was only made available to the public for two days, before Bosh was injured with a hamstring and then rested thereafter for the playoffs.

Yet in those two games, Bosh’s effectiveness skyrocketed in comparison to his regular season numbers when he started at power forward.

 

Bosh

GP

MIN

FGM

FGA

FG%

REB

PTS

Starting PF

55

35.2

6.9

14.1

.486

7.7

17.9

Starting C

2

35.0

8.0

15.5

.516

14.5

19.0

 

As you can see, Bosh was far more successful starting at center. Albeit it was only for two games, but his production is still there. The two opponents for these games were the New Jersey Nets and the New York Knicks.

Bosh was up against rookie Jordan Williams for the Nets game, who averaged 3.6 rebounds in 14.8 minutes per game. He dominated the first year player with 22 points and 15 rebounds in 35 minutes of play, one of the few 20-10 games he had all season. The night before, he put up 16 and 14 in 35 minutes as well, not only dwarfing Chandler, but holding him to 9 points and 5 rebounds.

Most notably, Bosh went up against Chandler for the entire Heat-Knicks series in the first round. He averaged 15.0 points, 7.2 rebounds on .510% shooting starting at center, which were on par with his regular season numbers. However, his statistics are a little skewed due to the 33 point blowout of Game 1, where Bosh played just 24 minutes, and Game 3 where he attempted just 5 shots.

I don't mean to disqualify these games to prove my point; I mean to say that his numbers are lower than anticipated for these reasons. Additionally, Bosh limited Chandler’s production, which can be seen below:

Chandler

MIN

FGM

FGA

FG%

REB

TO

PTS

Regular Season

33.2

3.9

5.7

.679

9.9

1.6

11.3

Playoffs

33.4

2.2

5.0

.440

9.0

3.0

6.2

 

Not only did Bosh play well offensively, he was able to slow Chandler’s regular game pace. He doesn’t’ have the most versatile offensive game, but was considered the ‘X-factor’ going into the series against Miami, on both sides of the ball.

Miami had no clear way to stop him, just like their series against Dallas in the NBA Finals last season.

He turned out to not be a factor whatsoever, due to the defensive prowess of Chris Bosh. His shooting percentage was considerably lower, while his personal fouls and turnovers both went up—both signs of good defensive play.

Some of you might argue this is due to Miami’s team defensive concept, however, that is not the case. Amar’e Stoudemire was able to average 15.3 points on .556% shooting, well above his regular season percentage of .483%. Furthermore, if you omit his Game 1 shooting of .286% (2-7), he would have shot .692% for the series, something Bosh rarely had anything to do with.

What this means is that Bosh is quite capable of playing at the 5. Therefore, Miami can focus on signing an accomplished power forward.

When Bosh started at the 4, it hindered the Heat’s ability to sign big men. There was a limited amount of decent players available, and they had to reach rather than take someone who would make a definite impact.

Udonis Haslem did not play as well as he normally does this season, which has carried that into the playoffs.

He is shooting just 33% for the postseason, and has become somewhat of a liability defending and rebounding the ball. The bigger, stronger players like Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, David West and Roy Hibbert are disrupting Haslem’s usual dominance on the boards, as he's averaging just 5.9 per game.

Granted, he is only playing 18.6 minutes, but he has been unable to contain the scoring of opposing big men. The Heat should therefore sign someone to be a solution or at the very least, a secondary player in this role, for the future.

This year in free agency, there are a plethora of skilled power-forwards available who would help Miami.

Keeping in mind that Bosh is more of a face-up player, the person they sign should exhibit a heavy inside game, while a mid-range jumper is a bonus. Brandon Bass, Jason Maxiell, Kenyon Martin, Darrell Arthur, J.J. Hickson and Anthony Randolph are a few examples.

Their physicality inside would complement Bosh’s face-up offensive style, creating a dynamic, ideal front-court for a contending team. It also gives the opportunity for these players to play their natural position, as few could slide over and play center.

Before the season, Bosh notified the media that he had worked out and put on 10 pounds of muscle, as to play more physically inside.

As reported by the Standard-Examiner, Bosh said, “Every time I try to run from it, it just comes and pulls me back in. So I accept it. So if I'm the (center), put me down there. Have me guarding the biggest guy. That's fine. I accept the challenge. It is what it is. Every year I say, nah, I'm not doing it. I (end up) in it anyway.”

He has clearly accepted his role at center, so signing a power forward to assist in the frontcourt should be Miami’s first move this free agency. If the Heat’s front office can pull it off, they will be a dynasty to be reckoned with for the next five years.

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