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Is Chris Bosh the Most Over-Criticized Star in Today's NBA?

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Is Chris Bosh the Most Over-Criticized Star in Today's NBA?
USA TODAY Sports

During his first two years with the Miami Heat, Chris Bosh became one of the NBA's biggest punching bags.

He's too soft. He can't rebound well. He's too feminine. He's not a true big man.

The Basketball Jones folks even created a music video, "Like a Bosh," in honor of when you think something is "going to be awesome, you get it and it sucks."

You know, like a Bosh.

Like a Bosh.

As much fun as that narrative is, one major flaw holds it back: The Miami Heat heavily rely upon Bosh to reach their full dominant potential.

When discussing Bosh, it's all about perspective.

Is he a No. 1 option on a championship team? Considering that he never made it out of the first round of the playoffs in his seven years with the Toronto Raptors, probably not.

Is he an elite rebounder in the mold of Kevin Love or Tyson Chandler? Not even close.

Can he pick-and-pop an opponent into complete and utter submission? Absolutely.

Mostly lost in LeBron James' and Dwyane Wade's recent brilliance has been Bosh's own excellence this season. He's shooting a career-high 53.9 percent from the field, shattering his old record of 51.8 percent from his final season with Toronto.

Bosh is also setting career highs in true shooting percentage (.594) and effective field goal percentage (.547), according to Basketball Reference.

With James and Wade both shooting over 50 percent from the field as well, the so-called Heatles appear to have finally figured out how to harness their respective strengths.

James and Wade are the main ball-handlers and creators offensively, while Bosh can linger around the perimeter as a lethally efficient safety valve.

Bosh has knocked down 130 of his 233 field-goal attempts from 16 to 24 feet this season (55.8 percent), according to NBA.com/stats. While many of the league's big men are lucky to knock down the occasional jump shot, Bosh has been shooting better than most guards from mid-range.

Chris Bosh has been insanely efficient from mid-range in 2012-13.

It's that shooting ability from Bosh which helps make Miami's small-ball lineups so unstoppable.

If Miami can get away with pairing James or Shane Battier at the 4 and Bosh at the 5, opponents can't stuff the paint and cut off driving lanes. That gives James and Wade a green light for a field day.

If opponents do sell out on stopping James and Wade from driving, both stars are more than happy to pass the ball to Bosh on the perimeter for an easy jumper.

Essentially, Bosh's presence in the lineup reduces some of the defensive pressure that Wade and James would otherwise face.

Think back to early in the Heat's second-round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers in 2012, right after Bosh went down with an injury late in Game 1. Wade and James both struggled in the first two games without Bosh.

Wade memorably finished Game 3 with only five points on 2-of-13 shooting and one notable sideline explosion at his coach, Erik Spoelstra.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade desperately missed Chris Bosh during the 2012 playoffs.

Without Bosh, James and Wade both had to enter demigod mode to survive the challenge from the Pacers.

To their credit, both players did.

Could the Heat still have won the 2012 championship had Bosh not returned late in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics? That's questionable.

That championship ring was enough to silence most of Bosh's critics, but he still hasn't fully escaped from the microscope. He's coming dangerously close to playing a career low in minutes (33.6 per game) and is averaging under 17 points per game for the first time since his sophomore season of 2004-05.

His rebounding numbers are just plain ugly for any big man, too. He's only grabbing 17.4 percent of the defensive rebounds available to him while he's on the court, according to NBA.com/stats, his lowest percentage since his rookie year.

 

Chris Bosh's defensive rebound rate, broken down by season.

Bosh's total rebound rate of 13.0 percent is also the lowest it's been since he was a rookie.

Seeing as rebounding isn't exactly Miami's forte this season—the Heat rank dead last in the league with only 38.8 rebounds per game—their starting center's rebounding deficiencies are worth addressing here.

Those deficiencies shouldn't define Bosh as a player who deserves constant scorn, however.

Bosh is what he is: a big man who can often be mistaken for a nearly seven-foot guard.

He's not going to clean the glass most nights. He's not going to create his own offense very frequently (only 24.9 percent of his made field goals have been unassisted this year, according to NBA.com/stats).

Instead, Bosh knows what he does well (pick-and-pops, the mid-range game) and largely sticks to it.

Can you argue that Bosh doesn't deserve to be paid like a No. 1 guy when he's averaging roughly 17 points and seven rebounds in only 33 minutes per game?

Sure. Most teams would be mortified to pay a player nearly maximum-contract money for those stats.

For the Heat, that's just the price to pay for a championship.

Given the way Miami has been rolling lately (riding a 15-game winning streak and counting), Bosh's second ring might not be all that far behind.

That's not very much like a Bosh.

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