Can Chris Bosh Ever Reclaim Star Status During Miami Heat Career?
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After LeBron James exploded as a small-ball power forward during the Heat's 2012 championship run, the hope was that Bosh could use his offensive versatility to regain his stardom as a floor-stretching center.
There were only glimpses of that hypothesis working out during the 2012-13 season in Miami. At his best, Bosh could use his agility to beat opposing big men while employing his jumper to keep defenders honest and create spacing for his teammates.
Much more often, however, Bosh encountered the worst of all worlds.
As a tertiary option, at best, within the Heat offense and often the primary interior defender, Bosh found himself underutilized on one end of the floor and overmatched on the other. Under those circumstances, he was reduced to the status of a glorified role player.
Not only that, but the specific jobs Bosh was asked to do diminished his greatest skills while relying on his lesser abilities.
Unfortunately for Bosh, you can't blame Erik Spoelstra or anyone else for marginalizing the third member of the Big Three.
The Heat have managed to defend their NBA title with limited contributions from their best big man. Though Bosh remained a committed teammate, contributing gamely on defense and not stressing his offensive issues, he wasn't strong enough to make a physical impact inside.
Bosh's woes all came to a head at the worst possible time, in Game 7 of the NBA Finals Thursday night, as Miami dispatched the San Antonio Spurs, 95-88.
In 28 minutes of play, Bosh went scoreless for the first time since his rookie year, committing nearly as many fouls (five) as he pulled in rebounds (seven).
While James and Wade were beating the Spurs from mid-range, Bosh was unable to match up physically with San Antonio power forward Tim Duncan.
Duncan consistently got whatever post-up positioning he wanted on offense, while he and Tiago Splitter consistently bullied Bosh whenever he tried to score inside. Forced to pull his weight against two traditional big men, Bosh wilted when his team needed him most.
That's the unfortunate lesson the Heat and their star learned this year: Bosh can't play next to another stretch forward.
Ceding close-range shot attempts to the driving James and Wade, Bosh attempted a career-low 6.0 shots per game within 15 feet of the rim, per Hoopdata.
Bosh doesn't have the passing skills to drive and kick out to the Heat shooters, and giving him more post touches would clog the lane for Miami's superior scorers.
That relegates Bosh to outside shots away from his comfort zone.
When he plays away from the rim, Bosh likes to work from the elbow into the middle, but that falls right into James' preferred driving lane. The tie there goes to the four-time MVP, so Bosh must shift towards the sidelines where he has fewer options with the ball.
That's a big problem for the struggling star, who is most dangerous when he has multiple options to attack the basket. Bosh is an effective jump-shooter because he is able to take opposing big men off the dribble, and that threat of driving gives him the space necessary to take and make open looks.
Deprived of his versatility, Bosh cannot score like a star. Rather, he relies on his driving teammates to help him get open by drawing his defender towards the paint. In that sort of pick-your-poison situation, opposing teams have had no problem helping off Bosh some to limit James and Wade.
If Bosh isn't feared on the offensive end, he should at least hold his own on the defensive end.
He's a very capable defender, but his best contributions come from his speed and savvy rather than his strength. That's why his key defensive plays in the Finals came when he switched onto smaller players while Duncan ate him alive.
At 6'11" and 235 pounds (if we're being generous), Bosh is great at using his length to stymie guards on a pick-and-roll, but he doesn't stand up as well in post defense.
Considering Miami was playing LeBron at power forward and having him guard Tony Parker in the Finals, Bosh was very often the lone interior defender, which is just unfair for him.
But none of this was about his happiness. This was about giving the Miami Heat the greatest chance to win, even if that meant single-minded construction around James at Bosh's expense
Though his skills are beginning to slip some after a decade in the league, Bosh's window of stardom has not yet shut. That said, it is actually not in the Heat's best interest to capitalize on that window when they have James.
As long as he's teammates with the best player on the planet, Bosh won't be able to play like a true star. His circumstances just won't allow it.
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