Without LeBron James, Chris Bosh's Role Set to Evolve Again for Miami Heat

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Without LeBron James, Chris Bosh's Role Set to Evolve Again for Miami Heat
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When Chris Bosh came to the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010, he did so as one of the best and most well-rounded scorers in basketball.

He was coming off a season in which he averaged 24.0 points per game on 51.8 percent shooting, mostly while feasting on a heavy diet of post-ups and isolation plays while mixing in the occasional pick-and-roll or spot-up opportunity.

Play Type Via Synergy Sports (Subscription Required) % of Plays Points Per Play
Post-Up 34.9% 1.09
Isolation 18.2% 0.92
P&R Roll Man 11.9% 1.24
Spot-Up 9.9% 0.88

That all changed rather quickly over the last few years as he played with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Not only did Bosh sacrifice in terms of scoring opportunities and points-per-game average, but he became almost strictly a finisher, rarely ever posting or isolating compared to what he did with the Raptors

Year Post-Up Isolation P&R Roll Man Spot-Up
2009-10 34.9% 18.2% 11.9% 9.9%
2010-11 22.5% 13.4% 19% 18.5%
2011-12 21.7% 9.5% 14.4% 21.8%
2012-13 12.2% 5.5% 18.3% 33.2%
2013-14 7.1% 5.3% 19% 33.7%

His post-up and isolation opportunities went by the wayside as he became a supplementary player to James and Wade, but he also managed to do this by becoming increasingly efficient despite moving farther away from the basket.

Bosh had a 56.9 True Shooting Percentage in his first season with the Heat, but that number increased nearly every season thereafter, and he wound up at 59.7 percent last season. He started creating less often for himself, instead concentrating on finishing plays, and it made him a more efficient shooter.

Bosh was assisted on just south of half of his baskets the season before he came to Miami; 49.8 percent to be exact, according to NBA.com. In his first four years in South Beach, that percentage rose with each passing season: 60.3 percent in 2010-11; 64.9 percent in 2011-12; 76.7 percent in 2012-13; and 80.1 percent in 2013-14. 

For his part, Bosh is satisfied with the transition he's made as a player. He told ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh last season:

Everybody's like, 'We need CB4.' And I'm like, that's dead. He's dead. He's not coming back. This is me. I can't hold on to the past and think I'm going to be who I was back then. It's impossible. Because I'm much better now.

Of course, that was all in a world where he played with James, and he no longer has that luxury. While "CB4" may not be making a comeback, Bosh will have to go back to being, if not a true No. 1 scoring option, then at least a 1-A along with Wade.

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

It's extremely unlikely that such a large portion of Bosh's shots this coming season will be a result of spot-up opportunities as they were the last few years. He'll have to start posting up more often again, creating shots for himself instead of being just a finisher. He'll likely have more isolations sent his way.

It's entirely possible a pick-and-roll for Wade and Bosh becomes the go-to play for Miami on any trip down the floor, where over the last few years it was usually an outlet option after anything involving James.

While it may not look that way at first glance, there is a slight difference between the two. 

It's a rare thing to have to do, going from a No. 1 option to No. 3 and then transitioning back again. Bosh made one of the more unusual sacrifices in the league over the last few years by subjugating his game to accommodate two high-usage teammates, and it may take some time to revert to previous practices.

In order to ease the transition, the Heat can dial back the heavy defensive pressure that became their trademark during the James era. The Heat blitzed pick-and-roll ball-handlers with reckless abandon, hoping to force them into cross-court passes. Using their athleticism to disrupt the flow of the offense, they then sought easy transition baskets.

Bosh was one of the main keys to this defense: His unusual quickness and ability to cover space for a big man helped facilitate all of that trapping and recovering. He was able to fly all over the floor rather than stay near the rim because the Heat had two excellent shot-blocking wings in James and Wade to help protect the basket. 

With James gone and Luol Deng in his place, it's not quite the same. Deng's a wonderful defender, but he's more of a wing-stopper than a hyper-athletic dynamo who's going to be challenging guys at the basket. The defense will have to change both to suit his style and to take some of the load off Bosh, who will have to save his energy for the opposite end of the floor now. 

Head coach Erik Spoelstra dialed back the pressure some throughout last season to save James, Wade and Bosh's legs (and also because some teams in the league figured out how best to counter that pressure, namely the Spurs), but a wholesale change might be necessary to cope with this new world order.

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Whatever the new system, Bosh's ability to defend in space will again be key to making it work. He was not previously known as a defender before coming to South Florida. But over the last few years, he has become one of the best-defending bigs in the game, even if he's still not much of a shot-blocker.

Eating up space has become just as valuable as defending a certain piece of a real estate, if not more so, in the era of spacing and shooting and corner threes. Bosh is one of the best at it.

How he balances that with a likely newfound prominence in the offense will go a long way toward determining if the Heat will remain contenders or just stay on the fringes of the playoff race. 

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