NBA Playoffs 2011: Chris Bosh Is Key to Miami Heat's Championship Aspirations

Naim KalajiContributor IIApril 19, 2011

Bosh has made a scorching start to the NBA playoffs
Bosh has made a scorching start to the NBA playoffsMarc Serota/Getty Images

Let's flashback to the 2010 offseason, where some of the most highly-coveted free agents in NBA history were available to a number of hungry teams with either playoff or even championship hopes in the forthcoming NBA season. Power forwards were aplenty, with the likes of Carlos Boozer, Amar'e Stoudemire, Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Bosh available after contracts with their respective teams had finished. 

Chris Bosh was widely considered the best power-forward among the illustrious group, largely thanks to his fantastic concluding season as a member of the Toronto Raptors, where he had a career-high 24 points per game to go with almost 11 rebounds. In the end, he teamed up with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, as the Big Three/Miami Thrice (or whatever you wish to call them) "took their talents" the South Beach to win "not one, not two, not three," but many more championships.

Flash forward a bit (this is not an episode of Lost), to the end of the 2010-2011 regular season, just days prior to the start of the NBA play-offs. Chris Bosh's slightly disappointing season left many Heat fans wondering whether they were better off luring powerhouse Amar'e Stoudemire (who went to New York). Even as the season was approaching its end, there were rumours (albeit minor ones) of a potential trade involving Bosh for a number of solid role players from any team in order to augment Miami's depth issue. For some, Bosh was a hindrance to the team. 

I would be foolish to say that Bosh's averages of 18.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game are anywhere near impressive. In fact, his points per game is the lowest since the 2004-2005 season, while his rebounding is his second lowest total for a season; the worst being in his rookie year (2003-2004). 

However, there is little doubt that Bosh is just as integral as James and Wade to the success of the Miami Heat. If they are to win an NBA championship this year, then a huge portion of responsibility falls on the shoulders of CB1. 


Key 1: Demand Ball More, Be Aggressive and Get More Touches

For Bosh to be as effective as possible, he needs the ball more in his hands. James and Wade know how to impact the game with and without the ball. When James is handling, Wade can play off the ball, scoring off cuts and isolations in the post. LeBron can do likewise. Bosh, on the other hand, operates either off the pick-and-roll or in the post. Obviously, as a big man, Bosh shouldn't be dribbling the ball. 

Last season in Toronto, regarded as his most productive and impressive season to date, Chris Bosh averaged 16.5 attempts per game last year, and responded by making 51.8 percent of his shots. Also, it is important to remember that Bosh was the number one option in Toronto. An overwhelming amount of plays involved Bosh, either through pick-and-rolls or through isolation in the post, where he could kick the ball out if double teamed.  This year, on field goal attempts alone, Bosh took three less a game, and shot marginally under .500 for the season. 

Bosh has shown that when he plans on playing aggressive, Miami are better off. Look no further than the Lakers game, which was the game after he said he wanted more opportunities to do damage. Bosh backed up what he said with 24 points and nine rebounds, while making 10 of his 17 shot attempts. Miami went on to win the game and with that victory, a five-game losing streak evaporated into thin air. 

On the theme of assertiveness and aggressiveness, 70 percent of Bosh's shots were "outside shots", comprising of mid-range jumpers and three-point field goals. Last year, only 54 percent of his shots were shots outside the paint, thus reflecting on the changes in his desire to take it to the hole.

Of course, having two of the best inside finishers in the game in Dwyane Wade and LeBron James means that Bosh is more inclined to spread the floor and attempt more jump shots, but statistics clearly show that he and Miami are better off with him operating closer to the basket. His eFG% on "inside shots" is 65.3 percent, significantly higher than his overall eFG%.

Finally, Bosh draws fouls on nearly one-fifth of his possessions. That's rather useful for a big man who can shot 81.5 percent from the free-throw line this season. Knowing that if he plays closer to the basket, his savvy and pick-your-poison offensive repertoire will allow him to draw a lot of contact and head to the line. It makes defenders wary of the possible drive to the basket, giving him the opportunity to utilise his deadly mid-range shot. 


Key 2: Run Plays Through Bosh

With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade being two of the best point guards in our game, there is no need for drawing up sophisticated plays. Just stay open on the perimeter, wait for James/Wade to drive and kick it out. You'll get an open shot. They can also run it through Bosh. 

Usually, Bosh is standing at the elbow, where he is then fed the ball from one of the perimeter players. Then, he can establish a triple-threat position, with options of a face-up jumper, a drive to the rim, or a pass to a cutting Wade or James. We have seen a play like this run over and over again, and it has proved to be successful. 

Bosh is evidently not as talented as either of his counterparts Wade and James. Nevertheless, when Wade is not playing, the Heat outscore opponents by 1.2 points per 48 minutes. With James out, the figure rises to 5.4 points. With Bosh out, Miami are outscored. This emphasises just how important it is not only to have Bosh on the floor, but to almost make him the focal point of the team.

As I've said before, Wade and James have the luxury of being able to create their own shot. For Miami to be more potent, especially against the bigger fish in the NBA such as the Boston Celtics and the Lakers (who will attempt to limit D Wade's and LeBron's production), they need to get Bosh going, then teams will not only be concerned about two players, but three All-Stars.

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra echoed the importance of having Bosh on the floor, and how Miami are so effective offensively when he has the ball: “Chris Bosh has been our crutch,” Spoelstra said after a Friday practice on January 22. “He can be our bail out anytime we need ball movement or need to get multiple people involved usually he’s the facilitator either at the high post or some kind of pick-and-roll where we throw it back to him. So when he got hurt, that took a large component of our game out.” 

The 2011 NBA playoffs have already started, and Miami have just taken a 2-0 lead in their opening round series with the Philadelphia 76'ers. So far, their number 1 performer has been Chris Bosh. Yes, it has only been two games, but Bosh has averaged 23 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per game. The Heat have looked to get him more involved in the offense, and he's responded with great effort on both ends of the floor.

Bosh's indispensability cannot be undermined. As seen with the Lakers, Kobe can put up 34 points. Who cares? Pau Gasol, a large reason for the two previous Laker Championships, didn't show up; and consequently, the Lakers were upset by New Orleans in Game 1.

Every championship-calibre team needs a big man who can take pressure off the rest of the players. With Bosh, the Heat have a dangerous offensive player who is essential to the way they play. 

“Every great team, they’ve always had great production from at least one big,” said James Jones after Game 1. “Chris is our main inside presence. So we can only go as far as he goes, and we can only play as well as he makes us.”

Wade and James will certainly razzle and dazzle in these playoffs. They aren't two of the top five NBA players for nothing. Down the line though, other contenders will have plans to limit the two stars. With a third star who has proven to be just as valuable, the likes of Chicago, Boston and San Antonio have a lot more to deal with.