Rejuvenated Chris Bosh Is Keeping Miami Heat's Playoff Hopes Alive

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2016

Nov 23, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh (1) takes a breather during the second half against the New York Knicks at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 95-78. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

MIAMI — One year removed from a career-threatening bout with blood clots on his lung, Chris Bosh is back to being Mr. Reliable for the Miami Heat.

From perspective to production, the recently named and now-11-time All-Star has provided everything the Heat need to weather storms of injuries and inconsistency and remain in the Eastern Conference hunt. Bosh could lead this team without even seeing the floor (though they're glad he's there, too). 

"He's been fantastic as a leader," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Everybody has been turning to him at practice, shootaround, film sessions, and then you love to see him back it all up on the court."

As tough as it is to swallow a bad loss, he's seen catastrophe up close—and dropping a sporting contest isn't it. At the same time, he's acutely aware of the unique opportunity presented to him and his NBA peers. Despite having a wide array of interests from coding to craft beer, he's a baller above all else. And he'll pour everything into bringing his best possible version on a nightly basis.

"I don't let myself go through the motions," he said. "I don't give myself excuses as to why I can't go up and down the floor quickly or whatever. I just try to go out there and do it and go out there and try to win a game, and each day I feel I have an opportunity to really just do something I love."

Chris Bosh's passion steadily shines through his uber-expressive face.
Chris Bosh's passion steadily shines through his uber-expressive face.Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

Basketball-Reference.com gives the two-time champion a 98.6 percent Hall of Fame probability, 10th-highest among active players. He already holds top-100 spots on the NBA's career leaderboards in points (87th), rebounds (75th) and blocks (98th).

But even though his numbers would easily justify entitled behavior, Bosh still treats his profession as a privilege, not a right. Instead, he's molding his superstar skills to best fit the collective.

His career stands as a walking example of the game's evolution, from an interior scorer and part-time defender into a perimeter sniper and tenacious stopper at all three levels.

"He doesn't like to stay stagnant," Spoelstra said.

Prior to joining the Heat in 2010, Bosh had never attempted more than 49 threes in a season. He's made at least 63 during each of the past three campaigns, including a personal-best 78 (and counting) this year. He's also posting his highest long-range accuracy since the shot become a regular weapon in his arsenal (37.7 percent).

"I've figured some things out, I think," Bosh said. "It's just knowing where my shots are coming from, having the confidence and taking my time shooting it."

The value of that shot is impossible to overstate.

Miami's perimeter attack struggles mightily with both quantity (6.3 makes per game, 26th) and quality (32.7 percent, 28th). It's not a vacuum issue, either, since the Heat have slashers, cutters and lob-finishers all looking to probe the oft-congested paint.

The breathing room Bosh creates allows this offense to function. That's one of many factors behind the splits in his on- and off-court efficiency marks.

"He's a very underrated player," New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said earlier this season. "Even though he's an All-Star, I still don't think he gets the notoriety (that he deserves). He's a tremendous player."

Bosh carries an exhaustive, evolving list of responsibilities on the hardwood. Depending on the personnel around him, he can serve as either the primary scorer—from inside or out—or the main distributor. He's a versatile pick-and-choose screener as both a roll and a pop threat and has scored the second-most points in that role (239).

If the offense fails to execute, he's the main bailout option. A 90th-percentile isolation scorer, he's the NBA's sixth-most potent fourth-quarter scorer (270 points) and 17th-most active shooter in the final four seconds of the shot clock (55 attempts).

"I'm aggressive every night," said Bosh, who leads the Heat in 20-point (26) and 30-point (three) outbursts. "I'm coming out swinging. I'm letting my teammates down if I'm not. I'm looking to set guys up. I'm looking to set myself up."

At the other end, Bosh is the antidote to today's pace-and-space offenses.

With a 7'3.5" wingspan stretching out from his 6'11", 235-pound frame, he has all the length needed to challenge shots at the rim. But he shines brightest away from the basket. A combination of speed and smarts allows him to bother perimeter players on quick helps or outright switches.

And he has an uncanny feel for knowing when to recover to his original matchup. Pick-and-roll screeners have managed a meager 0.64 points per possession on 30.9 percent shooting against him, putting him among the 89th percentile of defenders.

He holds top-15 rankings in win shares (6.7, 11th), value over replacement player (2.1, 15th) and ESPN.com's Real Plus-Minus (4.98, 15th). His 21.6 player efficiency rating is the highest he's posted since moving to Miami.

Add up Bosh's across-the-board contributions, and he's nearly without statistical peers. He's one of only three players averaging at least 19 points, seven rebounds, two assists and 1.5 threes, along with superstars Kevin Durant and Paul George.

Bosh isn't typically viewed at that level, seen more as a "very good player" than a great one. But given the multiple, massive roles he plays and the way he's held together the East's No. 6 seed, his superstar credentials speak for themselves.

"I think the league knows how important C.B. is to our team," Spoelstra said. "His high level of play is so consistent that sometimes you can take that for granted."

Steady stardom is a gift, and the Heat are more than thrilled that Bosh is able to provide it once again.

All quotes obtained firsthand. Statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com and current through games played Feb. 2.