Let me preface the following piece with this useless line: I like Chris Bosh. Not in a mantasy kind of way, but I have been a fan of Bosh going back to his years — ERRR, year at Georgia Tech. I liked his play with the Toronto Raptors and on the 2008 U.S. Men’s National Basketball Team in the Beijing Olympics, albeit in a reserve role (his perimeter play was more valuable than Dwight Howard’s interior game, in my opinion).
That stated, Bosh is still the third wheel on the Harley that is the Miami Heat. It is not a “Big Three” in Miami. Dwyane Wade had already established himself as a star and a champion with the Heat; LeBron James took his talents — and MVPs — from Cleveland to South Beach. Because Bosh played north of the border, his “star” value was mostly unknown among casual NBA fans. In Toronto, Bosh flourished — 20.1 points per game; 9.3 boards per game; 2.2 assists per game; and 1.2 blocks per game. He was a stud.
In Miami, however, even though he has put up strong numbers — 18.7 PPG; 8.3 RPG — his numbers are below his average. His scoring is the lowest is has been since 2004-05 (16.8 PPG) and his rebounding is the lowest since his rookie season (7.4 RPG in 2003-04). His blocks per game average is half his Toronto average — 0.6 — and is the lowest of his career. To be sure, his numbers would make him the second option on the Mavericks and Bulls (third on the Thunder). In fact, of the 16 playoff teams, he’d likely be the second or third options on all of the other 15 (and probably the first option on teams like Denver or New Orleans).
The problem, however, is that most of the other playoff teams have reliable fourth and even fifth scoring options. This is not an attempt to call out the overwhelming percent of scoring that runs through James, Wade and Bosh — the Thunder get by with a very similar structure relying more on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook than other players. But the thing with the Heat is that Bosh is the last option. It is like winning the bronze medal in the 100 meters when there are only four runners — yeah, you got a medal, but the odds were great that you would medal anyway.
Again, this is not a knock on Bosh himself. He is still producing solid numbers (save the blocks), but when compared to his company in Miami and the dearth of production beyond Bosh, his numbers become less impressive. In Toronto, he was a Benz in a parking lot full of Toyotas; in Miami he is still a Benz, but there are two Bentleys in that lot now. [Or, if you prefer to return to the earlier motorcycle reference, he is a Honda while James and Wade are Harleys.]
This all gets back to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals and Bosh’s “outburst” to help the Heat take a 2-1 series lead on the Chicago Bulls. Yahoo! Sports columnist Marc Spears attempts to paint it as though Chris Bosh finally emerged as an intricate part of the “Big Three.” However, you have to wonder what is Spears watching.
First, Bosh has been there all season producing strong — yet virtually unnoticed — numbers…remember, 18.7 and 8.3. It is not like Bosh emerged from a 6.3 PPG and 4.7 RPG season to score 34 points in Game 3. As noted above, Bosh becomes that spare because (1) of how dominant the “Big Three” are in relation to the rest of the team, and (2) Bosh is the third option of the “Big Three.” So his numbers are easily overlooked.
But more importantly, Spears ignores that Bosh has turned out strong games in the playoffs — six 20+ point games; seven 10+ rebound games — as well as producing a strong playoff average –18.2 points per game; 9.1 rebounds per game; just under a block a game. But that Bosh had a big game in Game 3 does not mean that he has emerged from the shadow of the “Big Two.” Spears notes that Bosh has two 30+ point games in the Conference finals, but one of those came in a Game 1 loss. In that case, Bosh’s effort did not factor into the game’s decision — the “poor” play of James and Wade did play a role in the Heat’s loss. In Game 2 Bosh only scored ten points — the Heat won that game. Both James and Wade played well in Game 2. Game 3, Bosh was the leading scorer for the Heat, but James played well and Wade played decently.
In other words, the success (and failure) of the Heat still hinge on the “Big Two” and not the “Big Three.” Consider the following: during the regular season, Bosh led all scorers in a game only five times, with the Heat going 4-1. Compare this to James, who led all scorers 32 times (23-9), and Wade, who did it 27 times (22-5) and it becomes clear that the success of the Heat STILL resides in the success of either James or Wade (45-14 when they are the leading scorer). This patterns has continued in the playoffs, with Bosh leading all scorers three times; the Heat are 2-1 in those games.
Again, this is not a knock against Bosh. But when you are the third option in the three-man game that is the Miami Heat, your game is less important than that of the other two.
Bosh’s words, cited by Spears in his article, even reflect this. After the game, Wade congratulated Bosh on a solid game, to which Bosh replied,
Just trying to be like you, No. 3.
Exactly…it is still the “Big Two” in Miami, where everyone not named James or Wade is trying to emulate number 6 or number 3.
~~NOTE: image from Getty Images, via Daylife…big ups!~~