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Breaking down Chris Bosh's drop in production this season

- Guest writer Danny Martinez Much has been made this season about the Big Three really being a Big Two plus one. Chris Bosh has become the nation’s whipping boy for numerous reasons, and criticism of his play has been widespread. His numbers have been down across the board from his tenure in Toronto. Further inspection reveals what has been happening to Chris Bosh, and shines some light on why he’s producing as he is. Last season in Toronto Bosh averaged 24 points per game on 16.5 field goal attempts and 52% shooting. He was extremely efficient and had his best scoring season of his career. This season Bosh is averaging 18.2 points on 49% shooting on only 13.8 attempts a game. This is still solid production, but it is a far cry from his Toronto days. The simplest way to explain the drop-off is a reduced number of touches. Bosh’s usage has dropped from 28.7% (the second highest figure for NBA power forwards) to 23.2% (13th among power forwards who play 30+ minutes a game). This drop is due to the extremely high usage rates of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (4th and 5th in the NBA respectively). Bosh’s reduced number of touches has resulted in 2.7 fewer shots a game and 2.6 fewer free throws a game. His drop in points should be expected, but his drop in field goal percentage is still somewhat troubling. As with his scoring, Chris Bosh’s drop in field goal percentage is very easily explained. He’s simply taking fewer high percentage shots, and replacing them with jumpers. This has been mostly by design. Last season 36% of Bosh’s attempts came at the rim (defined by hoopdata.com as inside of three feet). He shot 63.9% on these attempts, thus providing very efficient scoring. This season Bosh is only attempting 22% of his shots at the rim, a severe drop off. He’s doing this despite finishing at the rim at an astonishing 68.3% clip. Bosh has replaced these easy buckets with long jumpers (16-23 feet). These shots make up 44% of all his field goal attempts, up 27% from last year. While Bosh shoots a very good 44% on these jumpers, they are not nearly as effective as shots at the rim. Luckily for Heat fans, Bosh realizes that this change is not working. When he spoke out recently he stated the need to get more touches near the rim. Against the Lakers, 53% of Bosh’s 17 FGA came at the rim. He shot 78% on those shots and had one of his most productive games of the season. As the season progresses look for Bosh to roll to the rim after setting screens. The pick and pop will always be a solid option for the Heat, it’s just not as effective as the pick and roll. Rebounding is not as simple of an issue to explain. Bosh’s rebounding total has dropped from 10.8 per game to 8.1. You’ll see across the web that Bosh is too "soft" and that is the reason his numbers have dropped. Don’t fall into that trap. There are a few factors at work, and they’ll be addressed here one by one. First and foremost are the Heat’s team philosophies. The Heat play a very slow brand of basketball, ranking 21st in the NBA in pace at 93.3 possessions per game. This causes a counting stats drop for all Heat players, but also highlights how efficiently the Heat score the basketball. Fewer possessions mean fewer shots, which in turn mean fewer misses and fewer rebounding opportunities. As we all know, the Heat value defense above all else. As such, players are not encouraged to crash the offensive glass. Instead they are urged to get back and get the defense set. As evidence, the Heat rank 23rd in the NBA in Offensive Rebound Rate (percentage of offensive rebounds grabbed) at 24.49%, well below the 26.3% league average. This strategy is also used by the Boston Celtics who rank dead last in the category. Another important note is the lack of offensive rebound opportunities. The Heat shoot 47.5% as a team from the floor, the third best figure in the league. With decreased missed shots, offensive rebound opportunities drop as well. Boston and Dallas both shoot better than the Heat and both also have very low Offensive Rebound Rates. The aforementioned factors severely depress Chris Bosh’s Offensive Rebounding Rate. It’s at a career low of 5.7%, after a career high 9.9%. Remember that we mentioned Bosh’s offense has become more perimeter oriented this year as well. By being farther from the basket, Bosh loses out on many rebounding opportunities. If offensive rebounding is not the heart of the issue then what is? Maybe it’s on the defensive glass where Bosh is lacking. On the defensive glass the Heat rank among the league’s elite. In defensive rebounds per game they rank second, and in Defensive Rebounding Rate they are ninth. The league average for DRR is 73.7%, the average of the top five most used Heat lineups is 76.8%. The Heat’s success is due to the above average rebounding of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Their unusual success, particularly Wade’s (15% DRR this year while just 11.6% for his career), allows the Heat to gain an advantage. Chris Bosh’s Defensive Rebounding Rate is 19.7%, down from his career average of 21.2%. This may be due to nothing other than his rebounds being "stolen" by other teammates. At every position on the floor the 2011 Miami Heat’s top five lineups outrebound the 2010 Toronto Raptors. These rebounds have to come from somewhere, and it appears as though they come from Bosh. Bear with us as we explain. The league average Total Rebounding Rate is, of course, 50%. The Heat are sixth in the league at 51.4%. The best rebounding team, the Bulls, grabs 53.3% of all boards while the worst, the Warriors, grab 47.51%. Twenty-five teams fall within 48% to 52% of total rebounds. Theoretically, there are a very limited number of rebounds a team will get. Think of it as a pie, where you can’t get any bigger, but can change the size of the pieces. This is basically what has happened to Bosh, his piece has gotten smaller. Using the career averages of the five most used lineups of the current season gives the Heat a Total Rebounding Rate of 52.16%, slightly lower but very similar to the 52.48% that those lineups have generated this season. It would be very difficult for the Heat to increase the rate, they can really only adjust the size of each piece of pie. Bosh’s decrease in rebounding is due to an increase in rebounding for Wade and James. For Bosh’s rebounding numbers to increase, Wade’s and James’ would have to decrease, and the net effect would be absolutely nothing. As it stands, the Heat are a very effective rebounding team, and altering their philosophy would bring nothing but harm and more adjustment. It is pretty clear that rumors of Chris Bosh’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. His point totals have dropped because of a decrease in touches, particularly in high percentage areas. Expect the Heat to try and get Bosh back in the post as the season goes on to manufacture easier buckets. Bosh’s rebounding has decreased as a result of Heat philosophy and career rebounding years from two teammates. These numbers probably won’t change this season, but one would expect a regression back to the norm next season and beyond. Chris Bosh has been unfairly targeted this season as a reason for the Heat’s supposed shortcomings. He has performed at an efficient level on reduced touches. In fact, if you look at many of the advanced metrics that take into account usage and pace, Bosh’s play compares favorably to that of LaMarcus Aldridge and Amar'e Stoudemire, players who have been routinely praised this season. Bosh and Aldridge have been almost the same player when accounting for usage; and Amar’e is the better offensive player, yet Bosh is a better defender and rebounder. I encourage you to tweet me or to look at the spreadsheets for answers to questions you may have.