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Chris Bosh: The underrated rebounder

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Is Chris Bosh a good rebounder? Here's what some advanced stats tell us about Chris Bosh's true rebounding ability.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Old school NBA fans are quick to label Chris Bosh as "soft." When they were growing up, 6'11" centers were not midrange sharpshooters or standing in the corner shooting three-pointers.

No, they were camped out in the paint on both ends of the floor. Old school fans want to see more Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, and Shaquille O'Neal type players.

These criticisms are usually backed up by pointing out Bosh's rebounding numbers from his time with the Miami Heat. I mean, what kind of self-respecting big man could average a mere 6.6 rebounds per game over an 82 game season?  That's blasphemous. That's soft.

*30 for 30 voice* But what if I told you that those numbers were almost entirely a product of the Heat's system? That Chris Bosh might actually be tough?

(All numbers below from


Rebounds per game

Rebound Chances per Game

% of Rebound Per Chance





















Rebounds per game - # of rebounds per game played
Rebound chances per game - # of times a player was within the vicinity (3.5 feet) of a rebound
Percentage of Rebounds per Chance - # of rebounds a player recovers compared to the # of rebounding chances

Before I reveal which player is which, let's establish a few things.

It's impossible to determine when a player was technically in the right position for a rebound. For instance, while Player A was in range to rebound just 10.5 missed shots per game, how many was he supposed to be near? Was he often in the right position and the ball bounced away from him? Was he usually out of position which led to the ball landing where he was supposed to be while he wasn't there? Moreover, the number of available rebounds varies from game to game, so it's impossible to put an "absolute ideal" number on this statistic. Because we can't determine either of these things, we go with the "within 3.5 feet" metric.

Based on these numbers, we would say that player D is the best rebounder of the bunch. While he isn't near the largest amount of rebounds per game, he does rebound more of them that come his way relative to his competition.

Player C, while grabbing the largest quantity of rebounds per game, is usually hanging near the rim, which leads to him also having the most chances per game by a considerable margin.

Here are the players:

A - Dirk Nowitzki
B - Chris Bosh
C - Serge Ibaka
D - Marc Gasol
E - David West

Perhaps it's just because of the people I follow on Twitter, but I've never seen anybody call Serge Ibaka or David West soft.

But if we put Bosh in Ibaka's position more often - that is, 14.6 times per game instead of 10.8, we see Bosh's rebounds per game jump to 8.9. If Bosh averages 8.9 rebounds per game to go with his newly developed three-point shot, do we still hear fans calling for Bosh to be traded over the last four years? My guess is no, we don't.

This begs the question: why was Bosh, usually Miami's tallest defender, so rarely in position to rebound? It can probably be attributed to Miami's ultra-aggressive pick-and-roll defense from years past.  While the Thunder don't send Ibaka beyond the three-point line very often (see an awesome breakdown from Mike Prada here - be sure to find Ibaka in each picture), Bosh was frequently asked to hedge out beyond the arc, which could lead to either A) a quick shot before Bosh is back in position, or B) a three-pointer, where all hell can break loose when trying to rebound (seems like a good time to link you to this kind of important rebound).

Indeed, Bosh's rebounding numbers have decreased each of his four years with Miami, and opponent three-point shooting has increased each year. While some of that might be attributable to league-wide three-point shooting increasing, it is also a product of Miami's defenses from years past. Opponents shot threes against OKC to stay away from Ibaka patrolling the paint, and they shot threes against Miami as a product of Bosh being out of the paint.

The Heat suffered some key losses this offseason (they're really going to miss James Jones) that will probably lead to some fundamental changes on the defensive end. Miami dialed back the pressure last season anyways, and without "that guy" anymore, you can expect to see some more traditional looks from the Heat on defense this season. This will, presumably, put Bosh back in a more natural rebounding position, where he often found himself during his Toronto years, where he averaged double-digit rebounds three times in his last four years.

It's important to remember that Bosh is one of the first in a new generation of big men.

Dating back to his Toronto days, Bosh has been one of the best midrange shooters in the league, regardless of size.  When he moved to Miami he redefined himself as a player - he slowly expanded his game outwards, and as that transition occurred, his numbers and reputation took a hit. With the Heat becoming a more traditional NBA team this season.

Bosh should once again find himself in a traditional big man role more often, allowing him to move back towards the numbers of old.