Crosshair: Chris Bosh

Criticizing Chris Bosh doesn’t seem natural to most Raptors fans including myself. I almost feel guilty saying anything negative about him or calling him out because he is clearly our best player and without him we’re a lottery team.To some degree this franchise indebted to Bosh for carrying it over the last couple years and for doing the dirty work needed to become a playoff team twice in a row. You can question his offensive decisions all you want but his effort is always there and the desire to win shines through. You can make a case that he’s the only proven NBA player on our team and slinging mud at him should be considered blasphemous, if not illegal. Then again this is a blog and I don’t have anybody to answer to or an employer to speak of so let’s let it rip.

Let’s get the major complaint out of the way: He takes too many jumpers. Yes, it’s true and if you’re defending that point with the “he’s worn out and needs to pace himself” argument, you’re lying to yourself. He is not a great jump shooter and has no business making the 15-18 footer his first choice on offense. Although he’s gotten better from that range over the last two seasons, the defense will still concede that shot and be content in keeping him on the perimeter where he won’t tire them out or draw fouls. Just like how Jamario Moon tries to prove the defense wrong by attempting jump shots, Bosh tries to draw in the defender by proving that he can indeed be a threat from 18 feet out. So far in his career he hasn’t shown that he can hit that shot with the dead-eye consistency that he needs to in order to make the defense tighter. However, there are other ways to make the defense play you tighter and one of them is establishing a low-post game so that the defender would rather challenge you to drive by him than post him up.

If the reliance on the jumpshot is complaint #1, the lack of a true post-up game has to be #1a. Chris Bosh does not have a go-to post move. It’s very sad, but it’s true. The jump hook and the up-and-under are nice but the latter can only work so many times in a game and the former isn’t fluid enough to be a consistent weapon. When Bosh tries to score with his back to the basket he inevitably throws a mini-hook which seems rushed and often comes from outside a big-man’s comfort zone. It’s that or a baseline fadeaway that makes you cringe as it hits the front of the rim. He has trouble backing other PFs down and is susceptible to picking up offensive fouls when being guarded by smaller and more athletic forwards. Unlike Dwight Howard, Bosh is yet to master the art of early post-positioning which can be a big man’s best friend. He tends to catch the ball much further out than what’s desired which ends up making the post-game that much harder to establish. It doesn’t help that the Raptors’ main play is the pick ‘n roll which dictates that the big man start the possession 23 feet from the basket.

Bosh’s confidence in finishing around the rim needs to improve and that can only happen if he decides to operate closer to the rim and make scoring his first option and drawing the foul second. The only power forward that can laterally stay with him is Kevin Garnett and it’s no secret that his quickness at the PF position is what has made him an All-Star for three straight years and running. There’s not any other area of his game that you can point to and say that it’s world-class or a definite advantage every night. He needs to develop another facet of his game so that he can be a true multi-threat PF, one of those facets can be his finishing around the rim after back-downs or some post-moves that can momentarily send defenders the wrong way – something Tim Duncan has mastered.

Finally, the major complaint about Bosh is that he holds the ball for too long. It’s an obvious problem that’s been there for as long as he’s been in the league. Sam Mitchell’s stagnant offense doesn’t help matters but this part of Bosh’s game is more a bad habit than anything. The quicker you make your move, the less time the defense will have to figure you out and the more chance you have of actually executing it successfully. It’s become routine of Bosh to waste 5-7 seconds per possession when facing up a player and its ripple effect is that our shooters have less time to move the ball around to get that clean look after the Bosh double. To conclude Bosh’s offensive weaknesses, he needs to throw his fadeaway in the garbage, develop a post-up move or two, work on establishing position early and use his skill and length to finish plays rather than hope for a foul.

Chris Bosh also happens to be our best player and the primary reason for our mild successes. He remains the only Raptor capable of consistently drawing a double team, playing solid defense, scoring, rebounding, getting to the FT line and being a team leader. Without a central figure that can draw a double team, our plethora of shooters become worthless and it is thanks to Bosh that the likes of Kapono, Bargnani, Parker, Moon and just about everyone else get any room to operate. Bosh has increased his FTA/game in each of his five season and has become an excellent FT shooter finishing the year off at 84.4%. He obviously understands the need to get points in the paint and focuses a large part of his game on getting the defense off-balance and drawing a foul, often with success. This has become a Catch-22 situation because it is exactly this attitude that contributes as a cause to our late fourth quarter offensive issues. The inconsistent NBA referees always swallow the whistle in crunch time and since Bosh relies on trips to the FT line a lot, it follows that we get burned a lot.

On a defensively challenged unit that the Raptors are, Bosh is the only player that truly understands the concept of defensive rotations. If you see his man end up with a big scoring night it’ll be largely due to him providing help to the penetrating guard as one of his teammates fail to pick up his man. At 1.0 BPG he’s not a real shot-blocking presence but he does contest everything that comes into the lane. His man-defense has always been good and this year was no different. His rebounding is excellent at 8.7 per game and he’s the only Raptor who appears to want to rebound the ball by fighting for it. Contrast this to Andrea Bargnani who will only rebound if the ball happens to fall to him. When you’re sharing the frontcourt with that type of a player, your responsibility doubles and your job becomes even harder.

He’s not a superstar in this league but he is a damn good player who teams will make a run at when he’s a free agent. If Colangelo’s plan is to build an All-Euro team, I highly doubt Bosh wants to have to do anything with it. Over the next two years he’ll either become a superstar in this league or establish himself as a top 2nd tier player that is welcome on any team. His future with the Raptors is largely dependent on who our next best player is, it was supposed to be Andrea Bargnani who would take over from Bosh but that turned out to be nothing more than a Colangelo pipe dream. If the plan is to build slowly and surely around Euros, having Bosh on this team makes no sense and is unfair to him. Unless we give him some legitimate scoring help, asking him to be part of a similar Raptor team is a recipe for trade demands.

Bosh’s future and the direction this team is going will all be revealed this off-season when Colangelo’s ability to acquire help in obvious areas is tested. He’s got some trade bait in Kapono, Ford, Parker and draft picks so let’s see what exactly he can do. This will be the most telling off-season in Raptors history and will determine where Colangelo sees Bosh fitting in as a long-term part of this team, if at all.

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