It is easy to get overexcited, as Raptor fans, about Chris Bosh’s performance through the first 12 games. There are reasons to be guarded, to be pessimistic, or to deem his success suspect thus far.
At the same time, it’s easy, as Raptor fans, to let his success thus far underwhelm you, to take the attitudes expressed above and use them to completely discount the tear that CB4 has been on.
Curiously, it’s a tough balancing beam for Raptor fans when Chris Bosh bursts out of the gate so hot, posting would-be career high numbers nearly across the board, dominating games for longer stretches than we’ve seen, and generally leaving fans asking for even more, especially late in games. After all, there are reasons to think Bosh won’t keep the pace up, reasons to think Bosh is guilty of the “contract year statistical inflation,” and, of course, the fact that the Raptors are 5-7 while Bosh has been lighting it up.
With all of that in mind I wanted to take a look at Bosh’s torrid start to 2009-10 and try to determine if it’s something he’ll be able to keep up moving forward, and how I should really feel about it as a Raptor fan. But first, I have to set the table for the discussion by looking at the numbers.
Obviously, Bosh has been a monster so far. If you’re a Hollinger Disciple, you think he’s been the second best offensive player in the league so far, adding 4.1 wins (according to EWA), second only to King James (4.8) and ahead of names like Chris Paul (3.9), Dirk du Soleil (3.5), and, well, every other name in the league. Despite the glowing review provided by the Statistical Revolution, there are those with counterarguments to Bosh’s success, namely:
He is Always a Quick Starter, He’ll Fall Off
This seems to be the public consensus, yes, but I’m not sure why. The chart below shows his career splits on a month-by-month basis, and it really doesn’t tell us anything. After six years, Bosh’s month-by-month performance appears to be fairly consistent, with the ebbs and flows being somewhat random. January is a strong scoring month and February is a weaker rebounding month…no conclusions to be drawn there.
I think some of the opinion may be due to recency bias, as Bosh started very strong last year before tailing off. While his February numbers were pretty bad, most numbers were in line with what we’d come to expect from Bosh. The shooting percentages show a potential mid-season fatigue, which Bosh himself has admitted to, but otherwise it seems a very strong November raised expectations too high.
Is this season a repeat of that? Perhaps, but I’d tend to think not. For one, Bosh has the free agency motivation, as terrible as it is to assume that of a player (but let’s be real). Additionally, Bosh has been far more vocal in the media about wanting to be better, going as far as admitting resentment that he would be left out of the discussion about the league’s best players. Motivation can wane as the season wears on, but with Bosh having several motivating factors it seems unlikely. Finally, and most importantly, Bosh is physically much more capable of handling an 82-game season with consistency this year than in years passed. The extra weight and bulk he added should make him more durable and less susceptible to prolonged fatigue-related cold streaks; the summer off from USA Basketball couldn’t have hurt, either.
As he becomes more acclimated with teammates and the daunting-thus-far schedule gets easier, it isn’t difficult to envision Bosh’s numbers increasing, let alone staying the same.
He Disappears When it Matters
I’m not sure where I’d find a strong statistical argument for or against this point, but anecdotally it seems fair. However, this is the plight of having a big-man as your go-to-guy, and it’s the reason the Raptors brought in Hedo Turkoglu to be the de facto finisher. Look, I’m not saying Bosh shies away (the team may just fail to get him the ball in an appropriate manner in crunch time), or even that this would be a problem…it’s just something that is definitely ‘out there’ with Raptor fans.
The Team is Still 5-7
Well, true…umm, yeah. They are. Tough schedule? Road-heavy? Seven out West? All true. At the same time, there haven’t been a steady stream of defensive juggernauts in their way, so Bosh has had his chance to get numbers in the flow of a high-scoring (albeit not a high-paced) offense. One player can’t be expected to shoulder the whole load (or is that what “Max Contract” means?), and the Raps have been plagued by inconsistencies. Additionally, Bosh isn’t exactly a defensive stopper, and this discussion is about his offensive game more than his overall game.
So…my point here is…we can probably use this as an argument against Bosh to a degree, but a lot about the tough road trip was out of one player’s hands.
He is Just Playing Well for Free Agency
Wouldn’t you be? I’m kidding, but as I mentioned earlier, Bosh has multiple motivational factors working for him – playing time on the US team, free agency, natural competitiveness, and, new to the scene, ego. Bosh very obviously wants to do well and wants to be as good a player as he can be…if that’s magnified because of a looming free agency, so be it. Bosh playing better can only mean good for the Raptors, whether it’s in terms of team success, Bosh re-upping with the team, or his potential value in an offseason sign-and-trade. The better Bosh is, the better off the Raptors are, there’s no way around it.
So collectively we have no emotion to feel but joy at Bosh’s start on the offensive end. There are 70 games left to nitpick at his defense, his role in crunch time, or the potential bitch-slap to Toronto at year’s end. In the meantime, Bosh is putting up enormous numbers that don’t seem likely to slide, and he’s helping to make this one of the most exciting (if not frustrating) Raptor incarnations ever.