One of the largest criticisms of Chris Bosh during the Miami Heat’s “Big Three” was his lack of rebounding. While many are expecting Bosh to return to his 20-point scoring form, he also will likely return to being a force on the glass.
After being a consistent double-double guy during his five all-star seasons in Toronto, Bosh has yet to average more than 8.3 rebounds per game so far in his four-year Heat tenure, and has averaged less than seven per game each of the last two full seasons.
Some of this drop-off is related to playing time: Bosh’s 32 minutes per game in 2013-14 was the lowest of his career. But on either a per-minute (he averaged 9.1 rebounds per 36 minutes in Toronto vs. 7.8 rebounds per 36 minutes in Miami) or per-possession basis (13.3 vs. 11.4 rebounds per 100 possessions), his rebounding productivity dropped sharply. This isn’t a situation (such as Roy Hibbert’s poor rebounding totals in Indiana) where Bosh was having rebounds “stolen” by teammates in a strong team rebounding effort.
Miami was a well-below-average rebounding team in the each final three seasons of the Big Three. The Heat was actually pretty good rebounding team in 2010-11, the one season it consistently played lineups with two “traditional” bigs during this period and the one season where Bosh played more power forward than center. After that first season, Miami was below average on the defensive glass and abysmal on the offensive backboards. In 2013-14, the Heat had the second-lowest offensive rebound rate of any team in NBA history that posted a winning record, and the fifth-lowest of any team in the three-point era.
As alluded to above, much of this lack of rebounding, especially on the offensive end, was lineup related. Bosh was the only big man on the floor for most of his minutes (per NBAWowy.com, just under 2/3rds of Bosh’s minutes saw him sharing the floor with four perimeter players). Further, Bosh spent a lot of many offensive possessions floating around the perimeter:
As a primary scoring option this season, one with more low- and mid-post scoring chances, Bosh will likely end up close to the basket. This in turn will likely increase his ability to secure offensive rebounds. Comparing Bosh’s average shot distances with his offensive rebound percentage is instructive in this regard:
Similar patterns can be seen in players such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love and Amar’e Stoudemire — the farther a power forward with range steps out on the floor, the less able they are to chase offensive rebounds.
On the defensive end, Bosh seems likely to secure more boards for two reasons. First, Miami will almost certainly abandon the blitzing style of defense which characterized much of the team’s success over the past four seasons. That scheme often left Bosh chasing pick-and-roll ballhandlers 25 feet or more from the basket. Presumably, Miami will return to a more vanilla style of defense, allowing Bosh to stay home more. Alternatively, playing alongside another mobile big in Josh McRoberts will allow “McBob” to do the chasing. Either way, Bosh is closer to the rim.
Secondly, there will be more rebounds available. While Luol Deng is a fine rebounder for a wing, he’s not quite on the level of LeBron James. James had a defensive rebound rate of 19.5 percent during his Heat career, whereas Deng’s career rate is 14.4 percent. That difference works out to around 1.5 “extra” rebounds for Bosh to secure in addition to those he’s going to get through more conservative positioning.
While age and a potential minutes limitation might prevent Bosh from returning to his 20/10 days, these are reasons to expect his rebounding totals to rise sharply as he once again becomes the top dog on a team.
Seth Partnow lives in Anchorage, Alaska, with his wife, daughter and dog. He blogs about the NBA and related topics at WhereOffenseHappens.com. His work can also be found at Hickory-High.com and ESPN’s ClipperBlog.com, where he is a regular contributor. Seth can be reached on twitter @SethPartnow.