February 03, 2010

Guest Post: Bosh Among Us

Just because our host and hero Eyebeleaf is exploring the sub-continent doesn't mean the good times should come to an end here at SATC. Please allow reluctant Raptors fan and recent Bosh convert Drew from Ghostrunner on First to make a case for CB4.

Being a basketball fan in this city before 1995 was an unusual proposition. In high school during the inaugural season, some friends and I had our request for some TVs in our local pool hall turned to the Raps first-ever game flatly denied. Personally, I was a Celtics fan growing up (watch this game live at an impressionable age and you'll understand) and while I embraced the Raptors it was a certain cold distance and growing cynicism. I loved Vince but never got too involved. Bosh played well, the team lost. Then they won, but mostly they lost. Bosh made Olympic teams and the like, but I remained slightly skeptical. Only a few short weeks ago, I voted NO in the poll on the right of your screen.

What do I have against Chris Bosh? Nothing, really. If I'm being honest, I regurgitated a few basketball truisms and dismissed Bosh out of hand. "You can't win with a jump-shooting power forward...he's not the best player on a good team...blahblahblah." But then I thought I'd actually try thinking about it, try to put Bosh in context and decide then if what I lazily thought was true.

Firstly, is there a modern player with a game similar to CB4's? The closest I could come up with (other than David West. Zing!) is Tim Duncan. Big, true power forwards often miscast as centers. Good touch around the basket but can make a jump shot too. So I thought why not see how Bosh and Duncan stack up?

Two things, really quickly, before I make with the charts. If you aren't familiar with PER, I suggest you read this. It isn't perfect but it serves as a decent way to compare basketball players as it corrects for pace. Usage % is a fancy way of showing what percentage of a teams' players directly involve said player. So, let's compare Bosh & Duncan by usage % and PER by age. click to enlarge

Interesting bordering on shocking, no? If we discount the first two years of Bosh's career, he is on a very similar path to Tim Duncan, who many believe to be one of the top 15 players of all time! Now, let's not go crazy, Chris Bosh IS NOT Tim Duncan. He'll have to maintain his current high level of production for another 6 years to enter the Duncan conversation, but the similarity exists.

Chris Bosh dedicated himself to strength and conditioning over the summer and the results are good in this, his age 25 season. But how? What is Bosh doing differently? In a word, he's acting more like Tim Duncan.

Below you'll see two graphs. They track the average field goal attempts of Chris Bosh (red & black) and Tim Duncan (silver & black) over the last four years. If the legend's a little sketchy, I'll explain. The good people at Hoopdata.com track each field goal attempt and place is in one of five categories. The tiny sections at the top are threes, at the bottom dunks. First, Chris Bosh. click to enlarge once again

Now Duncan.

There biggest change in either chart is Bosh in 2010. He finally gets up almost 10 shots per game inside 10 feet. Looking at Duncan's, chart we see that's a baseline for The Big Fundamental. Inside 10 feet, Bosh is more likely to get fouled (career high in free throws attempts!) and take higher percentage shots (career high true shooting percentage!) There's no way this is a coincidence. Bosh shaved nearly two outside jumpers a night off his total, his new total of 3 more along Timmy D's lines.

So with his newfound approach, Bosh is playing at or near Hollinger's "Strong MVP candidate level" of 26-27 PER. The team is winning more games (just not against the Pacers) but they're hardly the juggernaut of Tim Duncan's early Spurs teams. It must come down to teammates, right? Bosh plays with stiffs while Duncan plays with world-beaters? Well, yes and no.

Duncan AgeAverage Teammate PERBosh AgeAverage Teammate PER
Total14.115 14.1

Using the top nine rotation guys (by minutes played) of each team, we see the teams surrounding Bosh and young Duncan are nearly identical. One key, key difference: Duncan had one teammate (David Robinson) with a PER over 20 during each of those four years. Bosh had two teammates with PERs over 20: T.Jose Calderford in the same season, a year in which Ford played only 50 games while Jason Kapono and Andrea Bargnani played 80 each and put up PERs under 11.

So CB4 and Time Duncan aren't that different, it's the team around them. If teams built around Duncan can multiple titles, why not a team built around Bosh? They should at least be able to make a deep run in the playoffs. In other words: the Raptors should re-up Bosh for the max. What they need to do, as all teams are well served in attempting, is building a complementary team around their stud. No need to line superstars shoulder to shoulder across the court, simply recognize what they have in Bosh (a deadly low-post scorer) and flesh out the roster with at least one other marginal All-star. Add some cohesive pieces to play off the two thoroughbreds and plan the parade!

Easier said than done, but the wily Spurs continually build great teams with late round picks and cagey free agent pick ups. Hopefully the mighty BC continues to build around Toronto's biggest sports star and brings good times back to the hoop fans in this city.

Thanks to Yahoo! for the image, Basketball Reference and Hoopdata for the, uh, hoop data, Daylife for the image, and our host and hero Eyebeleaf for the platform. Deep run into the PLAYOFFS!!1!!


Hilleraj said...

Drew, it's great to see your supernatural talent for explaining things in graph-form put to use in a (somewhat) different format. Up until this season, I never saw Bosh as the corner-stone type. It's amazing what a difference improving your personal fitness level, and diversifying your game can make! It's similarly amazing that Bosh waited until he was in a contract year to do this... but I'd much rather have Bosh 2.0, so I'm not gonna complain.

eyebleaf said...

Drew, amazing post. And at the perfect time, as we're looking for more converts to the Church of Chris Bosh. I appreciate your honesty about your vote in the poll, and I appreciate the fact you did your homework. You're a more dedicated man than I. As always, I love the graphs. But you make an excellent point; if teams built around Duncan can win a title, so can a team built around Bosh. This Bosh. And Bargnani is still improving. That can only help CB4.

Of course, you're bound to get the "it's a contract year" response. What do you say to that?

I think the Raptors realize Bosh is their guy. They know they have to sign him, and MLSE knows it's got to become a tax team. Colangelo has said they're willing to do that. It's all on Bosh now. You're right, he is the biggest sports star in this city. If he stays, he probably deserves to go in the middle of the banner above.

Interesting times. Which will hopefully culminate in a playoff round win or two, and a max deal here in T.O.

Steve G. said...

There is a huge, huge problem with the Duncan vs. Bosh comparison though - Defense. From his first days in the league, Duncan was regarded as an incredible defender, and he has made eight first team and four second team All-Defense. Duncan is a great defender, as good as guys like Mutumbo and Artest and Wallace, but I don't think he gets as much credit as them because he's not a specialist.

Bosh hasn't made either team in his five years as an All-Star, and his team's defensive numbers haven't been great in that time frame either.

Hilleraj said...

As is always the way, I haven't bothered to look into any numbers to back this up (a man can only pretend to work so much in a given day without getting fired), but it's been my impression that Bosh's defensive game has improved this year, as well. If it is the case, I'd be willing to wager (a testicle) that his added size has helped. Bosh always used to get pushed around by bigs down low, and I don't see that happening as much this year. He's not the biggest guy on the floor, but he isn't a pansy any more either (and let's face it, he was a bit of a pansy... just don't tell him I said that), and I think his personal game has improved significantly on both ends of the floor. Mind you, the shit-show that was Jay Triano's defensive scheme early in the year is only now starting to hit its stride, so even metrics might be slightly skewed... but does anyone else see Bosh as having picked up his D game this year, too?

Scott said...

Epic post, and a great read. I'm from the school of thought that we're damned at this point with Bosh. Sign him and we're financially obligated forever, let him walk and we're fucked.

I'm hoping the title was a take on The Misfits: Walk Among Us...

Escaped Lab Rat said...

Great post. I'm already a convert, this helps reinforce that. Bosh is certainly no Duncan (and not just because of D), but he's definitely improved over the years (including D) and I think the gap is closer than people might realize. He's definitely the best young power forward in the game. The question is, does he want to stay, or go play with Lebron as people have wondered?

Mattt said...

What Steve G said regarding defense. Duncan and Bosh are similar but Bosh does not equal Duncan. Having said that I'm torn as to what I would do as a GM, but the easiest course of action would be to sign Bosh for the long term and get a star 3 to be the first option. BC says the Raptors are willing to become a tax team so hopefully this all will come to pass...

showcase29 said...

2 words: contract year

But I agree with what Scott said above: "Sign him and we're financially obligated forever, let him walk and we're fucked."

Regardless of where he ends up, next year we will see if CB4 2.0 is for real...

showcase29 said...

Btw... great 'tag'

Drew - LtB said...

Regarding Bosh's defense - in relation to Duncan he's not as good but he's still a plus defender. Bosh rates as one of the top big minute players in terms of plus/minus.

The alternative isn't pretty. What are the chances of getting another 25-28 PER guy in the draft? Or getting a top free agent to sign in Toronto? Pretty slim. They could be one big piece away from being a damn fine team.

Archimedies said...

A Bosh supporter, so I don't really have much to say aside from nodding.

HOWEVER: The consistency in Duncan's FG Attempt chart made me actually laugh out loud. What consistency, what smart basketball.

What a legend.

/Is a huge Duncan fan

eyebleaf said...

That is a great tag, Drew.

Long live nerditry.

Anonymous said...

As usual, this shit only focuses on offense, not defense and the fact is, Bosh is a weak defender. You have a big man that can't stop a girl scout and you have a problem, but I wouldn't expect a lazy-ass Toronto dork to get that. Bosh will end up the next J O'Neal/T-Mac albatross in the next 2-3 years (after a couple more years of one and done playoff humiliations) when his knees go and he isn't playing for the last insane contract that an NBA team will give (a Max deal will be 2/3 at most of what it is now).

He is NOT worth the money that LeBron will be getting, LeBron guarantees a winning record no matter who is playing with ...but he will get it in Toronto by default because he is the closest thing they have to an impact player.
Look at Duncan's DEFENSE over his prime years, that is what made him the winner he was....but I wouldn't expect a Toronto dimwit to understand that.

Drew - LtB said...

PER does account for defensive stats (steals and blocks) but you do have a point. Bosh is an improving defensive player who continues to post post positive on/off court numbers (ie. the opposing team scores more when he's on the bench).

The other question remains: who do you acquire that's better? Are you going to draft a player better than Bosh? Are Wade or Lebron going to sign in Toronto? Are the Thunder going to trade KD for Bosh + Bargniani + Calderon? Nope, they aren't.

The Raptors are stuck. Luckily, I don't think they're quite as bad off as you.