On Chris Bosh Shooting Threes

There’s a generation of NBA players that scared everybody. We all watched players like Rasheed Wallace, power forwards, begin to drift onto the perimeter and take threes. Sometimes we watched them take threes for almost half of their total field-goal attempts. We all, at one point or another, thought to ourselves and others, “You know, maybe he should get in the post.”

It was frustrating. But it has nothing to do with Chris Bosh.

In the Miami HEAT’s 92-85 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, their offensive spacing was suffering, in large part because they weren’t hitting shots. The HEAT missed 13 threes that night, including 5-of-7 from the left corner and 3-of-4 unguarded shots beyond the arc. And with their spot-up shots not falling, Miami struggled to manufacture cutting and driving lanes to the rim. The Cavaliers simply sucked into the paint on any aggressive move, waiting on the kickout passes.

As a result, the normally open mid-range shots Miami so often creates with pick-and-rolls and off-ball screens were more contested than usual. In two instances in the second half, Bosh spotted up right at the left elbow – where he finds a fair share of open looks – and found a defender with a hand in his face. He shot both times, and missed both times.

So, with Miami nursing a five-point lead and just over four minutes to play, Bosh took a step back and created more space.

“We made a good solid read and Norris [Cole] just got the ball to the open guy,” Erik Spoelstra said. “The corner three is a closer three, so if he had shot it a foot in it might have been contested.”

It was open enough, and Bosh earned a few of his 17 fourth-quarter points. Though it’s entirely possible that Bosh’s shot helped stretch out the defense enough to create a few more looks in the final minutes, there’s no scientific way to prove whether it did or not. But that doesn’t matter much beyond Tuesday night.

What matters is more a question of philosophy and mathematics: Should Bosh be taking that three?

Let’s use an either/or scenario. In the video above, either Bosh floats behind the three-point line in the right corner – which is the same distance as a shot a foot in front of the top of the arc – or he spots-up a couple of feet in front of it. With Udonis Haslem sealing Antawn Jamison on the blocks, there’s going to be a passing lane to Bosh no matter which option he chose. For our purposes here, we’ll pretend Jamison wouldn’t fully contest either possible shot.

This leaves us with Bosh taking either a three-pointer, or a long jumper. With that make, Bosh is shooting 6-of-19 (31.5 percent) from deep – taking out his one half-court shot this season. On long jumpers of 16-to-23 feet, Bosh is shooting 40 percent on almost five attempts per game.

Let’s extrapolate those percentages to 100 shots. If Bosh makes 31.5 percent of 100 shots, he scores 94.5 points. If he makes 40 percent of 100 shots, he scores 80 points. For reference, those 14.5 points is greater than the difference points scored per 100 possessions of the most and least efficient offenses in the NBA.

Is Bosh going to sustain his current shooting numbers from either range? It’s possible he doesn’t. But even if Bosh maintains a steady 30 percent clip from three, he’ll also have to hit last season’s number of 45 percent from 16-23 feet just to match the efficiency of his three-point shooting.

But still, he’s a big man, he should be taking big man shots, in the paint, on the blocks. Activating Beast Mode, as it were.

And he’s doing just that.

If we separate the shooting zones of the floor, 46.3 percent of Bosh’s shots come within eight feet of the rim, which is the 16th highest rate of the 51 players that have taken at least 200 shots this season. That’s a significantly higher rate than Pau Gasol, and less than a percentage point away from Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge.

In those 7.1 shots within eight feet per game, Bosh is shooting 62 percent. Of those 51 players, only five are shooting better in that range. Bosh is shooting better within eight feet than Love and Aldridge. He’s shooting better than Amar’e Stoudemire and Blake Griffin. He’s even shooting better than Dwight Howard.

Because of what we’ve seen from players before, because Bosh said he loves the jumper after the victory over the Cavaliers, the threes are still a concern for some. Is it a valid concern if Bosh’s 1.2 attempts from three per game rise dramatically, or if he starts seeking the shot out in lieu of getting to the rim? Absolutely.

But there’s nothing telling us that that will happen. For now those concerns are based on anecdotal evidence. Bosh isn’t anyone who played the game before him. He’s just someone doing everything asked of him and, though these conclusions are fluid as sample sizes grow over the course of the season, someone who is occasionally seeking out an efficient shot when it’s open.

And if it makes a difference, at least a few of his attempts from three have rimmed out.

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