There has been much talk of late about the future of Chris Bosh in Toronto. With one year remaining on his current contract, this time next year (at the latest) he is sure to draw a new contract of maximum length and maximum salary. Which raises the question, can he still become a dominant player and the central figure of a competitive team?
What does a dominant Power Forward have that Chris Bosh does not? In the recent past, the league came through an era dominated by Power Forwards – according to 82games.com, the top three players in 2002-03 were Power Forwards – so there are no shortage of recent comparisons. Those three players – Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan* – have consistently been centerpiece players on successful teams.
How does Chris Bosh compare to the dominant forwards at their peak?
Garnett, Nowitzki and Duncan have each posted multiple seasons with Player Efficiency Ratings of over 27 – only 16 players in league history have had more than one season of comparable quality. During these peak seasons the three have also led successful teams, which averaged 59 wins per season. Chris Bosh has never posted a PER over 24 or been part of a team that won more than 47 games. In these general measures Bosh clearly falls short of dominant; this also plays out in more specific statistical measures.
Comparing the best two season period of Bosh’s Career (2006-2008) to the best stretch of Garnett’s (2003-2005), underscores several significant differences. Garnett takes over 10% more shots, grabs over 25% more total rebounds and blocks about one-third more shots per minute. However, the most obvious difference is in Garnett’s ability to pass the ball, he has double the assist rate of Bosh. Both players score similar points with similar efficiency.
Comparing these Bosh seasons to the best stretch of Duncan’s career (also 2003-2005), finds similar gaps in performance. Duncan out-shoots and out-rebounds Bosh by similar margins. He also has a better assist rate than Bosh. Duncan’s outstanding advantage is his shot-blocking, he blocks two and a half times more shots per minute than Bosh . Both players score similar points with similar efficiency.
Nowitzki is an awkward comparison for Bosh – there has never been a player in league history comparable to Nowitzki. However, its worth noting that at his best (2005-2007) he, like Duncan and Garnett, attempted far more shots than Bosh. Nowitzki is a significantly more prolific, more efficient scorer than the others. While his total rebounding is somewhat lower than Bosh, Nowitzki rates as the better defensive rebounder (his perimeter-based offensive game means he is out of position to grab offensive boards).
Interestingly, the three dominant big men all played their prime seasons at the same ages, 27 and 28. This leaves open the potential that Bosh’s peak may yet be to come.
How does Chris Bosh compare to the dominant forwards at the same age?
Comparing Bosh at 22 and 23 (his best seasons to date) to the others, many of the same trends play out. While Bosh did post a comparable PER of 23.2 (Duncan 24.0, Nowitzki 23.5, Garnett 23.0) the others each played on better teams – Duncan and Nowitzki significantly better.
The stat trends that distinguish current Bosh from prime Duncan and Garnett were already established by 23: young Garnett shot and rebounded more, and passed the ball more effectively; and, young Duncan shot and rebounded more and blocked far more shots. As a young player, Nowitzki did not shoot the ball more often than Bosh, but he was a more efficient scorer.
The bottom line is that Bosh simply does not rebound as well – particularly on the defensive end – as the others, and he has yet to assert himself as his team’s primary shot taker . Bosh also lacks the third kind of heat – in addition to a solid baseline of scoring and rebounding – that the dominant forwards all have: Duncan blocks shots; Garnett distributes; and Nowitzki hits outside shots. As it stands now, Bosh is a solid complementary player, and not the centerpiece of a potential championship team.
* Yes, Tim Duncan is a Power Forward, at least to the extent that Chris Bosh is; according to 82games.com, season in, season out he has played more of his minutes at the 4 than at the 5, while Bosh has spent more time at the 5.