Criticism of Bosh is a lot wider than Shaq's waistline these days, though. (That says a lot.) Bosh has been knocked around for the inability of the Raptors to improve on their lot as a low-level Eastern playoff team (or worse) over the past few seasons. He's also been dinged for Toronto's real lack of toughness. (As if he invented Andrea Bargnani or met Hedo Turkoglu for scones!) Basically, the Raptors have largely failed since 2006-07, and the resident star Bosh must be held accountable by the continent's heroes of snark and misery.
But 20-10 and obviously legit All-Star berths can't all be a mirage; there's something here. But what, exactly? It should be an open-and-shut case that Bosh deserves a maximum contract from some lucky team this summer (that it's not in some corners says more about the state of basketball discourse than it does about CB4). If you need convincing, or ammunition for your battles with the faithless, read on.
As a precursor, Bosh may very well be finished as a Raptor. An errant elbow from Antawn Jamison rendered Bosh's face fractured this week, ruling the forward out of Toronto's four remaining regular season games. The Raptors have only the most tenuous hold on the eighth seed, and the team will have to play its challenger, Chicago, on Sunday without Bosh and potentially Turkoglu. Things don't look particularly good. Bosh could, of course, re-sign with Toronto this summer, but after all that's gone down and the apparent inability for the Raps to add prominent pieces in free agency or the draft, it seems unlikely.
So we're left trying to decipher just how good or just how overrated Bosh has been. And so we turn to the scatter plot. Power forwards these days do more than score and rebound, but really, those are still the basic duties of the position. Defense is in there too, but defense is exceedingly difficult to measure accurately. Scoring? Rebounding? We can do that.
So, compared to other top-level power forwards of this era, how does Bosh score? I pulled 15 of the best (semi-)traditional power forwards of the era, and used their age-25 statistics. (Bosh turns 26 in July.) There are two basic parts to scoring: how often you do it -- frequency, measured here by points per 36 minutes -- and how efficiently you do it -- measured here by True Shooting percentage, which is points per shot attempt divided by two, where one free throw attempt equals 0.44 shot attempts.
There's Bosh, the second most prolific scorer among our set (behind Amar'e Stoudemire) and the second most efficient (behind Amar'e). Bosh has averaged just about 24 points per 36 minutes this season, equal to what Zach Randolph did as a 25-year-old Blazer. But Bosh did it much more efficiently. Look how far ahead of Dirk Nowitzki Bosh appears to be at age 25, and remember that Dirk, a scorer, won an MVP in his late 20s. Other "scoring" PFs like David Lee, Al Jefferson, David West and Pau Gasol couldn't compare to Bosh at age 25, at least in this sector of the game.
But what about rebounding? Softness among big men is typically assessed based on a lack of defense and a lack of rebounding prowess. Again, I can't accurately assess how much better a defender age-25 Tim Duncan was than Bosh -- we know that Duncan and Kevin Garnett are among the best defenders at the position ever, that Kenyon Martin was quite good, that Nowitzki and Lee are perhaps not terribly good, that Randolph and Jefferson are unbelievably bad. Those are all judgments calls -- folks could legitimately argue Lee is worse than Jefferson, and I couldn't really refute that with data -- and as such, I won't lay it out in graphical form. Clearly, Bosh is not K.G. or Duncan on defense. He's not even Martin. But I don't think he's Randolph or Jefferson, either. He's somewhere in the middle.
But rebounding, we can measure rebounding accurately. And monster rebounders are huge assets, hardly mirages. So let's measure rebounding, using the same power forwards at age 25.
Boozer at age 25 beat out all the others in both offensive rebound rate (the percentage of available offensive rebounds captured by the player while on the court) and defensive rebound rate. Bosh is third among the 15 PFs in offensive rebounding, behind Boozer and Randolph, and sixth in defensive rebounding, behind Boozer, Lee, Garnett, Duncan and Randolph.
So we're left with this: Bosh is an elite scorer, one of the best of his generation at his position to this point, and Bosh is a really strong rebounder for his position, even compared with the best PFs of the era. He compares favorably to MVPs and first-ballot Hall-of-Famers in these two categories at this point ... and these happen to be pretty danged important categories.
While the skeptics cajole about Bosh failing to deserve all the attention sure to be heaped upon him come July 1, know that he is worth the attention, and that assuming he stays on the upward path and isn't struck down by injury, he'll be well worth a max contract.