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Fantasy Focus: Chris Bosh

Fantasy basketball owners are reaping the benefits as Chris Bosh grows into his new role with the Miami HEAT.

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When the Miami HEAT’s “Big Three” of the past four years (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh) suddenly became the “Remaining Two” after James bolted for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the offseason, fantasy basketball owners collectively posed one question: Will Bosh return to his Toronto Raptors-era numbers?

Bosh was the unquestionable go-to player and face of the franchise during his seven-year stint in Toronto. Looking at his final four-year statistics with the Raptors, he averaged 22.9 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Compare those numbers to Bosh’s past four seasons in Miami and a different picture is painted. He averaged 17.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists as part of the HEAT’s three-pronged approach.

Let’s keep this four-season comparison going for each team. In Toronto, he averaged a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 23.4, and in Miami, his PER was 19.3. In Toronto, his Usage (percentage of team plays used by a player while on the floor) was 27.5 percent, and in Miami it was 23.1. With James and his team-highs last season in points (27.1), assists (6.3) and rebounds (6.9) departing, along with his 31 percent Usage, it seemed fairly obvious Bosh would greatly benefit in a return to a team leader status. No longer would he have to focus on spreading the floor to allow James to play his game.

So here we are, 13 games into Miami’s season, and it’s a perfect time to check critical fantasy contributions of the HEAT’s starting center.

Bosh, now 30, is leading all his teammates in points (21.5), free throws (5.8) and rebounds (8.7), including offensive boards (1.8) and defensive boards (6.9). He’s averaging 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.3 three-pointers (36.2 percent), 83.5 percent in free throw shooting and 47.2 percent in two-point field goals. His field goal attempts per game (16) and free throw attempts (seven) are now more in line with his Toronto numbers. His PER has increased to 23.2, and his Usage has shot up to 29.1 percent. His per-game free throws, virtually cut in half as part of the Big Three, are at near-Toronto levels. Welcome back to the basket, Mr. Bosh.

In the world of fantasy play, he’s posting dream numbers.

Stepping into the leadership role, especially on the vocal end, has been a challenge for Bosh. It doesn’t come naturally. A self-proclaimed loner, he decided to embrace being the team’s leader when James left. Instead of moving into another third-man role when the Houston Rockets came knocking last summer – a move that would have assured he’d be in title contention again – Bosh elected to sign a five-year, $118.7 million deal in Miami. It wouldn’t be like Toronto though; with Wade staying put and the earlier acquisition of forward Luol Deng, he would have help.

To fantasy owners, it appeared inevitable that Bosh’s game would favorably change with a now-bigger role. The spotlight would shine on him again. And a fresher Bosh, with limited wear and tear while previously marking time around Miami’s three-point arc, would result in increased fantasy value. It’s still Wade’s team, but Bosh would be relied upon to lead them successfully out of the LeBron-less era. Their present 7-6 record indicates the journey has not quite been a cakewalk, but Bosh is pleasing owners who drafted him.

It started out in an extremely promising manner. Bosh logged 26 points and 15 rebounds in the season opener vs. the Washington Wizards. He connected on three-of-four three-pointers and made five-of-five at the foul line. He threw in a steal, a block and four assists as well. It was a stat line even better than projected. The scoring wasn’t too unexpected; what raised eyebrows was his rebounding effort. Bosh hadn’t hit that kind of number since the 2012-13 season and not too often at that. He had a scoring streak of 20+ points in the first seven games this season along with a 10.3 rebounding average.

Bosh’s production has been up and down since that first game, plus he’s had the added pressure of Wade being sidelined. A hamstring injury has caused Wade to miss the last five games in a row and counting. However, Bosh’s numbers are on a decided upswing now as he’s figuring out how to navigate without Wade by his side. Overall, he admits to difficulty in adjusting to his new role. His current 44.7 percent field-goal shooting is a career-low. He averaged 52.6 percent over the past two seasons. Defenders are loading up on him as he adapts to increased touches, different moves (with his age playing a factor) and how opponents now play him.

Some folks think Bosh has gone soft, which is not completely fair given what he was expected to do the past four years. With the LeBron departure, he isn’t tasked with primarily clearing out lanes and doing so much dirty work anymore. Not only does the offense run through him in his new role, he’s determined to prove his worth as a rebounder. Once he becomes better acclimated to his responsibilities, Bosh can easily turn in regular double-doubles reminiscent of his Toronto days.

As for this writer, Bosh was available early in the second round and the draft button was quickly pushed. Plenty of trade scenarios were offered up when the draft concluded, but they were politely declined. Those across-the-board numbers are too valuable, and they are poised to improve this year. Expect consistency as the season progresses and just enjoy the ride.

Susan Bible covers the Oklahoma City Thunder for Basketball Insiders and writes about all NBA teams. She is a Senior Newslines Editor and contributes to fantasy basketball coverage.

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