Does Carlos Boozer deserve to be the Bulls whipping boy?

Carlos Boozer has been with the Bulls for three seasons now with two left to go on his contract. It hasn't exactly been a signing which has inspired fans as Boozer has taken significant criticism over this three year period. Personally, I'm somewhere caught between disappointed and relieved it wasn't worse.

I once described the Bulls nightmare 2010 off-season as signing both Joe Johnson and Carlos Boozer [prior to the Bulls signing either]. Two guys who were sure to get near the max and not be remotely worth it. Ironically, while I thought that pairing was awful, it probably would have been enough to get the Bulls the NBA title in 2010.

They would have paid for it for years afterwards with inflexibility and other issues, but one title would have been enough to redeem everything else, so it would have been worth it. That said, the Bulls couldn't have matched Joe Johnson's contract with Atlanta, and Johnson smartly chased every cent.

The Bulls meanwhile got the lesser of those two bad deals in Carlos Boozer, but he's still managed to disappoint fans. Is the criticism fair? It's hard for me to reconcile that the Bulls were a 41 team prior to Boozer and a 60+ win team after him for two seasons. Derrick Rose's ascension gets the lion's share of that credit, but they won 45 games last year without Derrick Rose compared to the two 41 seasons the Bulls had with Rose the two prior seasons.

The rest of the roster moves were simply cogs and role players, the only other thing of significance was bringing in Tom Thibodeau to replace Vinny Del Negro. Most fans think it comes down to the players and that the coaches don't move the needle much. I typically agree with this as well, but probably going from worst case to best case makes about as big a coaching impact as you can have.

The Clippers scare the hell out of me this year for the same reason.

So all that said, in the end, I have to give Boozer some credit for the Bulls rise. Yes, he's frequently inefficient when used in isolation. Yes, he's disappeared in many important moments and is somewhat of a bum slayer that plays his best against inferior opponents. That said, the Bulls have needed an offensive role playing big man.

I hate when the Bulls use 15 seconds of the shot clock trying to get him an isolation look or feed him in the post, but he has provided a threat on the floor to play next to Rose. He has put up a bunch of points for a team that has trouble scoring. He's been one of the more efficient scorers on the team in his seasons here.

He does rebound the basketball and done his share in keeping the Bulls massive rebounding advantage against most teams, and most importantly, he's stayed healthy for Chicago rather than being constantly hurt for the Utah Jazz. My biggest fear with Boozer is that we'd get forty games a year out of him and lose two of his five seasons to injury. Unless its the last two, that won't happen.

In fact, Boozer's been perhaps the Bulls healthiest starter. He was clearly limited in the 2010/11 playoffs, but he was ready and able for three post seasons. The three other Bulls starters who've been around for the past three years have missed two (Rose), and one a piece (Noah, Deng).

On top of that, Boozer's been a good team player. He's a good locker room guy, he does work hard in the off-season, he helps the chemistry rather than hurting it. He's well liked, and when he's benched in the fourth because he can't play defense he rallies on his teammates instead of whining and bitching.

At the same time, the criticisms sent his way aren't unfair. Bulls fans have watched 30lbs overweight Kurt Thomas massively outperform Boozer on the defensive end. They've seen his offensive numbers dip from his Utah days both in terms of volume and efficiency [was typically up around 58-59% TS% rather than the 54%ish number for the Bulls].

His on/off numbers for his entire career paint him as a guy who's not helping you nearly as much as the numbers say he is giving more evidence that fans ranting about his defense aren't totally nuts. Compared to Taj Gibson, his netted on/off number looks like this:

Year Boozer Gibson
2010/11 -.4 -.1
2011/12 -.3.6 +5
2012/13 -4.9 +5.5

Which makes these numbers more shocking is that Carlos Boozer has a massive roster advantage over Gibson. He plays nearly 100% of his minutes alongside Derrick Rose which artificially raises his high mark while Gibson plays probably half his minutes with Rose on the bench. Boozer has a massive inherent advantage in terms of teammates he plays with and still underperforms Gibson.

In short, the team has generally functioned much better when he's not playing, and the fans who criticize his defense aren't crazy. That said, if we lived in the video game world and could play Taj Gibson 48 minutes a night without him getting tired or hurt, I don't think the team would be better.

The Bulls need some offensive oriented role players. They need a guy who can occasionally just bully someone in the post. They need someone who can chew up 15 seconds of shot clock and let Derrick Rose stand around on offense and catch a breath after he just hard core sprinted for 15 seconds the previous play.

Look at the contracts given out to other big men then ask yourself, if Carlos Boozer were a free agent right now, what would he fetch on the open market? How much would you pay him? My guess is Boozer that if Boozer gives the Bulls similar performance for two years [or us one and his amnesty team one] then he'll still likely make between five and ten million. If a team ponies up 12, I'll think they're nuts, but I won't be surprised.

Big men get paid. Scorers get paid. Big men who can score, even with significant other weaknesses get paid.

We were looking for an offensive oriented big man for about five or six seasons prior to Boozer and could never find one. There simply aren't that many in the league. It's all still a bit too frustrating with Boozer though. Watching him late on every rotation, watching a season of Kurt Thomas who's not as big, strong, or quick playing quality defense while Boozer can't.

There's just something missing there, and we're way beyond the point of hoping that something will be filled in. Utah waited for years in Boozer's prime. Thibodeau has coached him for three straight seasons. If it didn't happen under nearly a decade of Thibodeau and Sloan, it's not going to happen.

The Bulls will need a plan to replace him though. They won't be better simply because of his ouster and sending in some guy who tries hard at the minimum. They'll need to replace him with a legit NBA big man without the money to spend on a legit NBA big man. Maybe they find someone in the draft, maybe Nikola Mirotic can be the answer [signs are promising], but a plan needs to be in place.

Until then, it's a bunch of GIMMIE DATs and a few GET THAT SHIT JOs to co-inside with 15 points, three open layups allowed, and a lot of good cheer on the bench when he sits in a critical stretch of the game.

Filed under: Players

Tags: carlos boozer, chicago bulls, nba


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  • Doug, I'm hoping Boozer have season of his life! The thought of being amnestied and possibly ending up on a team that he may not want to be on could be his motivation. I'm sure he hears the rumblings. If he has great season we cud actually win a title and trade him in the offseason. Gr8 season+1yr contract won't look too bad in trade

  • In reply to bullzfan:

    Hey, we will all take that out of Boozer!

    Plus, be optimistic because Mirotic will be at least a solid NBA forward.

    Just need the kids to develop and Thibs to hold to his resolve to rest his starters more - best we don't cheer that one until we see it.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    I actually like boozer. Seem like he's a cool dude. I just wish he would back up all that loud talking.

  • In reply to bullzfan:

    Well, I'll always hope for the best, and I'm sure Boozer will do his best. Just that he probably is what he is at this point.

  • Boozer has been better than I expected although he never had a shot at living up to his supersized paycheck. If you had told me when we signed him that he would be our healthiest starter I would have laughed at you. But sure enough Noah has been seriously hobbled or missed two of the three post seasons and looked like his Planter Fasciitis was going to derail his third straight post season till he miraculously healed despite missing no time which still completely baffles me. Rose has been the walking wounded the past two season as has Deng and his Wrist but there is Boozer plowing through like a horse. Complete shocker.

    Would I trade him for cap space hell yeah but that doesn't mean I have to hate on him as a player. Can't fault the guy for taking what the Front Office was offering. He never had a chance to live up to that paycheck. Was obvious from the start in fact this is probably as close to the best case scenario as it gets regarding the Boozer signing. GarPax are lucky this didn't completely blowup in their face. Considering Paxsons other "big" FA move was Ben Wallace I would almost count this a win for the shear fact that it wasn't a contender for worst signing in the history of sports...

  • In reply to Chad:

    While I get your/everyones surprise, the praise of Boozer for being the healthiest Bulls starter is sort of like the justification for Deng making the all star team the past 2 seasons, i.e. that he lead the league in minutes played. Not really a skill to hang your hat on in either case.

    In both cases, if that is the best thing that you can say about a guy, then I don't think that anyone has to say much if anything else as to why that guy has got to go if you have championship aspirations.

  • The Bulls were clearly in the market for a scoring PF in 2010, they struck out on their number one target which was Chris Bosh so of the three that were left......Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer and David Lee, they did pretty good. The Bulls sniffed around David Lee and interviewed him but went for the more established Carlos Boozer. Compared to Amare who has no knees left and is constantly injured, Boozer doesn't look too bad with only two years left. The Bulls might be even able to trade him during next off season since Boozer goes into beast mode when its a contract year and a few teams who strike out in 2014 free agency might take a chance on that. Look, he totally sucks on defense and infuriates everyone when he gives up easy layup while derrick rose has to break his back to score on the other end but he does give us volume scoring which this team badly needs. Replacing that 16 pts and 8 rbs isn't going to be easy but big men that play defense are vital to Thibodeau's system. The most important thing is Boozer doesn't show up against the Heat or other elite teams so losing him doesn't really bother me much. The Gibson-Mirotic dual should be better going forward.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the Gibson-Mirotic combo being better. I'm psyched for Mirotic because he will bring floor spacing that this team has never seen. Rose and Noah will both be big benefactors.

    For Rose, having Dunleavy-Butler-Mirotic on the perimeter with Rose attacking will make scoring that much easier and efficient.

    For Noah, he can play his interior passing game with Gibson. When Mirotic is in the game, the inside is completely opened up and teams may leave Noah to contest 3's or double Rose. I would think that, if healthy, Noah's best seasons could be ahead of him alongside Mirotic. I'm thinking 16 pts and 14 reb per game is not out of the question.

    So, I do like Boozer, but his contract and defense are frustrating. But, who would we be happy with? All the 2010 FA talent except for Wade and James have had injury or performance issues. Lee has been pretty good. Bosh has been ok, but probably not quite worth max.

    If the Bulls let Deng go and somehow keep Boozer for his 5th year, I would hope that they could resign him on the cheap because he's a good guy to have around. He could be a phenomenal 2nd unit scorer in his 30s. If his contract is under $5 mil/year, I'd roll with Booz.

  • Doug - I'm still laughing on my lunch hour as I read your last paragraph! When Booz is gone, I will miss all his on-court yelling and talking! Together, he and Noah do control the boards.

    Until then, it's a bunch of GIMMIE DATs and a few GET THAT SHIT JOs to co-inside with 15 points, three open layups allowed, and a lot of good cheer on the bench when he sits in a critical stretch of the game.

  • In reply to Granby:

    And, that pretty much sums up what Boozer does!

  • In reply to Granby:

    "three open layups allowed", I am sure Doug meant per quarter, or perhaps per minute.

  • There are great 2-way players, which you build your team around, and there are role players. Some role players are more glorified than others but in the end they are still role players. You pay the great 2-say guys and fill in around them with the role players. Boozer is a role player. He always was and always will be. The problem was that he was paid like a great 2-way player, but that's not his fault. That is the organization's fault. Think of the money tied up in the PF position on this team, knowing that whoever is on the floor can only function at one end of said floor. It's a joke.

    I remember Sam Smith ranking the PFs the summer of 2010. I think Boozer was 7th. To pay that kind of money for only the 7th best guy at the position was overreach. The front office panicked after losing out on the LBJ, Dwade, Bosh sweepstakes.

    But, again, I don't blame Boozer for any of this. As Doug says, he's stayed healthy, is a good teammate, doesn't complain, etc. He's just overpaid. If the Bulls had been able to sign him at his "fair value" no one would complain too much. However, he wouldn't have gone to the Bulls if they hadn't offered money in the ballpark of what the Nets were offering him at the time. That is the problem with FA for teams and why it is so great for the players. All it takes is one team to be stupid for a player to be dramatically overpaid. That is what happened in Boozer's case. But then it could have been worse. At least the Bulls didn't pull a Knicks and sign Amare to that absurd deal.

  • As much as I've bashed Boozer, he did come up big in big games last season. He bullied somebody out of big rebound with about a minute left in the game against Miami to break their streak. And I believe he was on the floor for the epic comeback against NJ in the playoffs. So he's trending in the right direction. It will be interesting to see if he takes a step back with the reintroduction of Rose.

  • Loved this article. Doug and the bloggers summed up the "Boozer Situation" well.

    Here's my 2 cents.

    1---Lets just see how he plays with Rose and how healthy he stays this year. If we don't finish as the champs, we break down why..,and If he is a substantial part of why we didn't..,then trade him or give him amnesty and buy Mirotic., for SURE.

    2---If he's borderline good, see above because he'll be a year older and the hope of him improving is Silly.

    3---If we win it , or finish 2nd, and he plays great..,you gotta consider keeping him another year..,and hold off Mirotic for yet another year.

    4---As for signing him up for $5 million per, 2 years from now, well, I just don't see how an already unmotived player on defense wont start to get More unmotived when he takes a Big paycut. After 2 more years of him..,I'd rather look at someone else give it a shot.

    5----I just have to add..,his substitute/replacement is Taj. Whatever his problem(s) was last year, he took a step back. How HE DOES this year has to play Large in the overall decision process.


  • Doug, you present a reasoned and balanced analysis, except that you leave out or under emphasize by far the most abhorent and loathesome part of the BozoHole package.

    There is one reason and one reason only that any basketball fan who is serious about the game has to hate the BozoHole and hate him as much as you can possibly hate another human being for playing a game. and that reason is not that he is the worst defensive player in the history of basketball played at any level anywhere in the history of the world.

    That reason is no one has ever displayed less effort playing defense in the history of basketball played at any level anywhere in the history of the world, while at the same time putting his effort into a clown act of gesticulation and screaming to make it look like he is trying or actually cares about what is happening on the court. It is simple as that.

    Anyone who doesn't hate the Hole for this doesn't really care about the game in a serious way, you know, kind of like your typical celebrity L.A., N.Y., or Miami type fan.

    If the Hole put out the same effort as say Kyle Korver or Mario Bellinelli, or dare I say Kirk Hinirch and still sucked on D, I wouldn't have to hate him, I would simply just not be a fan of his, but could tolerate him for what he does, even if he is massively overpaid for it, kind of like Luol Deng. Unfortunately, Boozer is nothing more than a complete fraud which is why he is nearly univerisally hated by the serious fan bases of all three cities that he played in.

    Going into the 2010 free agent season, I was in the camp that would rather have Joe Johnson than the BozoHole at the time when most people thought that they would get about the same money 5 years @$75-80 million. Despite Johnson underperforming even that deal, I would still be in that camp. David Lee has clearly outperformed the Hole at less money per year. Lee sucks on D also, but since I don't watch him everyday, I can't really say if he doesn't try or he just doesn't have the ability. My guess is that under Thibs, Lee would play D more like Korver did than the way that the Hole does.

    The plus minus stats on BozoHole vs Gibson say all that any observant fan needs to know, and for reasons that Doug pointed out they understate the difference. You play Gibson at power forward and use the extra money($12-13 million per over the last 3 years) to buy wing scoring, and the Bulls are a massively better team.

    Doug's main/only valid point is that the Hole eats up minutes and acts like a reasonable NBA power forward at least on offense, which is hard to find. This is fine if your team is one of the dregs of league with no shot of ever competing for a title, a team like Charlotte or Sacto, but absolutely unacceptable for a the NBA franchise in a city like Chicago.

    Looking back at the Jordan era Bulls, we had Charles Oakley, Horace Grant and Dennis Rodman as power forwards. None of those guys will ever be known as an offensive genius. Yet is there anybody out there who wouldn't run Boozer over in a crosswalk to have any one of those guys as our starting power forward right now. I bet we beat Miami that first year with any/all 3 of those guys. Gibson isn't even close to any of those 3 guys, but his style of play is at least in the same category, especially when it comes to defense and effort.

    We will all be laughing all the way to the bank whenever we replace the Hole with the Gibson/Mirotic combo, as well as laughing mercilessly at all the BozoHole defenders who will be hiding in the same cave that the Ben Gordon defenders have been hiding in for the past several years. and Gordon was a better offensive threat than the Hole has been as a Bull.

    Hopefully, we can afford to entice Mirotic to come over next summer, which means that this is the last year of Rose's career that we will waste with the lunacy of believing that you can win a championship will Carlos the BozoHole as your starting power forward, nevermind Luol Deng as your starting small forward.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Oh yea, I forgot to answer the question posed in your headline,

    AbsoFrigginlutely, Hell yes, until the cows come home, from here to eternity, and seven ways from Sunday

  • For a team with offensive deficiencies, it strikes me as odd to deride a player who is one of their better offensive players. He was never going to live up to his contract, that's the problem with FA and the NBA in general -- too many guys think they're max contract players and will be awarded max contracts when there are only 5-10 guys who really are.

  • Hey, one more time, can we talk about finding a way to convince Thibs to start Taj? Carlos thrived this last year, more a first option with Hirnich running the show - he could be GREAT on the second unit, which always seems to need more offense. Mean time Taj won't demand the ball from DRose, he'll just be able to clean up and hopefully hit the jump shot when others are double-teamed. Lots of minutes for Carlos still without a legit fourth bit man Thibs likes, for all Nazr will hopefully be fine and fit for the playoffs.

    Start Taj, see if his offense improves (as it has all career long when starting consistently), and convince Carlos to look good as Sixth Man. It seems so obvious to me... thoughts, please!

  • In reply to petert23:

    Sorry for errors... I meant Carlos will get lots of minutes still when Jo or Taj rest...

  • In reply to petert23:

    I would love to see that happen, but I doubt that Thibs even considers it. It would certainly test the Boozer as a good teammate theory. My sense is that he wouldn't be under those circumstances.

  • The entire Bulls organization deserves to be the whipping boy for failing to acquire another star to pair with Derrick Rose. PERIOD!

    THE SUPERSTAR THEORY - Read the link below.
    It's a long 6-part article, but hits-the-nail-on-the-head.
    When Derrick Rose becomes the second best player on the Bulls is when Bulls will truly contend for a championship, not before.

    We fans time and money, and Derrick Rose's career, is being wasted on the false promises of Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer level of talent. > They are not difference makers! They are not and never will be champions!

  • In reply to Edward:

    This thread is the very reason why I have complained about the Bulls roster over the last few years. Players like Boozer and Deng are not championship caliber players. Sure these two guys can score, but neither are volume scorers and neither can score in the clutch on a regular or when absolutely needed. I will continue to say this...if the Bulls don't improve the roster before Rose contract is up, I look for him and Thibs to leave Chicago for a franchise and city that knows what it takes to win titles.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    Deng has been more valuable to the Bulls than Boozer. Deng is OK for the 4th player on a championship team - at a more reasonable price. But it is doubtful the Bulls can afford to keep him after this year because the money saved by not resigning him will mostly go for the raises to Rose, Taj, and Boozer in 2014.

    Boozer was a mistake because he was not cost effective.

    At least the Bulls' FO has apparently learned that there is one thing worse than bidding too low for a player and not getting him - and that is bidding too high for a player and getting him! They are trying not to make the same mistake again, altho the Taj resigning might argue against that. We will see on that one.

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    In reply to Reese1:

    this is exactly my same thoughts word for word. ppl keep saying how deep this team is but never see that outside of rose no other player has a skill set which leads to them scoring on a consistant volume. dallas had terry who can dribble and shoot lights out and get to the basket. very good shot creater. as for deng his best chance to score is jacking up some ridiculous long jump shot without even trying to attack the rim. boozer is just become offensive lazy. only way chi wins a championship is if jimmy butler is getting to the basket and foul line constantly. putting up 18 ppg and rose would have to be playing out of his snell would have to be a huge contributor as well

  • In reply to Edward:

    Although I agree that they need a second star, I don't see how you can say Derrick Rose needs to be the second best player on his team, but then say they are "wasting" his talent. If he's not talented enough to be the best player on a championship team, then they're "wasting" a player that you don't think is really that good anyways.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I saw the comment along the lines of referring to Miami. Wade has been a top 10-15 player since the moment he walked into the NBA. However, for him to win a title, he had to have someone better (or, at least, more impacting, in the case of Shaq) alongside him.

    I can see Rose being the same way. Pair him with a Kevin Durant (someone I wouldn't necessarily call 'better' on a skill-by-skill level, but definitely more impacting) and the Bulls probably glide to the title. As the 'alpha dog', I am not sure Rose's talents will be maximized, nor will the team around him be good enough,

    All that said, getting someone that caliber to pair with Rose will take something of a miracle. They won't be bad enough to get a high caliber pick, they don't have real good trade assets for a deadline deal, they won't have enough cap to go after a primo FA, and if they did, Chicago is not a premier destination for NBA players.

    There is always the off-chance that the Bulls pull a Mavericks' type run, but with the way Thibs grinds down the players physically, I see that as almost as unlikely as securing a second player.

    DISCLAIMER: I know this sounds very 'why even watch the Bulls'-ish. This all really only applies as long as there are 1-2 "super teams" in the NBA. The Bulls as an organization can't compete with that. Put in a hard cap, and I think the current Bulls model actually becomes successful.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Just because I think Scottie Pippen was not good enough to be the best player on a championship team does not in anyway mean I think Pippen was not really that good. It's simply the reality of Pippen's skill set and talent level.

    Same applies to Rose. He is not another Jordan or LeBron and its debatable whether any PG can attain that level. Rose desperately needs another superstar on this Bulls roster for there to be legitimate hope of winning a championship.

    And I agree somewhat with Salvamini's DISCLAIMER (above) in that I believe "Waiting for the HardCap" is Reinsdorf's strategy after the "2010 Free Agency Debacle" that this organization has not yet recovered from. However, I still think its a failing basketball strategy for Reinsdorf, but a rewarding financial strategy.

  • In reply to Edward:

    All very interesting. Most NBA champs have the 2 superstars. However, Detroit and Dallas did pull it off with only one. Could (notice "could") the Bulls do the same? I would say Yes.

    1) Thibs has a system where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Some players seem better in his system than on other teams. We call that overachieving. How much is that worth? Certainly something, but until now, it has worked better in the regular season than the playoffs. If Thibs actually rests the starters more, using the bench to get through the regular season, it could be more valuable.

    2) As we have seen, players like Noah, Deng, Belli, Nate, Boozer and Taj can take a team fairly far. Now, bring Rose back, upgrade Deng (hopefully Butler), upgrade Boozer (hopefully Mirotic), upgrade Belli (hopefully Dunleavy), develop a few guys (Teague and Snell), and get another borderline star with the Charlotte pick, and Boom! Strong contenders.

    The FO knows all of this, and it has the team positioned fairly well. There are real possibilities for upgrades on the horizon. Including a trade for another star.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Ditto on all counts, I am cautiously optimistic that it might actually work, assuming that Rose comes back as Rose or even a better if slightly less athletic version.

  • In reply to Edward:

    Didn't read the link yet, but I basically agree with your point, and have always contended that Rose might not be the alpha dog type guy to lead the Bulls to a title, with size maybe being the ulitmate issue.

    I am glad that you brought up Pippen, because I have stated that Rose is at best a Pippen level player, and in my mind despite his MVP season, still might not be the overall impact player that Pippen was at his peak(Pippen certainly had an MVP type season in 1994).

    I love having Rose on my team, just like I loved having Pippen, but the jury is still out on whether Rose is in that top statosphere of players who win you championships, the Jordans, Magic Johnsons, Larry Birds, Hakeems, Kareems, Kobes and Lebrons.

    Not saying that the bulls can't or won't win with him, but he needs far better teammates than Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich. At this point we are desperately counting on Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic to be those teammmates.

  • Fab Melo?

  • In reply to FreeJoakim:

    Fab Melo cleared waivers. No team was willing to pick up his $1.3 million rookie scale guaranteed salary. He's looking at minimum wage now and possibly non-guaranteed at that.

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