Time to pull the plug on Carlos Boozer as a starter?

Taj Gibson has played 21 more minutes in preseason than Carlos Boozer. In those 21 extra minutes, he's scored 29 more points, grabbed eight additional rebounds, has seven more blocks, and four fewer turnovers. He also happens to be shooting 20% from the field more than Boozer.

Boozer does have nine assists to Gibson's two, and Boozer's spent more time against the opposing starting lineup than Gibson as well. That said, so far in preseason, it looks like Taj Gibson's the better offensive option, and we all know he's the vastly better defensive one.

Will Taj continue to knock down his jumper at a career best efficiency rate? Probably not. Will Boozer continue to have fairly pedestrian offense? Quite possibly so. One thing is for certain, Taj will destroy Boozer on defense.

Maybe due to egos, we keep things the way they are. Maybe Carlos Boozer becomes the new Kieth Bogans. He's a starter in name, but he won't play any important minutes. Not the way Gibson's playing at any rate. Taj Gibson suddenly looks like a two way player. While he's still not as smooth as Boozer and lacks a bit of his shot creation, his energy, athleticism, and ability to play within himself are creating better offense overall.

I'm not as big a Boozer hater as many, I think he's about six million dollars a year overpaid, but if Boozer was making eight million, he'd be a valuable offensive oriented role player rather than the guy who's paid too much and is viewed largely as a defensive sieve.

You know where the Bulls could use an offensive role player? Coming off the bench, playing with Kirk Hinrich who has a nice rapport with Boozer and feeds the post well. The Bulls don't have a whole lot in the way of offense coming off the bench, but if Boozer was put there, then they might help rebalance their first and second units.

Taj Gibson also figures to play better along side Derrick Rose where his athleticism and hustle will get him more opportunities when the Bulls push the ball, and he's more equipped to put back Rose misses at the hoop when the defense collapses.

Boozer fits in better with a team that's going to try to run more offense through him, slow the pace down, and feed the post. Sounds like something better suited to play along side Hinrich to me.

Beyond the fit, at this moment, Taj is simply playing vastly better basketball, and if he keeps it going the Bulls need to expand his role well beyond the low 20s minute totals he's had the past few seasons.


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  • If Thibs moved Taj to the starting lineup, I give it like two weeks before people turn on Taj. I don't even understand why this is a debate. Thibs likes the players in these roles. We've won a ton of games with this lineup configuration.

    Boozer didn't just suddenly turn into a pile of crap in one offseason. He's still a solid player. And Taj didn't turn into Kareem in one offseason. Both of these players are largely the same. Which isn't bad. This is a very good team.

    And lets not forget that Taj isn't the most durable player. I'm not sure you want to expose him to starter's minutes. Also, will his defense drop off if he has to be that same maniacal defender as a starter? I just don't understand why they'd need to mess with success. We haven't lost in the playoffs because Boozer was starting over Taj.

  • In reply to Juiceboxjerry:

    You make some good points but I disagree with several of them. The Bulls have lost in the playoffs because the team isn’t good enough. While I don’t think Boozer starting is the primary problem, you look for ways to make the team better and more Taj and less Boozer might improve the team:

    - Most stats have shown Taj outperforming Boozer for years now, i.e. the team plays better at both ends when Taj is on the floor. Taj’s down year last year might have been an exception (or not, not sure).

    - “Mess with success”. They aren’t successful enough for us. They are successful in the regular season but we want them to get over the hump to the next level in the playoffs.

    - Taj’s durability is no more in question than Boozer’s.

    - Maybe Taj can’t play the same game 30+ minutes but what if he can? Isn’t it worth finding out?

  • In reply to Juiceboxjerry:

    Your right "boozer didn't just suddenly turn into a pile of crap in one offseason" He has been one since becoming a Bull, it just takes some people a lot longer to realize/admit that is/has always been the case.

    While I actually agree that people turning on Taj as a starter is a distinct possibility, that doesn't mean that starting him over The Hole isn't still the right thing to do.

    Boozer despite people's perceptions has not even been a positive offensive presence as a Bull. The stats show that the Bulls have been no better with him on the floor than with him of the floor, with some bias toward actually being slightly worse.

    Given his historic all world craptastic defensive presence, there is no reason not to start Taj in his place, other than money/ego issues.

    We don't need Taj to be Kareem(never mind that the Hole isn't even equivalent to a 45 year old Kareem), he just needs to be a consistent version of good Taj, which in totality is infinitely better than the Hole any and every day of the week.

    I totally agree with Doug on the potential benefits of flip flopping Taj and the Hole, been there for most of the past 3 years. Whether the second unit actually becomes better is yet be seen, but it wouldn't hurt to find out early in the season, and if it doesn't work out for some reason, it would not be a big deal to switch back.

    "we haven't lost in the playoffs because boozer was starting over Taj", no we lost because the Hole was starting for us period and injuries of course.

  • In reply to Juiceboxjerry:

    I don't think people believe Boozer has turned into a pile of crap in one season. There are many people who've been upset about Boozer for the past three seasons.

    Taj's durability is certainly a question mark though as is how well he can play defense in 30 minutes a night of action instead of 20, but those are things you find out by playing him 30.

  • I think Taj will play 30+ min this year. Thibs has been using him at backup center as well during the preseason and we can get away with it against many teams. Nazr isn't going to play more than 12 min. He's too old. The biggest problem with Boozer is that he's useless against Miami. Bosh is too long and athletic for him and Battier can shut him down. But I think our best 5 man unit against Miami will actually be 2 ball handlers/penetrators Rose and Hinrich together in the backcourt with Deng or Dunleavy at the 4 to spread the floor with Noah playmaking from the high post and coming down to rebound. The Boozer/Taj conundrum is more relevant against Indiana and Brooklyn.

  • In reply to jlap49:

    Kirk isn't a penetrator. I know Gar and Pax talked about having him and Rose play together at times when they signed him but I just don't see the point. Rose is better with the ball in his hands creating shots for himself or others and Kirk can't shoot so what's the point??? Only reason Kirk would play would be to manage the offense with the ball in his hands and why take it away from Rose who is obviously the vastly superior talent?

    Kirk can't put pressure on the defense because he doesn't have the quicks anymore to penetrate. Only Teague has the ability to pressure the defense with dribble penetration.

  • In reply to Chad:

    The new offense helps make a Kirk/Rose backcourt work better because it will have more opportunities for Rose to do damage off the ball.

    That said, I generally agree with what you're saying.

  • In reply to jlap49:

    Taj at center may be the wrong tactic, as much as I hate to see him at all, there is some evidence that the Hole actually performs somewhat better at center than he does at power forward. This might dovetail nicely with moving him to the bench, where he can backup both positions. However, I do hope that his if finally the seaons that Taj's minutes increase from the low 20's range to the 30ish range.

  • In reply to jlap49:

    I think the Taj also plays closer to 30 minutes a game this year, of course I thought he was a lock to do that last year and it didn't happen so you never know.

    I could see the Bulls also going small frequently, it will depend a lot on whether they feel they can get anything out of Snell when he's on the court.

  • I like Taj, but have seen him miss way too many open 15-foot jump shots over the years. I hope that has changed based on his pre-season work, but I suspect it has not. As I have said before, the Bulls are spending a ton of dough on one position, populated by two one-way players. As you say, if Booz and Taj were each making $8 million per year as a one-way specialist it would make sense.

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    Although, I embrace Taj Gibson's shooting improvement, he is better suited coming off the bench. Taj is questionable when it comes to his low post scoring something Booze does well enough to draw fouls for and 1's. Plus if Booze was to play w/ the 2nd unit his lack of defense would really be exposed playing along side mostly offensive minded players. Taj does not have to be a starter, just remain a good 4th qtr finisher for the team.

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    I think his lack of defense would be exposed less against reserves than against starters.

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    "Booze" commits more offensive fouls than he gets and 1's, so stop already with his post game/scoring. Taj's post game has been slowing improving over the years, maybe this is the year that it finally becomes effective/efficient. The Hole still has the advantage as a fade away jump shooter, but Taj's mid range game looks noticeably better so far this preseason, so there is hope on that front also.

  • The Bulls didn't give Gibson a major contract unless they intended for him to eventually start. Boozer has been kind of crappy on offense during the preseason and if he's not producing on offense, what's the point of having him on the floor besides being a punching bag for the opposing team. Taj Gibson has worked on his body and shooting over the offseason and deserves to start eventually.......They probably have him start next season but if boozer keeps sucking, they should make the change sooner.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    I don't think Gibson got "starter" caliber money from the Bulls as a big man. 8 million a year is really more suited to be bench money.

  • Keep Boozer as the starter, but take away his minutes/add minutes to Taj as their play dictates.

    Not just my idea..,Thibs is probably thinkin' the same way!

  • Good points, but keep Boozer as the starter as long as he's on the team. Just play Taj more minutes this year - at PF and at C. I don't care of Booz just plays Bogan's role of the first 7-8 minutes of the 1st and 3rd, as long as Taj is playing well.

    I kind of like Boozer, but he generally sucks against any opposing players with skill, which may be why he sucks in the playoffs. He would be ideal against 2nd units. He should be able to keep Rose fresh and shoulder the load against these terrible teams trying to attain the #1 pick this year. At least he's got that going for him...

  • It is not a bad idea to experiment a bit to find out how players would fit in a new alignment. In fact, the Bulls should do that with Teague and Snell - they may need their potential for a deep playoff run this year. So, against weaker teams especially, try Boozer coming in off the bench.

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    A couple of flaws with your logic. One, preseason doesn't mean crap. Two, if Taj Gibson was all of that, we wouldn't have signed Boozer is the first place. We had a year and a third of seeing Gibson start before Boozer came along. The Bulls were a .500 team before Boozer joined the lineup. We already know what it looks like.

  • In reply to Charles Johnson:

    Agreed...Taj is currently going up against 2nd units and/or camp guys that may not even make the final cut for their respective teams. Over the last 3 seasons, the one constant in all the "bench mobs" has been Taj...probably not a good idea to mess with that.

    And whoever mentioned Boozer's defense getting exposed in the 2nd unit...you hit the nail on the friggin' head with that comment!

  • In reply to Charles Johnson:

    Derrick Rose going from good player to MVP player may have had something to do with the Bulls improvement as well as going from Vinny Del Negro to Tom Thibodeau.

    Boozer's advanced stats certainly don't point to him being the reason the team has improved, and Taj Gibson was in the league what 2 years when we signed Boozer? He may have improved some since then.

    Beyond that, I'm not suggesting that Boozer not play, just that his skills might be better utilized against backups since he's historically been known as a bum slayer, his defensive weaknesses would be minimized, and he'd play with a PG who's better at feeding the post.

    Taj's hustle and athleticism would work better in a faster lineup that gets up and down the floor and he's better at following Rose's missed shots for put back than Boozer is.

  • I've been in the Taj should start camp and Boozer should play with the second unit for a couple of years. Maybe your right, he might do well playing with Hinrich(and Dunleavy) on that unit.

    I firmly believe in putting your best defensive foot forward to start(and finish) the game, let the Hole score his garbage time points against the scrubs when the game is not on the line.

    However, since that doesn't seem like Thibs MO, I'd be thrilled if he was just converted into the second coming of Bozo the Bogans.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    You've been in the Taj should start camp and Boozer should hit the road for a while!

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Yea, your right, the headline probably should read, "Time to pull the plug on Carlos Boozer" without the tagline "as a starter".

    But the bandwagon should be rolling after tonights "stellar" preseason performance against the worst team in our division missing half its roster.

  • Taj deserves a chance to play with the starters and show what he's got, we already knows he plays with the finishers. And he'll get his minutes this season for sure if he's healthy, at backup center as well. But it's a matter of complementary players. I believe Taj makes Rose better (as the offensive focus), while Kirk makes Boozer better the same. So separating the units around those styles would be intriguing. Maybe the bench won't be defensive terrors, but they would score at will... I'd just like to see what it looks like for a few games. And one more thing: it seemsTaj has historically played better offense when starting...

  • Lets also remember, Taj is a notorious slow starter at the season's beginning. Last year, he started slow, finished slow. Let's not get too excited until he turns that slow start stuff around.

  • Many good points in the article and in the comments. You could make a case either way. I'll leave this one up to Thibs to determine as the season unfolds.

  • This might be a moot point. It seems Noah gets hurt an awful lot. Yes, I like Noah, but it seems he is injured, or hurting much of the time. Mohammed can only play limited minutes, so Taj & Carlos will need to put in alot of minutes. This team really could us another big man.

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