Boozer's Production Problems Part Physical, Part Smart Opposing Defense, Part Bad Bulls Decision-Making

Boozer's Production Problems Part Physical, Part Smart Opposing Defense, Part Bad Bulls Decision-Making

Bulls' fans target on Carlos Boozer's back is valid to an extent, but his re-post problem extends past him.

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Carlos Boozer was booed hard by Bulls fans in their team's Game 2 win to tie the playoff series with the Hawks. His offensive game wasn't pretty, but there was a step forward in his shot selection. He's adjusted it to the physical limitations of his injuries, but his problems in the post are stemming from good scouting by opponents and a decision-making problem by Booz and his teammates.
After Game 2, it was clear the Bulls saw the criticism as going too farTom Thibodeau defended his power forward, citing his hustle and rebounding. Joakim Noah added to this, refuting the boos, and saying the Bulls basically live and die as a team. This was mostly rhetorical expressions of chemistry, but not entirely false.
He's facing up too much because Al Horford and Josh Smith are ripping from the playbook of Roy Hibbert, Jeff Foster, Josh McRoberts, and Tyler Hansbrough in the first round. When Booz gets the ball in the post and can feel his defender's body, he's one of the best in the league at instinctually reading their weight distribution, making them over-commit to a power shift, and reacting to their weak side to create a high-percentage shot near the rim.
But the Hawks and Pacers' frontcourt are alluding this by taking a step back and extending only a light arm. Boozer's reacting by facing up -- which is a good move. The problem is that almost no big man's shot will be better than the one he can create by using his body to get closer to the basket. The face-up is best used to -- in future possessions -- back a defender down too early, so the post-up can occur closer to the basket by jumping back while catching the post-up pass.
Boozer isn't bluffing, though, and everyone knows this. He doesn't have the quick step to play that doublegame right now. The optimal option over facing up and shooting over his defender is the re-post. Just kick it back out and use that space given by the defender to establish a position so close that the defender can't afford to give space. Then, Boozer can feel that weight distribution with his back to the basket and exploit it for an easy bucket or draw a foul.
But his experience with the re-post attempt to Derrick Rose is that he won't get the ball back. Without this confidence, it's impossible to utilize Boozer's value -- especially when his ankle and foot won't allow him explode with a step or two and dunk or lay it up off the box on the glass.
The numbers don't lie. He's only averaging 10.0 PPG, shooting a possession-destroying .382 FG% in the first seven games of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. He isn't finishing strong, only shooting 16-for-40 (40%) at the rim after shooting .666 from there in six attempts per game during the regular season. The problem isn't only not getting to the rim, but not having the lift to elevate the percentage of those attempts to the unstoppable level where they should be.
After shooting a .701 FT% on 4.1 FTAs per game in the regular season, Booz is at .731 for the playoffs, but on only 19 FTAs. Playoff basketball is largely won at the rim and at the line. He's here to contribute to wins in those aspects, so that needs to be elevated past a regular season level for the Bulls to be the force necessary to win a championship and make those wins easier on teammates. Re-posting to play a better back-to-basket game will take care of this without the need for a healthy lift. Again, he's showed on possessions that neither Horford nor Smith have the upper-body strength to handle him in a ground-level game at the post. The problem is that scarcity of that game.
This problems aren't new for Booz. Before All-Star Weekend, he was the Bulls' easy-button in almost very game without Noah. He scored 19.3 PPG, shooting a .542 FG%. In early-March, he sprained his ankle and shot .464 and .440 in March and April.
Boozer's lost lift and Rose has shot an embarrassing 28% on 3-pointers (58-for-209) since All-Star Weekend, including the playoffs, and 38% on long-2s throughout the regular season (37.5% in the playoffs), so there's no damn excuse for Rose to not give Booz the confidence that he'll fulfill Booz's re-posts.
To say Rose bricking a trey or a worthless 20-footer is a better alternative is simply an illusion. Add in that Rose getting the ball back doesn't open up a pick n' roll opportunity for quick dribble penetration, as he's banged up, and setting two-man-game plays to post and re-post Boozer are so low-risk that it's almost basketball-stupid to have not gone to this by now.
Rose's pick n' roll decision-making and timing in Game 2 on Wednesday and Game 5 in the first round were very encouraging. It shows that he and Booz are communicating better to sync up on that aspect of the two-man-game. Rose's passes were terrible in Game 2, but at least the decision to pass quickly off of Booz's quick, hard roll is a huge step in the right direction. With Booz playing through pain, the momentum from the roll makes finishing easier and gives him the start to jump better.
But it's the re-post game that will punish defenses for not double-teaming or showing hard help on Booz in the post. After help on Booz, he's such a good passer that the shooters will have excellent catch n' shoot opportunities. On the pick n' roll, the better Rose's timing, the more defenders will be forced to help from the corner, leaving open shooters there, as well.
Boozer getting booed is all in good fun, but he's playing harder through pain that he did healthy on defense. The team is forcing missed shots, and Booz is establishing position well on rebounds to make up for the lack of lift very well in the playoffs, grabbing defensive boards at a team-high 26.5% rate. If his foot's not fine, he can't jump to dunk well or explode through holes for better layups, but his teammates can give him the space and opportunities to create easy buckets. And the coaches should reinforce this in the gameplan.
Stats via Basketball-Reference; Shot Location Stats via Hoopdata.

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  • Great analysis. I noticed while watching yesterday that every time Booz got the ball in the post he looked very indecisive. This probably explains a lot of it. I'm not used to seeing him play so non-deliberately in the post, so I just assumed his injury was messing with his confidence.

    As for the gimmes around the you think some of it also has to do with the athletecism of Smith, Horford, and Williams? Do you think (if the Bulls get by the Hawks of course) it will be easier for Booz to finish around the rim against the Heat when he would be challenged by Bosh, Z, and others or is the injury the sole reason for his close to the rim struggles?

  • In reply to BearDown1982:

    Boozer historically abuses athleticism with leverage. He backed Horford and Smith down with ease in Game1 in a select possessions, never failed to establish position when he tried, he just seldom tried.

    Off the top of my head: Bosh is playing really well to deny KG positioning. I have to think Thibs will specify in the gameplan that Booz backs him down to draw the double team and kick out for a three or hit the cutter to the basket. This would force Anthony on him, which can draw Anthony from the basket with Booz spacing out, opening up Rose's driving lanes.

  • Why did we not approach Stoudemire at all this pass summer?

  • In reply to Csharp:

    I don't remember the chronology, but wasn't he the first big signing? Also, his contract is $100m. The Suns didn't ask for anything in the sign-and-trade, but the Knicks made a huge move by conceding everyone but Amar'e and LeBron.

    I'm a big Stou_emire fan, surprisingly. I've always blamed the no D on coaching. He seems very far removed from a the kid who didn't want to be overcoached. Going back to Antoni, working on his jabstep, positioning off the ball, and maybe an even quicker pick n roll game shows that. I remember everything I read and heard around the sign-and-trade seemed like Amar'e to NY was a fait accompli for a while. That LeBron was actually serious about the option of staying in Cleveland, but only if they could land Amar'e, and after Amar'e only showed interest in NY, LeBron basically cut the Cavs out of the loop.

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