Can Carlos Boozer buck the trend of declining FA bigs?

The 2010 off-season shook up the NBA like few off-seasons ever have before.   While most of the attention focused on LeBron James, and to a lesser extent, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, it was the most loaded big man free agency group in recent memory.

Thus far, returns on the court, haven’t matched expectations.  Does it take more time to integrate a big man into an offense?   Were these guys all overrated?   Will Carlos Boozer buck the trend?

Chris Bosh has been the most mocked big man acquisition so far.   His PER dropped from 25 to 18.1.   His scoring per 36 minutes has gone from 23.9 to 15.9, his rebounding has gone from 10.8 to 6.4.    You can certainly make the claim that his shots have dropped because of his teammates, and that’d be fair, but his efficiency has gone down as well.

Maybe it’s poor coaching, but you’d think he’d be dropping the more difficult shots each game not the easy ones and have an increase in efficiency even if there’s a decrease in scoring.   Given how desperately Miami needs rebounding and interior play his lack of rebounding this season is also surprising.

I can’t say I’ve actually watched David Lee play a game yet this year, but his drop off statistically appears significant as well.  He went from a PER of 22.6 to 16.5 with his scoring average per 36 dropping from 19.6 to 14.8.   It’s not difficult to imagine the lack of scoring for Lee in the GS guard centric offense, but his FG% has also dropped from 54.5% to 46.4%.   Given his large uptick in rebounding this might be a matter of Lee missing a lot of tip shots (which count as an offensive rebound and a field goal miss).

The Warriors are off to a better than expected start to the season, so it’s also hard to proclaim Lee a huge disappointment if they’re winning games, but the production hasn’t been what it was in NY, and you certainly can’t claim the pace is slower now.

Finally, Amare has seen his PER drop from 22.6 to 17.3, and while his scoring has only dropped from 24.1 to 21.7 per 36, his FG% has dropped from 55.7% to 45.3%.   Watching Marion and Amare on teams other than the Suns probably lends a lot of credence to why Steve Nash won the MVP award. 

Now it’s early for all these players, real early.   They could get much better.   They may need to integrate with their teams more, who knows.  We’ll have to wait and see.

However, the fourth major big man acquisition has yet to step on the floor.  Carlos Boozer hasn’t even had a preseason game to judge him by yet, but he had the stitches on his hand removed and is two weeks away from fully practicing with the team.   This puts him on target with the generally expected recovery path for his injury.

Can Boozer buck the trend that Lee, Amare, and Bosh have set?   I think we’ll need to be patient with Boozer as the deck is stacked against him even worse than Lee, Amare, and Bosh since he hasn’t even had a preseason to practice and adjust to his teammates.   I’ll be excited to see him back on the court, but I won’t be surprised if takes a month to work him effectively into the offense and get him on the same page with everyone else.

I expect the Bulls to try bringing Boozer off the bench for a couple of games initially in limited minutes, but how long will they do that which brings up an interesting question.   If he does take awhile to play well then what if he can’t outplay Taj Gibson?   Do you still promote him to the starting lineup?  

Gibson has a 19.9 PER and is averaging 18.3 points, 7.7 boards, 1.7 assists, 1.7 blocks, and 1 steal per 36 minutes right now on FG% of 61.3%.    While I expect those numbers to take a healthy dive over the next month, what if they don’t and Boozer is struggling out of the gates?

Too early to talk about a controversy there, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we’re arguing about this in February.


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  • Scoring big men are like prima donna wide receivers in that they need so much around them to go correctly to be effective. WR's need a good offensive line, a smart quarterback, a decent running game, and a good offensive coordinator to put up big numbers. Likewise, scoring bigs need a good PG to get them the ball, solid wing shooters to spread the floor, and an offense geared towards them to put up big scoring numbers. And just like the big name, prima donna WR's out there, people think they are the main reason they are putting up big numbers when it is really everything else around them going well that makes them effective. Rebounding is still the most important thing for a big because that's the most effective way to help a team and create offense for yourself.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    Good analysis, and I will be waiting to see if the Bulls perimeter players will continue to improve cause once Boozer does return everyone's game should get better once he gets use to the offense. At least that's how things should work.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    I feel like big guys more so than wing players need to be put into a position to succeed.

    David Lee was just about the point guard in NY through lack of other options when he put up his year of big scoring totals. I'd expect he'll keep the rebounding numbers and lose the scoring numbers he showed in NY, reverting to the rate he showed before last year, but he was always efficient so it's probably just a blip that his FG% is down.

    Amare is a black hole, you give him the ball and he's going to try to shoot it, so to look good he needs a point guard who feeds him the ball in a position to make shots. Felton isn't Nash, no surprise he's not as good this year. I expect he'll continue to struggle.

    Bosh was always going to lose both points from getting fewer shots, and rebounds since outside of Bosh Toronto sucked at rebounding. I also dispute the idea that we should expect his efficiency to improve with fewer shots, I think for bigs it's hard to say that, since their shots are at the mercy of the guards getting them the ball. Bosh has gone from getting the ball whenever he wants it in Toronto to getting the ball whenever LeBron and Wade don't want it, in such a situation it's not unreasonable to think he might be getting worse shots now.

    What does this mean for Boozer? Well Rose is probably going to take a larger percentage of shots than he's used to the PG taking, so that's bad for him. But he's shown he can get Gibson good looks, so that's good for him. Noah is going to grab more rebounds than Okur, so his numbers will suffer there. I'm guessing he'll end up somewhere near 18/10 per 36 on low to mid 50s shooting, ie the same efficiency but slightly lower numbers. Which as you point out, is slightly worse than what Gibson is currently providing.

  • Funny how we posted basically the same things about all four players. You could have posted sooner so I could just write "what he said". :)

  • 1. Bosh obviously has been a bust until now because of various factors in Toronto like a no-pressure team, having a lot of shots etc.. He is an above average player but his attachment to Wade has got him more hype, pressure than normal....It is tough to envision him as a HOF player.
    2. Amare is strange in the sense that he is failing in D'Antoni's system which Lee succeeded. He is not a good rebounder/defender and if he doesn't score....he is useless for his salary. He is physically gifted but seeing him getting dominated by Gasol showed his limitations as a skilled player and franchise building player.
    3. Boozer is actually the most accomplished of the lot...He has done well before DWill was there at Utah. He got dominated by the Lakers in the playoffs because of his physical limitations. He is definitely no Barkley and he is probably the 3rd best player on a championship team.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    Bosh doesn't fit with Miami, Amare! benefited for years from Nash, & Lee is coming off a career year in a system that allowed him more rebounding & put back opportunities. I can't think of anyhting, even coming back from injury, that would hinder Boozer's production here.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    "Amare!" Nice.

  • I think it was true all along. The bulls and pistons finally showed in the late 80's/early 90's you could win without a great scoring big man. It's still easier to win with a great scoring big man, but it doesn't guarantee anything to have one now. Houston hasn't won anything with Yao because they don't have great guards, even Yao and McGrady didn't get anywhere. Hakeem didn't win anything when he wasn't getting very good supporting work around him. Even Shaq was sabotaged by bad guard play. Robinson never won anything by himself. And you don't think Stockton played a pretty big role in Malone getting to the finals? Gasol?

    A good big man just like a good wing might win a few regular season games and get a team to the playoffs, but that's it. Is Amare going to get the Knicks to the playoffs? Did Bosh get the Raptors to the playoffs last year?

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    I think it's probably more important to have a great defensive big man as opposed to a great offensive big.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    On an unrelated note, awesome show discussing Miami Heat:

  • Admiral Gibson

    You said: "Gibson has done an admiral job..."

    Actually, it's admirable, not admiral. (I've made my own share of writing mistakes on this blog.)

    Taj Gibson may be no David "The Admiral" Robinson, but you can call him Admiral Taj anytime.

  • sell Taj to a team in need of a PF, trade him while his stock is high. the Bulls already committed to Boozer by making him their BIG fa acquisition. Which means he starts, you dont allow controversy, and you dont (and i repeat DONT) overvalue an older 2nd yr player, get what you can in regards to a number 2 and improve this team 1-5 and find someone to fill in the rotation

  • In reply to ChardBull85:

    Carlos Boozer's production will decline 3 or 4 years time of his 5 year contract, while Taj will be in his prime. If Booz can mentor him for 2 or 3 more years than step aside to let the younger player take over, that's an enviable position to be in. Look at the Spurs with Tim Duncan mentoring DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter. Also, we have very little roster flexibility to make a move like what your suggesting. Boozer is an injury risk with his history and it wouldn't be wise to move a player that can step right in if he goes down. And lastly, click the link below and look at the available FA power forwards. Who on that list can come anywhere close to replacing Gibson's production?

    Did I also mention that he's shooting over 55% FG on the year with a very improved range & accuracy, as well as an expanded post game?

  • you try and sell Taj to a team in need of a 4. the bulls committed to Boozer and he will be the starter struggling or not and the last thing you want is a controversy. this is a time where you can shop and older 2nd yr player and try and upgrade at the 2 position. You cant overvalue Taj like the bulls have done in the past. its always harder to upgrade 1-5 and easier to find adequate backups 6-9 to fill in for a Taj.

  • I think most of the posters are of a like mind on this one. Regarding Bosh and Lee: Beware of players that put up good numbers on bad teams unless their shooting percentages and overall efficiency ratings are through the roof. I think both were a little overrated. In addition to D'Antoni's system (which also benefited Lee last season), Stoudamire was also a beneficiary of Nash's adept passing as stated earlier.

    If Miami was an inside-oriented team Bosh's numbers would be better. Pau Gasol's numbers didn't change drastically when he got to LA from Memphis because the triangle runs through the big man and Phil gives Pau the green light to look for his shot. The offense will never run through Bosh as long as playing with Wade and LeBron. And he won't get as many rebounding opportunities in Miami. But again, as stated earlier, that's no excuse for the dip in his efficiency. Bosh has to accept that he can only maximize his value to Miami by using his length and athleticism to play outstanding help defense and consistently outrun his defender in transition.

    I'm looking for Boozer's scoring and rebounding to drop a couple of points in Chicago but I fully expect his assists and efficiency to go up a point or 2. He may have been ranked by most as the 3rd best of the top 4 PF's on the FA market last summer, but he has a better back-to-the-basket game than all of them and he's likely a better passer, too. I expect him to make a bigger positive impact than Lee, Stoudamire and Bosh because, like an earlier poster stated, his skill set lines up well with what Thibs wants and needs him to do for the Bulls.

  • Ok, but can you think of any great scoring big men that won without quality guard play? Hakeem probably comes the closest in 94, but he was playing with very solid guards in Cassell, Smith, Elie and Maxwell.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    any quality team is going to have scoring from all over the floor

  • I think my point is that great scoring big men don't translate to teams winning without a lot of contributing factors, they may still be individually great, but it doesn't lead to anything. Lebron or Jordan or AI even can get a team of stiffs who can rebound/play defense to the conference finals, but David Robinson or Yao or Amare can't without strong guard play. Hakeem is the only example I can think of where a team just threw it into the post and then ran back and played defense. I guess Wilt got his teams to the finals, but he never beat the more defensive oriented Russell who had better guard play around him.

  • I have to say, after watching the Heat's first nine games, was I wrong in thinking Bosh would have been a better fit for the Bulls as opposed to Bosh.

  • In reply to claytonabigsby:

    I know wouldn't we be so pissed if we paid the max for bosh when Taj is putting up the same numbers with less minutes and a better shooting %

  • In reply to claytonabigsby:

    The bulls have the best point guard and 2nd best center in the east. When boozer gets back we will be a force to be wrecking wid. We will dominate heat. PLus in all the 3 games we lost, if we had boozer we would be 7-0 right now. Just saying. Food for thought.

  • In reply to claytonabigsby:

    Sorry as opposed to Boozer.

  • I don't buy into it either, but in general, great players of any position make all the other players around them better. If you have multiple great players that compliment each other, then you have a championship team. But there is a reason why GMs always take the big man, all things being equal.

  • I wouldn't bet against Bosh going 'Vin Baker' (in reference to performance...not necessarily going all drinky). He's in the spotlight for really the first time, he moved to the city with perhaps the most outside 'distractions' of any in the NBA, and he went from saying he wanted to be 'The Man' to playing Gazoo to Lebron and Wade's Fred & Barney. To top it off, he went from being mildly liked to being a villain.

    Of course, it is still early, and once Pat Riley takes over as coach (after they lose on Christmas Day in front of tens of millions of viewers), this may all change.

  • Taj has improved from last season, and all the people who said he couldn't improve because he was a little older were wrong. He is playing very well and it is not guaranteed that Boozer will out perform Taj significantly.

    Once Boozer returns I could see Taj playing a few minutes at SF (depending on matchups) to give Deng a bit more rest.

    All those years Bulls were weak inside, now we are solid inside and weaker on the perimeter. The regular season tends to be more perimeter oriented. But come playoff time no team advances without a seriously good frontline. The frontline depth of Noah, Boozer, Taj, Asik will help in the playoffs.

  • In reply to Edward:

    I know seriously that is the key to championships! Look at the lakers Gasol Bynum Odem holy crap! How do they afford all their players?? They just added Blake and Barnes!?

  • In reply to UtahBullsFan:

    The Lakers had the highest payroll in the NBA last season and I'm sure it's even higher now. He's taken full advantage of the "soft" cap by spending big and spending wisely.

  • In reply to magestew:

    Hopefully that soft cap ends they payroll is 94mil the magics is close to that and the Celtics is like 89 or 84 mil its no wonder why these teams are so good!!!

  • In reply to Edward:

    Damn lebum already throwing his coach under the bus crying because he played to many mins wow this guy is a real asshat

  • In reply to jaymccray:

    Link please??

  • In reply to UtahBullsFan:

    Never mind I found it! What a pussy dude drose plays just as many minutes as him!!!

    If Lebron hade the same attitude as Drose he would be ten times better! To me Lebron is still a High School he never grew up!

    I was on the live chat with Drose through eastbay. And Drose said that he is just driving a pickup truck right now he's not buying himself another car until the Bulls take the next step or he makes MVP.

    Who has that kind of attitude seriously? I know he bought himself a Maserati when he first came in the league but thats a given!

  • In reply to Edward:

    @ Edward, I completely agree. In the regular season, you have little time to thoroughly prepare for your next game, so guards can more easily dominate off of sheer athleticism. Think LeBron and Cleveland the last few years. Able to dominate during the season but exposed during the playoffs. In a 7 game playoff series, coaches and teams dissect their opponents like a surgical scalpel. The mathcups, opponents tendencies, strengths and weaknesses are all intently studied. In such an intense and often physical environment, the frontline's role is magnified, and their are very few teams with a frontline that can rival ours. In addition to talent, sheer force of will is what matters in the playoffs and who in the NBA plays with more intensity than Noah? Boozer is talented AND a tough and physical grinder. Gibson and Asik are young but they're no punks and won't back down to anyone. The only team in the East I see that can match our frontline in a 7 game series is Boston. I think we could have as good a chance as any time to be in the Eastern Finals this year.

    I hope I didn't drink too much Kool-aid, lol!

  • I think that your version of the great big man theory applies more to centers, and the countervaling thoughts posted by others applies moreso to power forwards.

    Which is another way of saying that you are both correct.

    This would also explain the great defensive bigman theory since they are almost always centers.

    A great scoring power forward probably has more in common with a great scoring small forward or even a shooting guard than he does with a center in terms of how his position relates to and affects the rest of a teams overall dynamic.

  • That's why I said that even though Bosh's scoring and rebounding averages might decrease, that's no excuse for the dip in his efficiency. I think his efficiency will improve as the season progresses and the team starts to gel. I can't hazard a guess about Lee's efficiency ratings. I'm not familiar enough with Keith Smart as a head coach and I know how D'Antoni's style can inflate numbers. I predict Boozer's efficiency ratings won't take a big dip because, like Gasol, Boozer's role won't change drastically.

  • Your conundrum is exactly why I don't care much for all these fancy new statisical analyses.

    If you understand the game, you still get more out of watching it than you do from reading pages and pages of advanced stats.

    I'll trust my eyes and my gut over any stat geeks spreadsheet every time.

    By the way, I spent 5 years working as a financial analyst for a bank, where numbers are just about all that matters, so I am a numbers guy in general, just not when it comes to sports or human behavior.

  • I pretty much agree about Boozer, I liked him a lot more than RuPaul Bosh going in.

    The only way I see Boozer suffering some, is if Rose is not as good of a pure point as Deron Williams is, which is likely the case.

    I will be shocked though, if Boozers rebounding number crash the way that Bosh's have. Rebounding is about character as much as it is about physical ability.

    Boozer is just much tougher than Bosh, mentally and physically.

    I can't wait to see how good we are going to be when Boozer is back.

  • Boozer starts the day that he is physically ready, I can't see how anybody can even debate that.

  • Everbody was so afraid of the heat but lebum and d-lame are the same players. chris bosh have always been a pussy... yeah they have two of the top five players but they are the same players who can't really shoot the three at a good rate I do feel good about my bulls making a run at the finals this heat team will be beatable but I still feel we need a wing though

  • In reply to jaymccray:

    You may be getting a little ahead of yourself.The Bulls are good and will have a descent year but without strong perimeter scoring the Bulls won't get that far meaning the Finals. You are forgetting about Boston and Orlando, teams that have a very good inside outside game. If the Bulls make the right kind of moves to improve their weaknesses, then they might have a shot at the finals.

  • In reply to jaymccray:

    Hey you forgot about Al Jefferson. Given the fact that he's boozers replacement in Utah he he should probably be used for comparison once Boozer's back. I'm not worried about Booz at all. The thing I'm most excited about is his mid-range game. We've already seen how much success Taj is having when he starts hitting that elbow jumper. I can't wait to see those trademark Boozer teardrops. Also, I think is helping Noah to have that beast in the weight room with him lol.

  • In reply to jaymccray:

    I wish numb nuts would start playing James Johnson regularly in an effort to increase his trade value. Why not put him in as a point forward when Rose sits or try him a 2 guard or at SF when Deng sits? If Gibson continues to play well and Johnson shows he can play it significantly enhances our chances of trading Deng, Gibson, Johnson and draft choices to Denver for Carmelo. I hope the Bulls front office realizes that with Carmelo on the team along with Rose, Noah and Boozer puts them right into the conference championship and one of the elite teams in the league.

  • Just from watching Boozer I think as a person despite his past injuries/taking games off, he still seems like way more of a presence/capacity for winning then Bosh. Even with guys who are black hats/a-holes you still see a lot of presence with so many winners on contending/championship teams. In that department from what I have seen so far, I'd have to go with Boozer over Bosh every time, and probably Stoudemire as well.

    As for Taj, he has the character/solid presence about him that you can count on. He's just a good guy to have on your team. I'd hate to lose him, but if he keeps playing like this along with Luol averaging near 20 a game on good efficiency maybe Carmelo trade is not impossible. Though still very unlikely. And Taj if he keeps playing anywhere near the level he has will get his minutes whether the Bulls have to play he or Boozer some at center or whatever they will find a way to get him on the court. I don't care if they have to play him some at SF as Gar suggested when they drafted him.

  • Taj Gibson has develop a great post game....he is using his pivots, pump fakes, up an his jumper is getting even better. That said.....when Boozer comes back, Taj is backup PF getting about 20-24 min a game or so....his value is at his highest right if we do have a good trade on the table....pull the trigger imo. But if we dont have a trade on the table....i love having Taj on this team. He has been outstanding so far.

  • Haslem and Z are way better rebounders than Bargnani. Heck, LeBron & Wade are both better rebounders than Bargnani. That Bosh is struggling to find as many rebounds as he did in Toronto is not surprising at all.

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  • I agree Mitchell, Boozer should be that 2nd guy who can easily create offense for himself. In addition to being one of the best pick n' roll big men in the game, he is also accomplished with scoring with his back to the basket in the post, can drive and finish with either hand, and is a very good shooter from 18 feet and in.

    However, I am very encouraged by Taj's progress. His range and accuracy have increased and he has developed some nice post moves. I think Taj would be served by letting Booz mentor him over the next couple years. By year 4 or 5 of Boozer's contract, Boozer will very likely be on the decline and Taj should be in his prime and ready to take over.

  • LMBO! I'd give him maybe Captain, lol. He is averaging 17.7 points per 36 mins, after all.

  • I think Boozer's rebounding numbers probably will take a dip next to Noah and vice versa, both neither players will crash. Include Gibson in that as well. If anything, I think it will be a small decrease as the Bulls continue to dominate the league inside behind one of the biggest and toughest frontlines (including Asik) in the game.

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