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Why Carlos Boozer Deserves More Love
- Updated: May 4, 2013
In 2010, the Bulls made the decision to sign Carlos Boozer to a 5 year, 75 million dollar contract. Bulls fans initially rejoiced as a post scorer was finally coming to Chicago. However, we all know how the story has gone thus far. He started by tripping over his gym bag, and breaking his hand before playing a game with the Bulls. He remained injury prone, he did not mesh well with Joakim Noah, and his defense was horrendous. Fans started booing him, calling him terrible and a disgrace. When the amnesty clause was announced, Boozer’s name became synonymous with amnesty. Throughout all of this I’ve had one question for Bulls fans. What did you expect?
I am aware that most fans do not look into statistics any more than what is simply on paper, but the criticism of Boozer, while justified, is confusing to me. Fans say that he is injury prone, and they expected to see him playing more. But do you know the last time Boozer played 82 games? Never. He got to 81 games twice, his rookie year and 2007, when he had his best scoring season, but the rest of his career has been full of injuries. All fans had to do was take a look at Boozer’s career, and they would have been able to tell that Boozer, while effective on the court, has moments where his health fails him. Also, Boozer was one of the most consistent Bulls this year playing in 79 games. That’s even better when you consider the fact that only two Bulls, Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler, played in every game for Chicago. He also played in all 66 games last year, and was a consistent performer for the Bulls. Never mistake his lack of health in his career for a lack of wanting to play, because Boozer has taken all the right steps to get healthy.
Let’s think about his defense now. So many fans just want to rip their hair out when they see Boozer rotate late defensively, lose focus while guarding his man, and not contest shots vigorously. I get upset when I see it too, but again I must ask, what did you expect? Boozer came from a Utah team that did not exactly pride themselves on defense. For the first half of Boozer’s time there, Utah finished in the bottom half of the league in terms of defensive rating. The other half saw them finish 12th, 10th, and 10th again respectively, but they were still not a defensive powerhouse, and Boozer had players like Ronnie Brewer around him to increase that rating. Boozer’s scouting report has never said that he is an intense defender, so it is strange that people expected him to come to Chicago and become an All-Defense power forward. To his credit, Boozer has improved tremendously in terms of defense since coming to Chicago. He puts forth effort more often, and gets upset when he messes up an assignment. The desire to be a good defender is there for Boozer now, but the ability to be one has always been lacking.
Fans also expected him to be throwing up 20 points a game, and while he has done that twice in his career, out of 11 career seasons, it was pretty foolish to think he would be scoring 20 a night here. When he was in Utah and scoring over 20 points per game, he was surrounded by players like Deron Williams, Mehmet Okur, Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko, and Kyle Korver. Almost every one of these players averaged double digits in scoring in Boozer’s best scoring year (21.1 PPG in 2007-2008) the only one not in double digits was Korver, and he was at 9.8 per game. He also had a pass first point guard in Williams who averaged 10.5 assists per game. Furthermore, he had a coach in Jerry Sloan who was an offensive genius. Boozer was put into more scoring situation in the pick and roll offense constantly run between him and Williams. In Chicago, the only offensive weapon Boozer has truly had around him is Derrick Rose, and Luol Deng is occasionally hot as well. The coach, Tom Thibodeau, while a defensive guru, is close to clueless when it comes to running an offense. There’s two different plays he calls for Boozer, one being a pick and pop, the other a post up. Thibodeau has a very limited offensive set, and it shows with how little the Bulls score, especially without Rose.
Even so, you also need to factor in how much playing time Boozer gets. This season, Boozer is playing roughly 32 minutes a game, and has scored more points than any other Bulls player. He’s averaging 16.2 points per game on 48% shooting. His shooting percentage is the worst of his career, but because he is one of the only true scoring threats on the Bulls, he has taken the third most shots per game in his career, and is getting defended much tighter when he has the ball. When he was enjoying his 20 points per game seasons, Boozer was playing around 35 minutes a game. If you average out his points scored a night to 35 minutes instead of 32, Boozer is averaging 17.6 points per game, which would put him above his career average by .7 PPG.
If you look at last season, Boozer averaged 15 points per game in 29.5 minutes a night. A lot of fans were upset at his lack of production, but he still shot 53% on the season, and if we average his points per game average to 35 minutes, he actually scored even better than this season, averaging 17.8 PPG per 35 minutes. Look back even more to his first season with the Bulls where he averaged 17.5 points per game in 31.9 minutes per game. Average that out over 35 minutes, he is up to 19.2 points per game. Of course, his first season here is when Derrick Rose won the MVP, so Boozer had more scoring opportunities with the defensive focus on Rose. But still, look at the numbers and you will see that Boozer’s production has been very good for the Bulls in terms of scoring. Expecting 20 points per game, especially in a Tom Thibodeau run offense, was pretty unrealistic if you think about it. But Boozer does score in the high-teens in less playing time than he got when he was scoring in the high-teens and low-twenties in Utah.
The next thing fans look at is rebounding. He was expected to average double digit rebounds, but he has never done so in Chicago. Boozer had his best year in terms of rebounding in 2006-2007 with Utah when he averaged 11.7 rebounds per game. Trivia time! Who was the second leading rebounder on the Jazz that season? If you guessed Mehmet Okur at 7.2 rebounds per game, you nailed it! The next closest was Paul Milsap at 5.2 rebounds per game. Basically, if Boozer wasn’t getting the rebound, the other team was. However, that isn’t the case in Chicago, one of the league’s best rebounding teams. Boozer is sharing the floor with either Joakim Noah, who averaged 11.1 rebounds per game this season, or Taj Gibson, or Nazr Mohammed. All three of those players, not to mention players like Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler fight tenaciously for rebounds, so Boozer is not the main guy going for the ball all the time. Even so, he averaged 9.8 rebounds this season, and 10.7 per 35 minutes. That’s just one rebound a game below his 2006-2007 output, and he’s fighting with more players for the boards. In 2011, though only averaging 8.5 boards a game, Boozer grabbed 10.1 per 35 minutes. In 2010, he averaged 9.6 rebounds per game, but over 35 minutes, he averaged 10.5 per game. You have to keep in mind that Boozer’s production is still very similar to that in Utah, he is just playing less minutes.
The main argument against Boozer by fans is that he is overpaid. In 2010, the Chicago Bulls offered Boozer a 5 year, 75 million dollar contract. Put yourself in Boozer’s shoes, you get offered a deal that pays you 75 million dollars over 5 years to play in one of the biggest markets in the entire NBA. Do you turn that down? I know I wouldn’t, and Boozer couldn’t either, so he signed the deal and came to Chicago. It’s not like he would say, “No Chicago, I’m not worth that much money, can you lower the offer a little bit?”
Chicago panicked after losing out on LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, so they shelled out a lot of money to the next best thing, and that was Carlos Boozer. Do not blame the player for the management overpaying him, and while he may not be worth 15 million dollars a year, he still gives the Bulls 16.2 points per game, and 9.3 rebounds per game over 31.2 minutes a game. It’s also not Boozer’s fault he doesn’t play more minutes. The Bulls knew what type of player they were getting when they signed him. A 29-year-old when the Bulls signed him, Boozer hasn’t gotten any younger. He’s not a player that can be shaped to become a great defender, he is a scorer, and that’s what management wanted. Unfortunately, Tom Thibodeau doesn’t really care that Boozer could be putting up 20 points a night if he played similar minutes to Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, because he wants his defense to be stifling more than he wants his offense to be sizzling. If Boozer was playing 35 minutes a night, he would be putting up 18.2 points per game, and 10.4 rebounds per game. While his production is lacking in comparison to his contract, you can’t blame him for the Bulls overpaying, or for Tom Thibodeau not playing him more. If you really look at all of the factors, you knew what you were getting in Carlos Boozer, and he’s been playing very well for the Bulls in the playoffs. So far against the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, Boozer has been putting up 17.5 points per game on 56% shooting, and 11.2 rebounds per game. You can be unsatisfied with the management for overpaying for him, or Tom Thibodeau for not playing him more, but Carlos Boozer deserves more love.
Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Leave a comment below, and I’ll get back to you!
(Photo one source) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2f/Carlos_Boozer.jpg
(Photo two source) http://www2.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Carlos+Boozer+Charlotte+Bobcats+v+Chicago+-GElPj6Gipgl.jpg
(Photo three source) http://img.spokeo.com/public/900-600/carlos_boozer_2012_04_02.jpg
Author: Rob Wegley
Co-Owner of The Runner Sports, Senior Editor for The Runner Sports, Writer for The Runner Sports focused on the NFL and the NBA. Located in the Chicago area. Professional journalist since 2012.