Carlos Boozer needs more Kyle Korver

During the Pacers-Bulls series, Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau called Boozer a “lightning rod.” When things are going poorly, Booz gets the boos. That’s life. Derrick Rose can go 11-for-27, miss seven of eight three-pointers and commit 8 turnovers but get a pass. He’s already earned respect from the fans.

Boozer? Not so much.

He can’t do anything right. Before this postseason began, he had career playoff averages of 20+ ppg, 12+ rpg, 50+ percent shooting and a PER of almost 20. Yet he carried the tag of a playoff bum. Of courrse, if Carlos was giving the Bulls that kind of production right now, he’d probably be given the key to the city.

It’s not like Booz is sitting on this thumbs out there. This postseason, he ranks ninth in total rebounds (70), seventh in rebounds per game (10.0) and sixth in defensive rebounds (54). If you prefer advanced metrics, he ranks eighth in Total Rebound Percentage (18.0) and fifth in Defensive Rebound Percentage (26.5). By contrast, Joakim Noah is barely ahead of Boozer in TR% (18.1) and isn’t even in the top 10 in DR%, although Jo is fourth in Offensive Rebound Percentage (16.0).

The bottom line is: He’s doing his job on the boards.

For what it’s worth, Carlos also ranks 10th in Defensive Win Shares (0.4) and sixth in Defensive Rating (98.4). I’m guessing that’s largely because of his defensive rebounding and not all the defensive three second violations he’s been committing.

Now, people love to complain about Boozer’s defense, but he wasn’t brought in to shut guys down. He given that fat contract to rebound the ball and score points. Those are the specialties management is paying for. But as far as Bulls fans — including Horace Grant — are concerned, Boozer is starting to look like a cartoon bandit stealing bags of money from Jerry Reinsdorf’s giant money bin.

Said Grant: “This is a time when stars shine and they’re paid all that money to step up.”

Grant continued: “I’m sure Boozer is thinking, ‘Man, they’re paying me all this money, and this is the playoffs,’ but stop worrying about all that money and start worrying if you can contribute to a team winning. He has to put his ego aside for the betterment of the team.”

I get what Horace is saying. I do. But what about the team making changes to help Carlos out. Again, people want to bring up his defense, but I’m not sure that’s the issue. If Boozer was scoring 20 ppg and shooting 50+ percent, we probably wouldn’t be hearing from Grant.

Boozer’s not scoring. The question is: Why not?

Turf toe? Nah. He was struggling before that. Actually, if you check his splits, you’ll notice that Boozer was at his best offensively while Noah was out with injury. When Noah returned, Boozer’s numbers started to decline. That decline has continued during the postseason.

My take? The lineup Boozer is usually a part of — with Rose, Noah, Luol Deng and Keith Bogans — isn’t a shooter’s lineup. Yeah, Bogans has been knocking down threes at a decent clip, assuming he’s left wide open. But Bogans is left wide open because opposing defenses don’t respect him. And, despite their improvements in long-distance shooting, opponents aren’t quaking in their boots when Rose or Deng launch threes either. And there aren’t many teams in this league that wouldn’t dare Noah to chuck an open jumper.

Further compounding this situation is that opposing defenses clog the paint to prevent (or at least discourage) Rose from driving to the hoop. So defenders are sagging into the zone where Boozer likes to work. And Noah, who likes to patrol the basket area to shag for offensive boards, usually brings his man into Boozer’s zone as well.

As a result, Carlos doesn’t have the spacing he needs to work. Yes, he’s undersized and not a great leaper, and he’s had a history of getting shots blocked at the rim. But that’s much more likely to happen when he’s operating in a mosh pit.

For quite some time, I’ve wondered whether improved spacing would help Booz score more easily, and further theorized that Korver’s presence would give Carlos more room to work his wonders.

In response to my speculation, By The Horns reader uber_snotling used the StatsCube to uncover “a particularly stunning set of stats for the playoffs” that show how much better Boozer plays when paired with Korver. And vice versa.

In 132 Korver-free minutes, Boozer has averaged 9.3 points on 25 percent shooting and compiled a plus-minus score of -5.7. In 87 minutes with Korver on the court, Boozer has scored 15.7 ppg on 61 percent shooting and has a plus-minus of +22.3.


11 Responses to Carlos Boozer needs more Kyle Korver

    Bigdaddyguido May 6, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    I think Thibs is trying do what you say. The problem is, you just can’t start the game with korver on Joe Johnson. If Joe gets hot, he’s hot, theres no good defense at this point (see game 1). This continues when Atlanta brings in jamal Crawford, who is similarly hot or not depending on how he starts. So we run with bogans, who is doing an unbelievably consistent job defensively this season and can hit the wide open three to start. Then we bring in brewer to close out the quarter, and he and deng hopefully keep Joe johnson and Crawford in check. Finally, when boozer comes back in the game in the 2nd quarter, so does korver, and the play out the half. The pattern repeats the next half. It’s pretty logical, really; which is why it wins so many games. I wouldn’t have thought of it, but this is why thibs is COY.

    Ricky May 6, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    Thanks Matt, this article reaffirmed my thoughts on the situation that Thibs just needs to be more creative in getting Booz better looks.

  3. Inception May 6, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    it’s simple….for defense, Bogans/Brewer will be in there…if they need an offensive spark, Korver will be in there…..i’m sure this has been Thib’s basic approach all season long.

    considering how these playoffs have been shaping up for CHI, you’d think Korver is the guy they need to see more of.

    chitown4life May 6, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    @ Matt this is a great post . I like the way you break down the facts of what boozer is doing as well as what he is not doing. carlos is a solid player just not scoring but your last comment about the coach making some changes to help boozer out in his goal to score points more. I know he is a great addition to our team his physical play is needed ,also he does not get enough credit for the work he puts in on the boards. thank you for saying that also.This team will be fine if they play as a team and D rose is himself, a lot of things go unnoticed on this team but the one thing you cannot miss is there record its not a fluck. they won this many games playing hard as a team and that is what they must continue to do to win as a team. I love they have each others back no matter what the critics say. Go bulls

    BFD May 6, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    I agree that Boozer + Korver are good for offense….the problem is they are bad at defense and Coach preaches defense above all else.

    If anything, I think you should put Taj in there at the beginning of the game and have Boozer come in with Korver with the second unit. Run your offense with Rose and Deng to begin the game, then with 3 minutes remaining in the first run out a line up of Rose, Korver, Deng, Booz, Asik. Deng can D up JJ, Rose on Crawford, and run your offense between Rose, Kyle, and Booz.

    Bex May 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    Good post. A couple thoughts–I know that Booz is injured now but I have been watching the whole season and his movement is off more often than it is on. Thats a Boozer problem, not a team problem. I think his issues are mostly mental. Even with two good feet underneath him, he doesn’t finish strong enough at the rim. He looks and plays for the foul but he hasn’t been getting those calls all year–he isn’t going to start getting them now. And the stupid techs and freebies he gives are not helping his case. I think people favor Taj because of his mental toughness and his willingness to fight for the ball. His numbers don’t match Boozer for sure and I still support Booz. I think he can be great in this team at this time.
    One more thought–Korver has significantly improved on the defensive end in my opinion. Unfortunately in this series he would be on someone nearly impossible to guard for a great defender. I am good with Bogans for now but would like to see Korver start next year if we don’t upgrade that position.

  7. Anonymous May 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    First Thibs will not juggle the line up in this third game, when I am sure he believes they lost the first game because of defense.

    Second, Since they wont juggle the lineup…they need to work on spacing in a different way(without Korver)…Boozer and Rose need to work the pick and roll at the free throw line…looks like that will get Boozer a lot of easy attempts. By pulling Boozer to the top of the key that will draw open the paint for either Rose or Noah…and Boozer can make that top of the key shot efficiently.

    It is not surprising that when Noah or Boozer played with Thomas–they were both more efficient offensively. Thomas played that top of the key area like the veteran he is. They need Boozer to get out of the blocks, since he is being doubled and tripled…and get to the top of the key to open up the paint. Boozer has a better chance of drawing his defender up there as opposed to Noah right now. Drawing the defenders away from Noah will open up his post play…Noah can punish this team and has shown the offense in the post to do it.

    Rose has to recognize who is most efficient offensively right now…Deng in the wing–either with the 10 foot bank shot or driving the lane, Noah in the post and Boozer with the pick and roll at the free throw line. Rose has to go to his strengths against this defense…pull up jump shots 8-10 feet away–off picks…until they can get more spacing in the paint for him to drive successfully. He needs to back off the quick 3pt shot and run the offense…I would like to not see more than 3-4 3pt attempts by Rose till he finds his rhythm.

    uber_snotling May 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    Thanks for taking the time to comment on this topic Matt.

    Two person +/- comparisons are flawed in some ways, but can be very informative. For another stat backing up the argument, look at the 5 man units from Basketball Value.

    Two units have played more than 16 minutes during the playoffs for the Bulls. Rose-Bogans-Deng-Boozer-Noah at 102 minutes and Rose-Korver-Deng-Boozer-Noah at 61 minutes. The starting unit is +3.1 and the Korver unit is +24.5. The starting unit has an off rtg of 97.3 and a def rtg of 94.2. The Korver unit has an off rtg of 128.6 and a def rtg of 104.6. That’s 30% more points scored per possession when he is on the court, for 10% more points allowed.

    The goal of basketball isn’t to stop your opponent from scoring, it is to end up with the most points. Thibodeau may be too obsessed with defensive stops and not concerned enough with offensive execution.

    As Matt said, if they are sagging off Bogans to limit the effectiveness of Boozer and Rose, the opposing defense has a much easier time of making the Bulls a bad jump-shooting team.

    Nick May 6, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

    Defense wins championships and korver can’t play D. Bofans received a vote for DPOY from true hoop. Who else will guard joe johnson, dwade, ray allen,etc?

    uber_snotling May 6, 2011 at 7:31 pm #


    Defense wins championships, but both teams play defense. Korver requires a defender, Bogans doesn’t. Korver won’t shut down Joe Johnson, dwade, or Ray Allen, but neither will Bogans. Superstars are going to score on anybody. The question is whether the Bulls can put together a unit that can outscore the other team through offense and defense. And the starters have shown through 7 games that they are a poor offensive unit.


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