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 NBA.com 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.