April 10, 2011; Orlando FL, USA; Chicago Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer (5) and forward Taj Gibson (22) react during the second half against the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center. Chicago Bulls defeated Orlando Magic 102-99. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Bustin' My Bulls: Carlos Boozer vs. Taj Gibson

After Carlos Boozer’s performance this past post-season, which was nothing short of terrible, the majority of Bulls fans have began to lose hope in his ability to help the Bulls win a championship. The suggestions have ranged from using the amnesty provision on his contract, giving Taj Gibson the starting role to staying put. The Bulls did go 50 – 16 with Carlos Boozer this season, after all.

Mar 16, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer (5) reacts after a play during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at the United Center. The Trail Blazers defeat the Bulls 100-89. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE

When it comes to statistics, Carlos Boozer beats Taj Gibson in nearly every offensive category. He scores more, he scores efficiently. He takes and makes more shots from every location on the floor and at a higher shooting percentage as well. Per 40 minutes, Boozer averages a strong 20 points and 11 boards while Taj lags behind with 15 and 10. It’s hard to argue that Taj would give the Bulls the same production offensively when you consider the statistics as well as how inconsistent his jumper is.

One thing most Bulls fans agree about though, is that Carlos Boozer transcends statistics. And that’s not in a good way.
He rebounds better than almost every power forward at his position. Why? Because he’s almost always early to box out. Why is he early to box out? Because he didn’t bother to rotate or contest the shot. Granted, he does a share of dirty work in the paint by grabbing some tough boards. When it comes to overall dirty work in the paint though, he leaves a lot to be desired.
Luckily, the Bulls have Joakim Noah to make up for it. Boozer also had the second-highest field goal percentage in the league among starting power forwards, following only Blake Griffin. When was the last time anyone saw Boozer hit a tough shot though? When was the last time he created for the Bulls on an otherwise broken possession? Carlos may have improved his efficiency, but the coaching staff also made it a point to get Boozer as many open looks as possible. In all honesty, when the 2nd highest field goal percen is 53%, it’s easy to chalk it off as  a down-year for power forwards. This season wasn’t even in Boozer’s top 5 in terms of FG%.
It isn’t all bad though. I’ve watched Carlos Boozer for a great chunk of his career and I can honestly say that he played the best defense of his career this season. I just read that over, and I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. Anyways, it’s clear that he put out a much better effort. He’s just bad at it. He’s slow, short and doesn’t have the best IQ either. Oh crap, I started off this paragraph saying “it isn’t all bad though”.

Apr 02, 2011; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) dunks the ball over Toronto Raptors power forward Ed Davis (32) and power forward Amir Johnson (15) during the fourth quarter at the United Center. The Chicago Bulls defeat the Raptors 113-106. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE

To be fair though, Boozer is usually money from 18 feet and when he gets a good rhythm going, the Bulls are almost impossible to stop. He did an admirable job of filling the void of Derrick Rose in the regular season, as some of his best performances came at times that the Bulls really needed his scoring. You can get away with running your offense through Carlos Boozer for stretches. He’s also one of the best passers at his position. Once him and Noah got it going, watching them find each other for easy shots in the paint was a joy to watch.

I think it’s safe to say that Boozer gave the Bulls his best effort this season. He came into training camp trimmed down, did a much better job on defense (although that isn’t saying much) and for the most part, did his job on offense.
I think it’s also safe to say that the Bulls are going to need more, from somewhere, if not him. That’s where Taj Gibson comes in.
I don’t think it’s fair to Boozer to say that Gibson has surpassed him already. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s fair to Taj if he continues to come off the bench while Boozer continues to royally screw up. In the beginning of the season, there were many games in which Boozer would find himself on the bench during critical moments while Gibson would be on the floor helping secure a win. Eventually, Boozer and Noah learned to play together and it was no longer an issue. That is until that trend started showing up again… in the playoffs. After Derrick Rose was pronounced out for the playoffs, Taj Gibson became the team’s top performer while Boozer would be considered the worst if not for CJ Watson.
While Carlos is clearly a better player than Taj on the offensive side of the ball, Taj is about ten times better than Boozer on the other side. Bulls fans know what Taj is all about. Stacey King calls him the hard hat lunch pail guy.
He cleans up. He likes to have block parties in the paint, he shows on pick and rolls, he runs the floor and he occasionally posterizes Chicago-bred all-stars that are not to be named. He’s everything fans love about players and that’s something that makes it easy to fantasize about him in a starters role. At this point, that’s something I think about everyday.
I don’t want to throw Boozer under the bus though. At the end of the day, he tried and he failed. But so did the rest of the team. Luol Deng wasn’t exactly at the top of his game. The bench mob left a lot to be desired while Joakim Noah found himself in street clothes. Rip Hamilton’s game logs (or lack thereof) speak for themselves. CJ Watson decided it was a good idea to pass to Asik instead of running out the clock or getting fouled. Boozer is an easy scapegoat and he has the kind of flaws that drive fans crazy. His play and contract is a problem at times, a problem that needs a solution.
A trade would probably be lop-sided, not in the Bulls favor. If the Bulls put Boozer on the market, teams would lowball them. And at the end of the day, even a decent trade for Boozer would leave a lot to be desired. He’s old, he has tons of years left on his contract and he isn’t exactly “championship calibre”. Teams aren’t going to be dishing out much for that. Using the amnesty on Boozer wouldn’t give the Bulls much either. It’d give them another void with even less scoring. Sure, it’d take them out of the luxury tax, but they wouldn’t be able to get much in the open market. The lack of legitimate options, and the advantages of this last option is why I suggest the Bulls should start Taj Gibson and make Boozer the sixth man.
Taj has earned it, and maybe in an offense that has better flow and can create better shots for him, as opposed to the offense led by Skywalker and Watson, Taj will be able to find himself a niche. Carlos Boozer, on the other hand, loves to feast on lesser players… something he’ll be able to do coming off the bench. The Bulls starting line-up would be one of the best all-time defensively, and the bench mob would have a legitimate source of offensive production. While Lakers were essentially able to trade Derek Fisher and Luke Walton for Ramon Sessions, I doubt the Bulls will be able to find themselves in a lucky break like that. Until then, giving Taj Gibson a chance to start seems like an option that needs more exploration.

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