Chicago Bulls: Carlos Boozer Could Be an All-Star with Derrick Rose Sidelined

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Chicago Bulls: Carlos Boozer Could Be an All-Star with Derrick Rose Sidelined
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Carlos Boozer is poised to have his biggest year with the Chicago Bulls and could very well return to the All-Star form he had in Utah.

While this will be viewed as a shocking statement, in all reality it shouldn't be when you consider what Boozer did in Rose's absence last year and that he's not that far off right now. 

Last season when Rose was not on the court, Boozer actually played better than people realize, according to NBA.com's Advanced Stats. He averaged 19.8 points and 10.9 rebounds per 36 minutes. 

That's right on par with the 19.0 points and 11.2 rebounds per 36 minutes on .541 shooting in Utah. In essence, when Rose isn't on the court, Boozer has been precisely the player we thought he'd be, so it's not a stretch to say that's who he can be with Rose out for an extended time. 

In fact, Boozer's overall production isn't that bad, either: 19.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per 36 minutes in Chicago. 

The reality is that, while he's been on the court, he's been fine. The drop is in minutes more than anything.

That's not to entirely excuse Boozer of blame there; the reason for his drop in minutes has to do with his defense, which honestly wasn't anything special in Utah, either. 

With one exception (in his favor), who Boozer was in Utah really isn't that different than who he is in Chicago, so his return to All-Star form is more a return to minutes on the court than anything else. 

The difference in his favor is that he's been asked to play differently in Chicago than he did Utah—more away from the basket.

In Boozer's last year in Utah, 52.6 percent of his shots came at the rim, according to Basketball-Reference. Last year in Chicago, 31.2 percent of his shots came within three feet of the rim. 

Just to show that everything Boozer does isn't bad.

Additionally, last year in Chicago 72.8 percent of his shots were jump shots. Of those, 464 were in the range of between three feet and 16 feet. 

Some people have complained about Boozer's change in style, but he's been asked to do that. By taking his game away from the basket he opens up the way for Derrick Rose to get to the rim. That's the game plan.

And never, ever, fault a player for following the game plan. 

Just for the record, the game plan works. When Boozer shares the court with Rose, 39.2 percent of Rose's shots come at the rim, and he makes them 60 percent of the time. When Boozer is on the bench, only 32.1 percent of Rose's shots come at the rim, and he makes them only 44 percent of the time. 

That's because Boozer is a far better jump shooter than people give him credit for being, especially in the area from 16-23 feet. Only one player with more than 100 attempts from that range had a better field-goal percentage than Boozer, and that was Steve Nash, who is one of the greatest shooters ever. 

Still, as proficient as Boozer is jump shooting, he is even better in the restricted area, where he made 68.8 percent of his shots.

Without Rose needing Boozer to open up the way to get to the rim, Boozer won't be asked to drift out as much. It's a reasonable supposition that Boozer will get more looks at the rim than he did the last two years. In turn, he'll make an even higher percentage of his shots, and he therefore will score more. 

Another interesting factor with Boozer last year is that his production was better when Rose wasn't on the court, even though he was getting fewer feeds. When Rose was on the court with Boozer he averaged 8.1 assists per 36 minutes; compare that to 5.4 for John Lucas III or 5.8 for Watson.

No player was as adept at finding Boozer as Rose, and Boozer was the most frequent recipient of Rose's assists.

Yet, in spite of that, Boozer still saw an uptick in his scoring when he was on the court without Rose. That's a clear indication that Boozer is the focal point of the offense when Rose is out, which again leads to the conclusion that Boozer will have an increase in his production this year. 

With a purer passer on the court in Kirk Hinrich, expect Boozer to get more passes in the post, and expect to accordingly see his usage, scoring and field-goal percentages go up. 

If Boozer has a 20-point, 10-rebound season, should the Bulls amnesty him?

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But alas, what about the defense? There are a few things that suggest that the defense won't keep him off the court. 

First, unlike last year, the Bulls have two elite defenders among their bigs, not three. While Gibson will get a lot more minutes, he can't play two positions at one time. Expect Boozer to move over to center and play with Gibson more often. 

Boozer and Gibson were remarkably effective together last year. When they shared the court, the Bulls offensive rating was 107.0, and their defensive rating was a mere 91.3. That's a ridiculous net difference of nearly 16 more points. 

That's because Boozer is a far better defender at the center position than the power forward position. 

Boozer already is the Bulls' second-best offensive weapon after Rose. That alone will get him more touches. When you add to that the fact that Hinrich is a better facilitator than Watson or Lucas, that should make Boozer's numbers go up even more. 

Finally, as the Bulls find ways to be creative (and by "the Bulls" I mean Tom Thibodeau) to keep Boozer on the court more, his minutes will go up. 

More minutes that are more productive means Boozer easily will eat up that minor difference in production between Chicago and Utah. A 20-point, 10-rebound season is not at all out of the question for Boozer. Expect him to return to All-Star form and possibly even make his way into the All-Star game this year. 

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