Yesterday ESPN's Marc Stein reported that the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors have discussed a deal to swap Bulls forward Carlos Boozer for Toronto's Andrea Bargnani. Unless they're getting more than the Italian forward, the Bulls would be big losers in the deal.
Although older and more expensive, Boozer is simply a better player than Bargnani and that is what should be important for a championship contender.
As hated as Carlos Boozer is, he really hasn't been that bad for the Bulls. His player efficiency rating of 17.4 is 11th amongst power forwards who average 30 or more minutes per game. Last season, he was 11th amongst all players at the position and in his first year with the Bulls he was 15th with the two players directly ahead of him averaging under 25 minutes per game.
That may not be what the Bulls were hoping for when they signed him as a free agent, but it's certainly not the disaster some have made it seem.
Over the last three seasons, Boozer has an average PER of 18.6, significantly higher than Bargnani's 15.7. Perhaps Bargnani would be better with the Bulls than he is with the Raptors, but even Bargnani's best season—in which he had a PER of 17.9—was just slightly better than Boozer's worst as a Bull.
The perception is that Bargnani might be a better fit, but he really only has one advantage and it isn't as significant as many think.
Bargnani no longer qualifies as a strong three-point shooter. He hasn't shot above 35 percent since 2009-10, but still takes over four per game. That was also the last time he shot over 45 percent from the field, a mark Boozer has never finished under. Maybe he'd get more open looks with the Bulls, but how contested are a seven-footer's shots from that range anyway?
Bargnani has been a better mid-range shooter than Boozer has been this season. According to HoopData, Bargnani makes about 44 percent of his shots from three to 23 feet, compared to Boozer's 36 percent. However, Boozer made 47.4 of his shots from that range last season and is typically around 45 percent.
According to HoopData, the Bulls have the league's lowest field-goal percentage from three-to-nine feet. Boozer is a part of that, shooting just 30.9 percent—17 percentage points lower than Bargnani from that range. The past indicates that is another trend that won't continue. Since HoopData started tracking shot locations, this has been the best season Bargnani has had from that range and Boozer's worst. Since 2007, Bargnani has shot 34.5 percent from that range, while Boozer has made 43.7 percent of his shots.
According to HoopData, Boozer is significantly better at finishing at the rim, shooting 69.2 percent to Bargnani's 53.8 percent. With a roster full of mid-range jump shooters, Boozer's ability to finish is key to the Bulls' success, as he is just one of four players on the team who is above 65 percent at the rim.
The most underrated part of Boozer's game is his passing, as he has a career average of 2.4 assists per game compared to 2.2 turnovers, not great, but better than Bargnani's 1.3 assists to 1.7 turnovers.
The biggest difference between the two comes on the glass where Boozer averages five more rebounds per game this season and for their careers. While both are considered poor defenders, Boozer can at least limit the other team's opportunities by grabbing rebounds. The last thing the Bulls need to do now is put even more pressure on Joakim Noah to rebound, especially while he's battling plantar fasciitis.
An important factor for the Bulls is their ability to match up with the Heat. The biggest advantage the Bulls have is that they can bully them in the paint. Boozer's ability to rebound and finish at the rim is a huge part of that. While others may be able to help pick up the slack, they'd still be weaker in that department with Bargnani on the court.
As the Bargnani rumors broke, I suggested the Bulls could turn it into a bigger deal for Minnesota's Kevin Love. If their intent is to merely to swap Boozer and Bargnani, that simply doesn't make them a better team.
Bargnani is cheaper than Boozer, but that doesn't mean they get more financial flexibility because they would be unable to use the amnesty clause should someone else become available.
Boozer hasn't been great for the Bulls, but he is a better player than Bargnani. If the Bulls do this deal, it's a clear sign that they care more about saving money than winning a championship this season.