However, will his recent play help keep him in Chicago for the long-term future?
This question holds significant weight as the Bulls desire title contention in the coming years. Is the "Booze Cruise" part of the plan, or are his days in the Windy City numbered? Furthermore, is there any chance the Bulls would consider amnestying him this summer?
There are numerous layers to this discussion, but let's start with the obvious one: age.
Boozer will be 32 years old come next November, and it's evident that his best years are behind him.
He is still a high-level offensive power forward, as well as an active rebounder on both ends of the floor. These assets should remain for a few more seasons, although they likely won't be as efficient as what they've been.
This was actually apparent in one specific area in 2012-13: field-goal percentage. While Boozer notched a superb 16.2 points per game, he shot the worst percentage of his career (47.7).
This illustrates that he remains a worthwhile offensive contributor, but the days of him pouring in around 18 to 20 points per game while shooting 55 percent from the field are long gone. His age is beginning to hamper such stellar efficiency.
Another significant factor in this is Boozer's defensive limitations. It's no secret that Boozer is a defensive liability. His inability (and often unwillingness) to challenge shots in the lane, coupled with his regularly weak help-side defense, poses problems for Chicago's schemes.
Coach Tom Thibodeau is a defensive mastermind, and his style of play demands consistent defensive tenacity. Remarkably, he has often overcome Boozer's ineffectiveness, hiding him and featuring much more adept defenders (Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Luol Deng) on elite opponents.
However, the likelihood is this trend won't continue. Boozer is simply not a good fit for a rigorous defensive system. Plus, his plus/minus tally clearly reveals that he inhibits Chicago's strategies. The following chart conveys how his limitations, compared to his teammates, strain the Bulls' attack.
Perhaps the greatest matter in this conversation doesn't have anything to do with Boozer, but with the arrival of foreigner Nikola Mirotic.
His debut with the Bulls could come as early as the 2014-15 season, and there will certainly be high hopes surrounding his appearance in a Bulls uniform. Mirotic recently nabbed the Most Valuable Player award of the Spanish League. It's clear that his potential is through the roof.
As a result, Mirotic, as well as current Bull Gibson, form what's likely (barring a trade) Chicago's power forwards for years to come. Mirotic could ultimately be a perfect sidekick to Derrick Rose because of his shooting ability. They could form a scary pick-and-roll tandem.
All of this analysis details why Boozer is almost surely not a part of Chicago's long-term plan. His age, defensive struggles and the anticipated coming of Mirotic provide numerous pieces of evidence that signal Boozer's departure.
With that said, don't expect his farewell to happen this offseason. If they do amnesty him, it makes the most sense, from a financial and basketball standpoint, for this to occur next summer.
Financially, while shedding Boozer's contract now would create some flexibility, they would still be limited overall. It makes much more sense to proceed with this after 2013-14.
What affirms this stance is the fact that the Bulls have nobody to replace Boozer at this time, but that will hopefully change upon Mirotic's arrival a year from now.
Therefore, while Boozer doesn't appear embedded in Chicago's long-term agenda, he does appear to be a core figure once again next season. He'll remain an integral component in Thibodeau's game plans for at least one more season, unless he's involved in a blockbuster trade.
So, Bulls fans, hop on the "Booze Cruise" once again, but know that this upcoming year is likely the final ride. Boozer's run in the Windy City is likely on its last legs.