The power forward spot has been a very balanced and productive position for the Chicago Bulls the last few years.
Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson have yin-and-yang skill sets that have allowed the Bulls to adapt to a lot of different opposition defensive schemes.
The promising thing about the future of the position is that Boozer and Gibson are under contract together for this season and next, making for two more years of dependable play.
Erik Murphy is the new power forward on the block and gives Chicago depth they have never had before at the 4. Combined, the Bulls have a great frontcourt that can give the team a boost in almost any phase of the game.
Here is a breakdown of what to expect from Boozer, Gibson and Murphy this year.
Carlos Boozer, Starting Power Forward
Boozer joined the Bulls in the summer of 2010 via free agency.
Chicago was in need of a scoring big, and Boozer had that in spades. He averaged 19.5 points per game in the season prior to joining the Bulls and never averaged fewer than 10 points per game his entire career.
It also didn't hurt that he was good for at least 10 rebounds per game as well.
Boozer’s offensive talents have served well during his tenure in Chicago. His outside shot has helped stretch opposing teams’ defenses allowing more room for Derrick Rose to attack the rim.
Boozer brings those same strengths with him into this season, and there is no reason to think he can’t produce like he has in seasons past.
In addition to his scoring and rebounding ability, Bulls fans and players would love to see Boozer maintain his newfound hardiness.
Boozer has missed only two games over the last two seasons. With Rose’s return, his presence will go a long way with helping reestablish team chemistry.
The more Boozer plays with Rose, the quicker they can return to the form that helped produce two No. 1 Eastern Conference playoff seeds.
Defensively, Boozer still remains a liability.
Boozer has exhibited lackluster execution with staying in front of his more athletic assignments and rotating to give the appropriate help.
This poor individual performance has made things harder on his teammates who have to cover his shortcomings; it has also cost Boozer playing time in close games where stopping the other team is the priority.
Defensive imperfections aside, Boozer still scores and rebounds consistently enough to where the Bulls coaching staff is willing to work around the rest.
There’s no reason to think much will change about Boozer’s production this season. Expect a slight drop in playing time from the 32.2 minutes to around 30 minutes per game as Tom Thibodeau looks for ways to squeeze Murphy into the rotation, although sparingly.
Boozer should hold steady at 16 points per game but see his field-goal percentage get back over .500 since he will be getting better looks thanks to Rose. Boozer’s rebounds should also be around 10.5 per game, again because of Rose and the opportunities his shot attempts will create.
Taj Gibson, Primary Reserve
Gibson was picked by the Bulls in the late first round of the 2009 draft.
His remarkable production as a reserve forward the past three seasons makes it easy to forget that Gibson started 70 games his rookie season averaging 9.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Gibson’s shift to the second unit came with the addition of the more experienced Boozer.
As a reserve, Gibson has averaged 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, but that decline in production was because he has played an average of 21.5 minutes per game, more than five fewer minutes than the 26.9 minutes he got starting as a rookie.
Gibson is an effective complement to Boozer because Gibson excels where Boozer falls short.
Gibson is a much better one-on-one defender who plays physically and does well with altering shot attempts when he doesn’t block them outright.
Versatility is also a part of Gibson’s repertoire as he has been used to play a few minutes at the center position when the Bulls have found themselves shorthanded in the middle.
Gibson’s struggles are on the offensive side of the ball.
While last season showed he worked on adding a mid-range shot to his arsenal, it was an inconsistent option and Gibson still lacks a one-on-one post-move package that would make him a viable scoring threat.
Much like how Boozer finds himself on the sideline when the Bulls need a stop, Gibson often plays the role of team cheerleader when close games call for a scoring boost.
This season will see more from Gibson across the board. Expect his minutes to increase back to around 26 minutes per game as he finds himself playing more at center. The minutes increase should lead to a boost in points and rebounds per game, increasing to 9.0 and 6.0, respectively.
Erik Murphy, Secondary Reserve
Murphy is one of only a handful of second-round picks the Bulls have had in recent years.
Coming out of the University of Florida, Murphy is a big man with an outside shot that can stretch any team’s defense.
During his tenure in Gainesville, Murphy improved in points per game (4.3, 10.5 and 12.2) and three-point percentage (.400, .421 and .453) in each of his three seasons. It was probably that latter stat that caught the eye of the Bulls’ front office.
Standing at 6’10” and weighing 238 pounds, Murphy has an NBA body, but it remains to be seen if he has an NBA mind and motor.
Even with his size, Murphy seems to lack the toughness it takes to be integral part of Thibodeau’s system.
With what was a considerable frame in the college ranks, Murphy only managed to snag an average of 4.1 rebounds per game—his best season average being 5.5.
If he manages to stay on Chicago’s roster, Murphy may only see minutes during garbage time. Expect him see six minutes per game averaging 1.5 points and two rebounds per game.