Is this Carlos Boozer's final season with the Bulls?
Why is Boozer as good as gone from the Bulls after the upcoming campaign?
There isn't one sole reason why his days in the Windy City are numbered. There are numerous reasons. This is why we can be convinced that Boozer will be donning a new uniform in about a year.
Bulls fans have regularly directed scrutiny towards Boozer, but he has still been productive during his three-year tenure in Chicago. However, there isn't a way to justify him being a key facet beyond 2013-14.
The following analysis magnifies why he's a featured amnesty candidate come next summer.
Despite now being 31 years old, Boozer remains a stellar offensive power forward as well as an active rebounder. His per-36-minutes numbers for 2012-13, via Basketball-Reference, amplify his sufficient contributions: 18.1 points per game and 10.9 rebounds per game.
However, Boozer accumulated the worst shooting percentage (47.7) of his career last season. This was only the second time in his 11-year career that his clip has been below 50-percent.
While he's still a decent offensive threat, he's beginning to show signs of decreased efficiency.
Interestingly, his offensive output is merely a minor concern. The brunt of the worries are on the defensive end.
Gathering Boozer's inefficiency as a defender requires looking under the radar because his opponents' 48-minute production, per 82games.com, is not disappointing: 18.3 PPG, 11.5 RPG and a PER of 14.7.
Compare this with his teammate Taj Gibson, who is regarded as a force on the defensive end: 18.9 PPG, 10.5 RPG and a PER of 15.6.
Shall we conclude that Boozer is as good as—if not better than—Gibson defensively? This is where numbers can be misleading.
Boozer is often matched up against a weak offensive player, while Joakim Noah and Gibson contain the opponent's marquee post weapon.
Rarely does Boozer actually guard a prominent big man. The aforementioned statistics are thus skewed because the requirements for Boozer are totally different than what they are for Gibson.
Furthermore, even if Boozer does an adequate job of limiting his assignment, his help-side defense is what regularly causes troubles.
Coach Tom Thibodeau relies heavily on help off penetration, and Boozer's ineptitude in this area is undeniable. The following video displays some examples of this.
Here's further evidence.
Boozer's unwillingness to contest shots, or at least show serviceable aggression as a help defender, has become characteristic. It's no wonder then that Boozer was worst on the Bulls in plus/minus in 2012-13 (minus-76). Gibson, on the other hand, topped Chicago in plus/minus (plus-115).
The Bulls possess defensive grit at the core of their identity, and Boozer's struggles in this area are completely unacceptable. Because of this, it only makes sense that they move on from him following 2013-14. His all-around repertoire simply doesn't fit Chicago's plan of attack.
What Boozer lacks as a player does carry weight in this discussion, but the primary reason why he'll be gone is finances.
According to ShamSports.com, Chicago's salary for 2014-15 estimates at $64,940,995. Boozer's $16,800,000 due then accounts for over a fourth of that figure.
The projected salary cap for 2014-15 is $62.1 million, which presents clear dangers for the Bulls' status.
What makes this even more concerning is that the anticipated $64,940,995 does not feature:
2) a contract for whoever the Bulls snag in the 2014 draft
3) a contract for hyped foreign prospect Nikola Mirotic (whom the Bulls could potentially lure next offseason)
It simply doesn't seem feasible for the Bulls to bring back both Boozer and Deng, sign Mirotic and also add a new rookie. This would place them well over the salary cap and create excessive tax penalties.
As a result, they basically need to choose between Boozer or Deng. The only reason to keep Boozer over Deng is the fact that the Bulls would still have to pay Boozer despite using the amnesty clause on him (his contract just wouldn't count against the salary cap). But if the Bulls are serious about winning, bidding farewell to Boozer is the sensible option.
Removing his contract from the 2014-15 outlook should open up enough room to re-sign Deng (which is by no means guaranteed since he will be on the market), potentially land Mirotic for the mid-level exception and sign their draft pick. Of course, this all depends on the asking prices of Deng and Mirotic, but it could be doable.
With Boozer in the mix, though, it would not only be troubling to re-sign Deng, but it would also be a stretch to nab Mirotic.
This financial breakdown reveals the logic behind letting Boozer go and, ultimately, why he's most likely entering his last hurrah with the Bulls.
There is no financial sense behind retaining him, at least from the standpoint of the Bulls contending for a championship. If he's still around come training camp in 2014, don't be surprised if Deng is elsewhere and Mirotic is still overseas.
With Derrick Rose returning, the Bulls know they're in a rare spot that allows them to consistently compete for a title. They must discern who the core pieces are that should surround Rose.
Due to Boozer's age, inefficiency and hefty contract, there is no need for him to be in the fold much longer. They can't be tinkering around with his defensive limitations nor allowing his contract to strain their potential.
Should the Bulls amnesty Carlos Boozer next summer?
He has been a competent starting power forward for the past three campaigns, but he better make the most of his fourth year in red because it is likely his last.
The Bulls should be strategically considering which faces will surround Rose amid his prime years. Regarding the "Booze Cruise," there isn't any point in him being one of these members beyond 2013-14, both from a basketball and financial perspective.