The Chicago Bulls were very active during the last offseason. Fans saw seven new additions to the Bulls' roster.
Chief among them was the eight-year veteran, Carlos Boozer. He was the highest profile player that the Bulls added to their roster. Boozer was signed to a five-year deal worth very nearly $80 million.
Carlos Boozer was supposed to come into the Bulls' system and become a second scoring option for Derrick Rose, as well as the low post threat that the Bulls had lacked for many years.
The first season of Carlos Boozer's contract is over now. He scored a respectable 17.5 points per game to go along with 9.6 rebounds but was injured and could only play in 59 games. Boozer played through turf toe but could only muster 12.6 points per game in the playoffs. His defense was pitiful as well.
Boozer committed two flagrant fouls at critical points during the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat. Scoring 12.6 points per game is not what Boozer was paid nearly $15 million this year to do. The Bulls have his massive contract on their books for another four years.
That realization begs the question, how will Carlos Boozer perform next season and in the years to come?
Carlos Boozer before the Bulls
Boozer started his NBA career when he was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round. That's right, the second round. Whatever you think of Boozer, he's not a second-round player. He had an impressive rookie season and followed that up very strongly during his sophomore season, but his defense was criticized.
In the 2003-2004 offseason, Boozer became a restricted free agent. The Utah Jazz offered him a six-year contract worth roughly $70 million, which the Cavaliers could not match. Boozer became a member of the Jazz.
The next two seasons with the Jazz saw Boozer miss a lot of games because of injury. Jazz fans felt he was injury-prone and were considering his large six-year deal a bust. Boozer then came back strong after missing half of the 2005-2006 season.
He followed that season up with the best basketball of his career. Boozer averaged better than 20 points and more than 10 rebounds for both injury-free seasons, cementing his reputation as a 20 and 10 guy. He still didn't play defense though. He earned his two All-Star appearances during that time.
Boozer had a disappointing season after that, where he only played in 37 games because of injury. He had the choice during the 2008-2009 offseason to become a free agent and had expressed his desire to do so.
The Jazz were hopeful he would because, during the prior season, Boozer's injury had given their backup power forward, Paul Millsap, more minutes to play. He proved himself to be a cheaper alternative to Boozer.
Boozer decided to continue with the Jazz through the 2009-2010 season. He managed to stave off injury, playing in 78 games and posting his best numbers since his All-Star appearance seasons. The Jazz did not extend his contract.
His impressive play during the 2009-2010 season added to his stock, and the Chicago Bulls signed him to this five-year, $80 million deal, of which four years still remain.
What that plus the 2010-2011 season tell us about Boozer moving forward
I think his play during the 2010-2011 season, coupled with his prior years in the league tell us two things about Boozer moving forward. He's not going to learn how to play defense at this stage in his career, and he isn't going to stay healthy. That's a scary picture to paint for Bulls fans.
Boozer will be 30 years old next season. He's struggled with injury problems throughout his NBA career. Boozer won't be less injury-prone as he gets older. Yes, he was injured during the playoffs and that contributed to his poor performance this year, but he probably will be next season too. Boozer just doesn't have a history of staying healthy.
Boozer's defense won't improve either. He won't develop defensive skills and great help defense instincts going into the 10th season of his career. That kills a team like the Bulls who are so focused on defense. Boozer has been heavily criticized for his defense throughout his entire pro career and it hasn't improved yet.
There are also some good things that the Bulls can expect from Carlos Boozer.
He has good footwork with the low-post moves to match. Boozer is still a 20 and 10 player on good nights. His mid-range game is streaky but still strong. He's also a great rebounder and helped the Bulls out-rebound each of their opponents during the playoffs.
What's the best option for next season?
I don't think the skills and injury history I've outlined make him worth his hefty contract to a contender. He still has some trade worth. The Bulls could go that route and try to trade him. That's what the fans want after his disappointing play. If it's just a salary dump, that probably isn't a good move during this offseason. That'll be possible in years to come for the two-time All-Star as well.
If the Bulls are committed to trading him and can't find a worthwhile player this offseason to trade him for, I think they should let him play during the regular season. They should then trade him before the deadline. His trade stock is at all all-time low and if anything, it's likely to improve next season, if Boozer stays healthy.
Boozer could also be used as a trade chip in a Dwight Howard trade. It's also possible that Boozer comes back next season and plays extremely well for the Bulls, which silences his critics.
There are still a lot of options surrounding the 29-year-old All-Star power forward. Boozer is only stuck in Chicago if the Bulls want him to be.