Why Carlos Boozer Will Be the Key to Chicago Bulls' Postseason Success

Andres MonteroContributor IApril 9, 2014

Carlos Boozer has to bring the emotion and intensity for this year's playoff run.
Carlos Boozer has to bring the emotion and intensity for this year's playoff run.Kamil Krzaczynski

In order for the Chicago Bulls to have success this postseason, Carlos Boozer will have to play his best basketball of the season.

It has been an up-and-down season for the 12-year vet.

After a strong start to the season, Boozer's shooting quickly began to worsen, shooting 40 percent in December and 43 percent in February. In fact, he has failed to reach the 50-percent mark for any month, excluding the two games in October.

Boozer's minutes started decreasing as the season progressed; not only due to his struggling offense, but his much-maligned defense as well. Since February, the big man has averaged fewer than 27 minutes per game.

Boozer has also failed to see much action during the fourth quarter. This led to him airing his frustrations with his playing time, per ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell:

I think I should be out there, but it's Thibodeau's choice. He makes the decisions out there, so I play. I don't coach. He coaches. So he decides that. But honestly, he's been doing that a lot since I've been here, not putting me in in the fourth quarter. Sometimes we win; more times than not, we don't. But that's his choice.

Tom Thibodeau has exhibited what is arguably his best coaching job since joining Chicago, fighting through multiple injuries and a trade that sent away one of his favorite players.

They've achieved this success with consistency: Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, D.J. Augustin and Jimmy Butler show up every night and compete at a high level. Whether it's leading with defense or offense, these four players have maintained key roles in the Bulls' surprising season.

Boozer has to try and reach that level of consistency in the playoffs. With an amnesty clause looming over his head this offseason, another underwhelming performance in the postseason could lead to the end of his Bulls career.

Defensively, Boozer will likely remain a liability, but if his offense in the playoffs outweighs his defense, he could play a bigger role than he has recently.

Inside Game

Boozer is most effective when he attacks the rim.
Boozer is most effective when he attacks the rim.Charles Rex Arbogast

The Bulls cannot settle for jump shots come playoff time. So far this year, the Bulls have attempted 1,137 shots between 15 and 19 feet, the eighth highest among all teams. They've made only 38.6 percent of those shots, 23rd in the league, per NBA.com.

That's where Boozer comes in; he is the one player who can get inside the paint against nearly any defender.

He has a unique combination of strength, size and speed that allow him to have an edge over most defenders. He can face up and put the ball on the floor against bigger players or bully his way inside against smaller ones.

Boozer's main problem is that he has settled for long jumpers too often.

Last year during the regular season, the versatile power forward attempted 212 shots from 16 feet and farther, making 43.4 percent of them. So far in 2013-14, he has already surpassed that number, taking 249 shot while making just 37 percent, per Basketball-Reference.com. His percentage at or near the rim is down too, from 56 percent in 2012-13 to 53 percent this season.

In order for the Bulls to keep defenses honest, they'll have to attack the rim. This opens up the rest of the floor, giving Chicago a chance to knock down some threes, another facet of the game that has to improve this postseason.

Post-Up Game

Jump shots haven't been working, so it's time for the Booz Cruise to get back to basics.
Jump shots haven't been working, so it's time for the Booz Cruise to get back to basics.Matt Slocum

Taj Gibson has emerged as the Bulls' best post player, but in the playoffs, it doesn't hurt to have more than one. Boozer and Gibson average .73 and .79 points per play on post-ups, respectively, both ranking among the top 130, per Synergy.

While Gibson is a lot more efficient that Boozer, there are still things the former Blue Devil does extremely well. His moves on the low post are among the best in the league.

His quick and fluid spins, fakes and dribbles catch most defenders off guard, giving him an easy look at the basket.

Unfortunately, Boozer has used his post game to take mostly fadeaway shots. This has led to his 35.8 percent shooting from the post, according to Synergy.

Boozer has to use his array of moves to get closer to the basket, instead of settling for step back jumpers. It's not just his fault, though, as the Bulls have to try to get him established early on the low block.

Instead, Boozer is receiving the ball near the free-throw line or the top of the key, which is why he's had so many mid-range shot attempts. His mid-range game has not been as effective this season, and the best solution is to get him operating in his strongest area.

Chicago is expected to make the second round of the playoffs, but there's a chance it can advance further.

With a strong inside presence who is a threat to score 30 any given night and haul in 10 to 15 rebounds, the Bulls might be able to pull off an improbable run.

By now, fans know what to expect from a player like Noah and Butler. Whether they can count on Boozer is still up in the air.

If he surpasses his current level of play and performs like the All-Star he once was, the Bulls can challenge anyone for Eastern Conference supremacy, including the Miami Heat.


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