COMMENTARY | Sam Smith wrote an excellent column last week on the excess criticism that Carlos Boozer takes and how it tends to deflect some other warranted criticism away from a few other Chicago Bulls.
And it's probably true.
Boozer has long been the oft-criticized Bulls player -- the black sheep of a normally stellar defensive basketball team. And some of the criticism is undeniably warranted. He picks up silly fouls, almost refuses to step in front of any driving opponent, and, whether it's true or not, doesn't appear to play with the same intensity as some of his teammates.
Individually, it can be annoying for fans. Collectively, it hasn't changed a whole lot.
There are nights when you could swear Tom Thibodeau could win games by running a bunch of eighth-graders out onto the court. That reputation, no doubt in part to top-shelf defensive play, is something that poor Carlos Boozer has never really fit into. The criticism withstanding, Boozer (and many, many others) just doesn't matter to Tom Thibodeau's Chicago Bulls.
And here's why:
The Bulls have had drastically different teams on the floor the last few seasons -- injuries to Derrick Rose being the obvious shift. They enjoyed their "Bench Mob" a few seasons ago, brought in a whole new group the next season (to lesser success), have had the same day-to-day injuries that all teams have, have now traded Luol Deng, and have once again lost Rose for the season.
But under Thibodeau, it's barely mattered.
In 2010-2011, the Bulls averaged 98.6 points per game. In 2011-2012, they averaged 96.3. In 2012-2013, they averaged 93.2. And so far this season, they are averaging 92.1.
The win/loss ratio changes, but the Bulls' overall performance remains, give or take, about the same. And if your system of success is going to be allowed to exist while only scoring in the low-90s per game, it's not really going to matter who you have on the floor offensively because, at the NBA level, almost any combination of players will be capable of getting you to that average. Defense is all that's going to matter.
Boozer is averaging 14.8 points per game, while averaging 30 minutes per game. Taj Gibson -- Boozer's traditional replacement -- is averaging 12.6 points in 29 minutes.
Just as an extension, Rose was averaging 15.9 per game when he went down again. D.J. Augustin is averaging 13.9 in the exact same amount of time (31.1 minutes) per game. Nate Robinson was averaging 13.1 in just 25 minutes last season.
When you remove an MVP-level player from the roster, you'll have an overall drop-off no matter who you are, but within Thibodeau's system of strict defense, toughness, and mediocre scoring, the team will easily survive removing any non-superstar player, almost as if he was never even there. Given the proper amount of minutes and team situation (i.e., not having superstars who consume a third of the team's scoring), any NBA-caliber player can give you 10 points per game.
That's why the Bulls are 11-7 without Luol Deng. And that's why they're 4-1 when Boozer doesn't play (versus 21-24 when he does). With the low-scoring reputation of the team, they have to play defense to win. And Boozer only occasionally shows up to do that.
And if Rose were to remain closer to 15 points per game, as opposed to the low-to-mid 20s he was averaging during his best years, it explains why the Bulls were 5-5 with him, and are 20-20 without him.
When I say Carlos Boozer (or whomever else) doesn't matter to the Chicago Bulls, it isn't a pointed attack on the veteran; it's an acceptance that Tom Thibodeau's Bulls are the ultimate current example of system-over-personnel. Unless you're a superstar (LeBron James, Kevin Durant), or can do everything (Joakim Noah), these Bulls will barely realize you're gone.
And to this point, the Bulls haven't really missed anyone, despite losing almost everyone.
Brian is a lifelong Chicago Bulls follower. Living in Illinois his entire life has given him a chance to closely follow and report Chicago sports as a freelance writer through Yahoo Contributor Network and Yahoo Sports. He is also a senior majoring in Creative Writing.
- Sports & Recreation
- Carlos Boozer
- Chicago Bulls
- Tom Thibodeau