Carlos Boozer struggled mightily against the Thunder last night, the latest in a line of stink bombs put forth by the embattled Bulls power forward. Boozer went just 3-of-9 from the field for nine points, and for the third straight game, found himself on the pine down the stretch in favor of Taj Gibson. And honestly, Gibson hasn't even been that great in some of these games. Boozer has just been that bad offensively, and when he's going bad, he has to sit because he's a liability defensively.
It probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Boozer struggled against the Thunder, because he was being guarded by the super long and super athletic Serge Ibaka. Boozer's lack of explosiveness was on full display against Ibaka, especially on this play:
Boozer actually used his strength to knock Ibaka under the basket, setting himself up for an easy bucket. But since he can't actually get off the damn ground, Ibaka was able to recover and forcefully swatted it back in Boozer's face. Obviously not all defenders have Ibaka's gifts, but this kind of thing shows just how limited Boozer can be against plus athleticism.
It's stuff like this that has turned Boozer into primarily a perimeter player as opposed to the low-post threat we hoped we were getting in the summer of 2010. Last season, nearly 51 percent of Boozer's shots came from outside the paint, according to NBA.com. That was way up from just 32.3 percent in 2010-11. And according to Hoopdata, Boozer took a career-low 4.2 shots per game at the rim in 2011-12. He was actually quite successful on all the jump shots, nailing 45 percent of those looks from outside the paint. Going further, he hit 45 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet. Not too shabby. However, one has to worry about the sustainability of those jump shots, despite the fact that Boozer has historically been a pretty good shooter.
Sure enough, the trend of Boozer sticking to perimeter shots has continued to start this season, but through five games, the percentages aren't looking good. 57.6 percent of Boozer's shots have come from outside the paint, but he's making only 32 percent of those looks. Overall, Boozer is shooting 42.4 percent. Per Synergy, his PPP is a wretched 0.77.
It would be easy to blame Boozer's struggles on the absence of Derrick Rose, but looking at the numbers, that might not be a legitimate excuse. Last season, Boozer performed BETTER with Rose out of the lineup, albeit marginally. And even dating back to 2010-11, Boozer did just fine when Rose was on the bench. And I'd say Boozer has gotten decent looks so far this year, he just hasn't been hitting the past few games (his first two games he did shoot 15-of-24).
It's still way too early to write off Boozer, but the fact that these poor performances are getting stacked together has to be very troubling for Tom Thibodeau. Having Gibson there when Boozer sucks is huge insurance, but the Bulls still need Carlos to perform at a competent level in order for the Bulls to notch a good record with Rose on the shelf.