Nick Friedell at ESPNChicago apparently isn't afraid of jinxes, and points out the statistical anomaly that Carlos Boozer's played every game this season.
And it's not just surprising for the fact that his Bulls career hadn't even started before he was sitting out several weeks, he's been notoriously injury-prone much of his career, after playing 81 games his rookie season, his games played: 75, 51, 33, 74, 81, 37, 78, 59.
Not too terrible, but sporadic to be sure. There's credit given to Booz's conditioning this season, and he indeed looked noticeably thinner coming into the season. Though the backcourt has been decimated all season, the Bulls bigs have stayed fairly intact, and that size has won them a ton of games. (making Monday's affair so confusing).
He's also put up good numbers this season. Has his PER currently a hair (no pun intended) over 20, which is right around his career average. Sure, he has scheme and potentially trust-crippling defensive lapses at times, but outside of that (or maybe, including that) he's been downright dependable all season. And that starts by actually dressing for the games.
But one definite change has been his shot selection, noted as a concern earlier this year and something that's still occurring.
|At Rim||3-9 Feet||10-15 Feet||16-23 Feet|
(per 40 minutes, Full chart up at HoopData)
That's a pretty clear shift farther from the basket this season, and it's even more stark (bold, even) in his free-throw attempts, which are a by-far career-low 2.8 (per40), way down from 5.2 just a season ago.
Now the good news is that the results are still there. Boozer's 55% TS% is not one of his better marks, but better than last season. You may think that his 45% mark from 16-23 feet is outstanding and you'd be right, effectively top-5 at the position* only behind the likes of Dirk and KG. These kinds are attempts are notoriously flukey year-to-year, but Boozer's had similarly great marksmanship in past seasons and you can tell he has great form and a high-arc that can aid the sustainability of that shot's effectiveness.
*(interesting about that last link, Boozer's not yet qualified as a 30mpg player)
I think it's incorrect to suggest that Boozer's changing offensive game (his OReb% is down too, though the Bulls have plenty of that) is due to a lack of toughness, it's very likely more just adjusting his game to compensate for an ever-lessening burst and lift. You can see it every time he barely dunks when open, or his propensity when encountering defenders to flip up the ball instead of 'going hard'. It very likely was a reason he slimmed down before this season too.
It's something we also see in his passing ability: Boozer's a smart player. He's moving his game farther from the basket because that's where he can still be effective. And actually, if you notice in the chart, though it's in fewer attempts he's making such absurdly high percentage from 3-9 feet (the best at his position!) it's in line with how many makes he used to get from that range.
Maybe part of his evolution is becoming that much better at finding space and picking his spots, or that's a number we should be concerned with as flukey itself. And, of course, we can start to be more conscious of who he's putting up such stats against. Boozer's a downright dependable regular season force at this point, but when the defenses get tougher it's unfair to expect him to somehow move his game back inside: it'll be jumpers and flip-shots, and hopefully they keep going in. So far it's been pretty good.