I wasn't able to watch much of the Bulls' loss to the Spurs on Tuesday night, but I read enough to know that it wasn't one of Carlos Boozer's finest efforts. A pedestrian 4-of-9 shooting line, five turnovers, and from what I can tell, a bevy of blown defensive assignments.
Taj Gibson wasn't much better, missing all five of his shots and scoring just a single point. So it wasn't a banner night for the Bulls' power forwards. But at least we know Gibson will always bust his butt defensively when things aren't going well on the other end.
I've highlighted several times this season how Gibson has surpassed Boozer as a player. It's simply rather obvious at this point. Boozer has really struggled this season, and he has been especially out of it the past few months. In February, he averaged 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 42.9 percent from the field. In six games thus far in March, he's averaging 9.8 points and 7.0 rebounds on 39.7 percent shooting.
The on/off court numbers also paint a really poor picture for Boozer. On the season, the Bulls are 7.5 points better per 100 possessions when Boozer is on the bench. Since the Luol Deng trade, that number rises to 10.5 points better per 100 possessions. And perhaps the most galling stat is that the Bulls are 11.1 points better per 100 possessions OFFENSIVELY when Boozer has sat since the Deng trade.
One has to wonder whether Boozer sees the writing on the wall in regards to his future in Chicago, despite supposed assertions he won't be traded or amnestied. He has already complained about his lack of fourth-quarter minutes, but nothing has really changed on that front. Since the initial complaint, Boozer has played just 11 fourth-quarter minutes.
Most recently, Boozer showed his frustration by declining to talk to the media after practice. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times says Boozer told reporters "I don't give a damn" after being asked to speak following the practice. It's totally understandable for Boozer to be frustrated...but yikes.
While Boozer has claimed otherwise, the general consensus points to the Bulls amnestying him in the offseason to get his $16.8 million off the books, even if that means paying him to play elsewhere. I know all of us probably still have that doubt in the back of our minds that Jerry will actually go through with it, but simply put, it's the right basketball decision. Gibson is the better player and Nikola Mirotic will likely (or is it hopefully?) be coming over, so there's no point having Boozer taking up minutes at the 4.
Boozer can still be a useful player in the NBA, but not on this Bulls team at $16.8 million next year. I guess the Bulls could try and use his expiring contract as trade bait, but I can't imagine they would get anything all that appealing, and I certainly wouldn't count on anything involving Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Love (We can dream, but it probably won't happen).
If there are any concerns about how Boozer's production will be replaced, just look at those on/off splits and don't really worry about it. In addition to Mirotic, the Bulls should be able to find another competent big that can provide some quality minutes.
Stats from NBA.com