When Taj Gibson was helped off the floor after suffering a nasty ankle injury during the fourth quarter of last night's season-ending debacle, I honestly wasn't sure if Tom Thibodeau was going to go back to Carlos Boozer because of Thibs' unwillingness to play Boozer down the stretch all season. Thibs did make the call to Boozer, and I tried to talk myself into the much-maligned forward leading a late charge and getting the Bulls back into the series.
Instead, Boozer missed two of his three shot attempts, committed a turnover and allowed Marcin Gortat to secure three key offensive rebounds down the stretch that killed a ton of time off the clock as the Bulls were trying to make an ill-fated comeback. One of the missed shots was Gortat stuffing him on a drive to the rim in the final minute. To make matters even worse, Boozer was booed by the home crowd and his girlfriend may have been involved in a big fight in the stands behind the Bulls' bench early in the fourth quarter. But to be fair to her or whomever the hell was fighting, it was arguably the most exciting part of the entire game. And after the game, Boozer left without speaking to the media.
Boozer's finish was pretty emblematic of his entire series, and quite frankly, his entire year. Boozer had the worst season of his career, posting a sub-15 PER and a sub-49 true shooting percentage. Both numbers were career-worsts by a good margin. With Gibson coming into his own, Boozer became a staple on the bench during the fourth quarter, and he stayed there even if the Bulls struggled.
Boozer's postseason performance was even worse. The 32-year-old averaged just 9.6 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting a dreadful 42.6 percent, and worst of all, he was part of a starting lineup that dug the Bulls into holes in every single game against the Wizards.
How bad was it? Well, the Bulls' starters were outscored by 37.2 points per 100 possessions in the first quarter against the Wizards, per NBA.com's stats page. The Bulls faced first-quarter deficits of six points in Game 1, 17 points in Game 2, seven points in Game 3, 15 points in Game 4 and eight points in Game 5. Consistently getting behind the eight-ball is no way to win a playoff series, and Boozer was a big part of that. The second-half starts were significantly "better," but the Bulls' starters were still outscored by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the third quarter, per NBA.com's stats page.
Overall, Boozer's on/off splits in the series were just hideous. The Bulls were outscored by 15.0 points per 100 possessions with Boozer on the floor, per NBA.com's stats page, and they outscored the Wizards by 5.9 points per 100 possessions when he was on the bench. Meanwhile, the Bulls were outscored by 17.9 points per 100 possessions when Gibson was on the bench. Want more? The Boozer-Noah duo gave up 110.0 points per 100 possessions in the series, while the Gibson-Noah duo gave up 99.1 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com's stats page. If there's something Thibodeau can really be criticized for, it's sticking with Boozer and not going to Gibson enough.
Hopefully next season we won't have to worry about Thibs sticking with Boozer too long, because he shouldn't be on the roster. Whether it's via amnesty or via trade, Boozer needs to go. He was a good teammate and had several quality seasons in Chicago, but he just doesn't have a place on a Bulls team with championship aspirations going forward. And I think he knows it. The big man didn't talk to the media after the loss last night and Thibs really didn't talk about him in postgame. Quite simply, the writing is on the wall.
The amnesty is the easy option, but that of course involves paying a player to go away, which is something Jerry Reinsdorf might not be too thrilled about. Lo and behold, from ESPN's Marc Stein:
But here's the thing: You continue to hear rumbles that Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is adamantly against the idea of setting Boozer free via amnesty, even though the 32-year-old is finally poised to enter the final year of his contract, valued in 2014-15 at $16.8 million.
Sources briefed on Chicago's thinking say the Bulls are going to do everything they can to try to find a trading partner for Boozer before seriously considering the amnesty option.
I certainly have no issues with the Bulls looking to trade Boozer in the offseason. I've mentioned numerous times that the Bulls should try using Boozer's contract to acquire Carmelo Anthony in a sign-and-trade, and although I don't necessarily see it happening, it's an avenue that must be explored.
What I would have an issue with is trading Boozer plus an asset(s) just to get him off the roster. If the Bulls can't find a palatable trade, just amnesty him and get it over with in order to clear the cap space. One could argue Boozer's $16.8 million expiring contract could have some value at the trade deadline next year, but expirings aren't as valuable anymore and that means no cap space. So I really don't see the point there, even if Mirotic was willing to come for the MLE. If both Gibson and Mirotic are around, there's no reason for Boozer to be around. Well, there is a reason, but it's not a good one.