Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010
By Aggrey Sam
A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.
9. What type of impact will Carlos Boozer make and is he worth his contract or just a free agency consolation prize?
Boozer didn't have the highest profile of the available free agents this summer. The Alaska native wasn't the flashiest player, nor he did he possess the gaudiest numbers. But even though it will take time to fully evaluate how things will play out this upcoming season, Boozer might ultimately be the best fit for the Bulls.
Think about it. At 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds, the Duke product's blend of brawn, bruising nature, low-post scoring ability and underrated offensive versatility gives Chicago since ... well, here's a hint: this writer -- along with everybody on the current roster, with the exception of Kurt Thomas (this was the pre-Jordan era) -- wasn't born at the time.
Stumped? The likes of Boozer's talent in the post haven't been seen in the Windy City since the days of Artis Gilmore. How about dominant power forwards? The Bull at his position with Boozer's credentials to truly garner league-wide respect -- albeit one with a much different style -- was Dennis Rodman. For a less extreme example, try Horace Grant.
But enough rehashing of the past. A career 17.2-point scorer and 10.2 rebounder on average through his first eight professional seasons, if anything, "Booze" is a model of consistency. Only 28, he brings a veteran presence and significant playoff experience (an added bonus: Jerry Sloan, the hard-nosed former Bulls star, coached him over the past six seasons in Utah, ensuring he'll compete) to a relatively young team.
Boozer, a two-time All-Star, has a reputation for not being durable, but that's partly mitigated by the presence of Taj Gibson, last year's starting power forward, who is coming off a first team NBA all-rookie campaign. While Boozer is the clear starter at the four for Chicago, his reputation for not being the staunchest defender will be challenged by both the blue-collar Gibson and new Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, a known defensive strategist.
Boozer will be expected to defend and buy in to the team philosophy -- again, after playing for Sloan, a noted taskmaster, that shouldn't be an issue -- but he was acquired to fill a gaping hole on offense. The tandem of Gibson and Joakim Noah performed capably last season, but neither player brings the scoring talents Boozer has to the table. In fact, Noah, in particular should team especially well with Boozer. They should make up for each others deficiencies (Noah's still raw post-up game, lack of strength and limited range; Boozer's so-so athleticism and aforementioned lack of defensive prowess) with their respective strengths.
That's probably the biggest positive. Not to say Bulls general manager Gar Forman was only paying lip service when he remarked that Chicago's braintrust rated Boozer their top-ranked available power forward, but that line of thinking was likely influenced more by how they envisioned him complementing their nucleus, specifically Noah and All-Star point guard Derrick Rose.
Boozer has already played with a great floor general in Deron Williams, and while Rose hasn't quite ascended to the Utah playmaker's level just yet, he's not far from it. Williams has a different style than Rose, so it will be an adjustment process, but that's where Boozer's experience and willingness to play second banana on occasion come in. Boozer chose Chicago for the opportunity to win -- he's confident enough to believe the lofty goal of winning a title immediately is feasible -- not the fanfare that he's smart enough to realize won't come as readily with hometown product Rose and fan favorite Noah getting better every day. That willingness to sacrifice alone (despite not necessarily being his new team's first choice in the summer, he reportedly wasn't even tempted by the chance to be the man for the likes of the Nets) is admirable, and the fact that former teammates Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver followed him to the Bulls speaks volumes.
In this day and age, however, fans are too quick to wonder what could have been. While the sting of the triple rejection of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh seems to have disappeared within the Bulls' fan base, it's not hard to predict that as soon as the team undergoes a single misstep, is perceived to underachieve or even fails to jell quickly enough, at least some of the Chicago faithful will lament the franchise not adding the services of even one member of the trio.
When it comes to James or Wade, a Chicagoan, it's hard to argue the downside of not locking up either of the proven superstars -- although one has to consider the potential challenge of how to effectively blend their respective ball-dominant games with Rose's own. But anybody who watched the Bulls on a regular basis last season recognizes that a post-up scorer and outside shooting were bigger needs than adding another dynamic slasher to mirror Rose.
Bosh, on the other hand, was widely considered the top power forward on the market. For those who closely studied the strong second half to last season enjoyed by Amar'e Stoudemire could make a case for him, too. And while Bosh's game might be prettier and Stoudemire's game might be more exciting (like Boozer, neither is regarded as a good defender; both players are younger than Boozer), Boozer's ability to mix it up in the paint fits the already blue-collar Bulls better. Not to mention, Boozer's acquisition was a bit less expensive than most observers project it would have cost to sign the others.
In the midst of his prime, with a game that appears cohesive with the rest of the squad and gives the Bulls' young stars room to grow (forming a pretty formidable triumvirate; Luol Deng makes them a very strong quartet), the ability to fill a major team need, a history of deftly shifting between being a lead guy and a supporting piece, having significant postseason battles under his belt and enough character that the oft-taciturn Sloan spoke up for him (despite Boozer's issues with the Utah front office), in short, Boozer seems like the right guy for both the Bulls and Chicago.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.