Bulls

Is Boozer's solid stretch putting him in All-Star consideration?

984479.png

Is Boozer's solid stretch putting him in All-Star consideration?

BOSTON The guy has done this, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau insisted Wednesday night, in the bowels of Torontos Air Canada Centre, before injecting a dose of sarcasm into his response. There are tapes of what hes done.

Thibodeau was talking about Carlos Boozer, who scored 36 points, his highest point total in a Bulls uniform, to go along with 12 rebounds in the teams overtime road win. When a reporter briefly interrupted to indicate that Thibodeau meant Boozers current stretch was comparable to the much-maligned power forwards tenure in Utah, the coach rapidly replied, Hes done it for us, too.

That may be the case, but between various injuries, postseason struggles, the currently-sidelined Derrick Roses brilliance overshadowing all of his teammates, the widely-held perception that less offensively-gifted Bulls play with more passion on both ends of the floor and perhaps most significantly, his massive contract, Boozer has and will be an easy target.

But since the calendar year changed, Boozer has been recognized for his contributions. In the Bulls eight games in 2013, Boozer is averaging 24 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, something that stands out on a frequently scoring-deficient squad, as well as appearing more energized on the defensive end of the floor.

Just playing, man. Playing off my teammates, hooping, having fun, trying to win. Its that simple. Theres no new recipe to it, explained Boozer, who is loath to discuss his individual performance, even when hes played well and the Bulls win. I feel pretty confident.

I was just joking, he continued, when queried about his so-called New Years resolution, which he mentioned after the Bulls Jan. 2 win in Orlando, their first game of 2013. The biggest thing is the team is getting wins and how we finished the last two weeks of 2012, it wasnt our best basketball.

Weve still got a little room to improve. Were going to keep striving for perfection and keep getting better, Boozer, who scored 25 first-half points Wednesday, went on to say. It was a tough end of 2012 and I think, as a man, we all want to play much better in 2013 and get more wins, and so far, were doing pretty good in January.

While Boozer might downplay talk of his recent uptick, the rest of the Bulls are quick to credit him for being the teams catalyst as of late, as they are noticeably looking for him on the floor.

He can score a lot of different ways. I think right now, hes in a really good rhythm, Thibodeau said. His teammates are really searching him out.

Joakim Noah, who critics initially asserted wasnt a good match with Boozer, chemistry-wise, chimed in: 'Los is playing at a real, real high level right now. Weve just got to keep searching him out right now because hes been dominant for a while now. Hes playing with a lot of confidence and weve just got to keep giving him the ball.

Rip Hamilton, like Boozer, a former two-time All-Star, prior to arriving in Chicago, added: All day. I think the last month, hes been incredible. I think were doing a better job of getting him the ball where hes comfortable. Weve got a lot of new pieces, a lot of new players and Thibs is adjusting on the fly, trying to figure out what different guys roles are, so were learning each and every day. But hes been great the last month. Hes been playing extraordinary.

Fellow starting forward and Duke product Luol Deng observed: Boozers great. we need it. Hes just got to keep it up. Were going to keep looking for him or keep going to him. Hes playing well for us right now and when we get points in the paint like that, it makes the game a lot easier.

Boozers recent play is also drawing national attention. Thursday night, the starters for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game were announced on TNT and when the television analysts selected their reserve picks, Charles Barkley selected Boozer to his Eastern Conference team, over Noah, who was named to the teams of the other analysts: Kenny Smith, Shaquille ONeal and Chris Webber, who also selected Deng.

That was a very difficult decision for me, Barkley explained. Carlos Boozer has been balling lately. I couldnt get both of them, so I rewarded Boozer for having a terrific career.

If Boozer continues to play at his current level for the remainder of January and into early February, when the reserves will be selected, it may indeed pose a dilemma for the All-Star Game, as one would assume that the fourth-place Bulls will have at least one representative in Houston next month.

But with Boozer playing so well even as Deng, the teams leading scorer, having a better campaign than he did last season, when he made his first All-Star Game, and Noah, a fan favorite, enjoying a career-best season thus far the man that many Chicagoans love to hate could at least have an outside chance.

Options if the Bulls trade down: Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura

Options if the Bulls trade down: Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura

On draft night, there is a decent possibility that the Bulls front office looks at their draft board and collectively decide that they can get a player with No. 7 pick value later in the first round. They could be inclined to feel this way more than in most years due to the 2019 draft class being such a toss up after the top three picks. If the Bulls traded down in the draft, I am assuming they would be netting a valuable future first-round pick, likely with some minimal protections. In this series, we will be looking at prospects the Bulls could take should they trade down in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Rui Hachimura per The Stepien:

71 percent at the rim

44.2 percent on short midrange

47.6 percent on long midrange

52.1 percent on NBA 3s (12/23)

Boylen talked a ton this season about “toughness” being a key tenet of the new Bulls culture moving forward. The idea of that “toughness” didn’t translate on the court heavily, though the Bulls did improve slightly in rebound rate under Boylen.

From the time for Boylen took over, the Bulls ranked 14th in defensive rebound rate and 25th in total rebound rate, up from 16th and 28th respectively under Hoiberg. Those numbers are a bit of smoke-and-mirrors with all the factors at play this past (weird) Bulls season.

But Boylen did have a much heavier focus on generating points inside first, with the team ranking third in the league in points in the paint per game during his tenure. Rui Hachimura fits in extremely well with the idea of the Bulls punishing teams inside with low-post scoring depth, resulting in open looks on the perimeter.

Hachimura stands 6-feet-8-inches tall, 230 lbs., with a 7-foot-2-inch wingspan. He is a very physical player and utilizes his wingspan incredibly well in traffic. Hachimura posted a 17.4 percent defensive rebound rate over his three-years at Gonzaga. I mentioned above how Hachimura embraces contact and his career average of 7.5 free throw attempts per 40 minutes helps showcase his ability to be a wrecking ball in the paint.

He has the potential to excel as a small-ball center with the right personnel surrounding him. The fact that he can grab a defensive board and initiate the fastbreak makes him an even more valuable prospect. But when you consider that lineups with he and Markkanen as the two bigs on the floor would have five capable ball-handlers, the idea of Rui in Chicago becomes even more enticing.

Overall, Hachimura is a great prospect with a solid skill set that should allow him to be a decent scorer from day one, it all just depends on how much of an opportunity he gets.

The Bulls--as John Paxson has reiterated many, many times now--feel comfortable with the starters they have at the two, three, four and five positions, with point guard being their main area of weakness. While the Bulls don’t necessarily need another big, they do need to add productive players who are young. With Boylen’s emphasis on having multiple ball-handlers, driving the ball and points in the paint, Hachimura would be a logical selection, though No. 7 overall could be a bit of a reach for the 21-year old big.

His defense definitely has a long way to go--as with most NBA draft prospects--but Hachimura’s situation is unique since he literally had a language barrier to overcome when he first got to Gonzaga in 2017. The belief right now is that Hachimura is in a comfortable spot right now in terms of both speaking and understanding English, as reporting from Sam Vecine of the The Athletic (LINK is behind a paywall) and others has backed up.

With that being said, the Japanese forward still makes too many mistakes on the defensive end of the floor to be a surefire top 10 pick.

He is at his core an offensive-minded player, and as a result has not exactly developed much in the way of defensive intensity over the years. Hachimura averaged 0.6 steals per game and 0.5 blocks per game for his NCAA career.

For comparison’s sake, his steal and block rates are almost identical to Marvin Bagley III during his time at Duke. Bagley had a highly productive rookie season with the Kings--landing a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First-Team--but the Kings defense was still four points worse when he was on the floor per cleaningtheglass.com ($).

Despite having similar measurements to Bagley, I don’t believe that Hachimura posses quite the level of athleticism that Bagley does, making his path to becoming an above average defender that much harder.

Ultimately, if Hachimura’s awesome shooting numbers from NBA 3-point range (41.7 percent) on a small sample size (36 attempts) aren’t smoke-and-mirrors, he will greatly outplay his draft position. Hachimura shot 52.1 percent on his NBA range 3-pointers and also has a career 74.6 percent free throw percentage. Whether he was diving to the rim on pick-and-rolls with Lauri spacing the floor, or playing in a high/low offense with another big on the bench unit, there is a clear path to Hachimura being effective in Chicago. It would just take a ton of patience from the Bulls new-look coaching staff.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The Bulls need a point guard. The Bears Top 100 list continues

gettingitdunn010419_1920x1080.jpg
USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The Bulls need a point guard. The Bears Top 100 list continues

0:00- Will Perdue drops by to talk hoops. What will the Bulls do this summer to address their point guard need?

7:00- The Bulls need a point guard. Derrick Rose is a free agent. Should they bring him back home?

11:30- Carman says the Bulls should consider trading for Lonzo Ball. Kap yells at him.

16:30- Will talks about this year's playoffs and if anybody will be the Warriors?

20:00- The Bears Top 100 list continues to dominate discussion. Chris makes the case for Jay Cutler to be higher. He gets yelled at.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: