If the Chicago Bulls see this season that Taj Gibson can take over the role of starting power forward, there’s a very good chance that Carlos Boozer will spend less and less time on the floor, and eventually find his way out of the team through the NBA’s amnesty clause.
It’s hard to define expectations for the Chicago Bulls this season. The starters – Noah, Boozer, Deng, Hamilton remained, while there’s always the wait for Derrick Rose to return from his injury (January? March?). On the bench, it’s been a busy offseason. Nate Robinson, Kirk Hinrich (returning to a place he never wanted to leave), Marco Belinelli, Nazr Mohamed, Vladimir Radmanovic, Marquis Teague. A complete overhaul of what was the deepest and probably the best bench in the NBA.
A first place seed in the East like last year? No chance, not without Rose. The Miami Heat showed that they are by far the class of this conference, and are expected to dominate next season all through the regular season all the way to the playoffs. No one is going to give 100% for the entire 82 games, but there seems to be a vacuum this season behind the Heat, with the Bulls seeing themselves, even without Derrick Rose, as legitimate candidates to be that team.
Taj Gibson becoming a starter and putting up starter kind of numbers will be like signing a new player. He averaged 7.7 points and 5.3 rebound on 20.4 minutes a night last season. Boozer averaged 15 with 8.5 rebounds on 29.4 minutes a night. The Bulls have been encouraging Gibson to work this offseason on his post moves and become much more of a paint-threat than before.
And then there’s the extension that needs to come up before October 31st, a deadline for 4th year players. This is where I want to stay, this is where I hopefully want to retire one day. So we’ll have to wait and see.
A new deal is likely to bring Gibson to a salary of just under $10 million per season, but the 27 year old says that it hasn’t really been on his mind: I haven’t even really thought about it to tell you the truth. The last couple days I haven’t even heard anything. That’s the last thing on my mind. My focus is on just winning games, and getting ready for the season to start.
Thibs really wants me to get down in the paint. He wants to get the ball down to me. We do this before practice, after practice. Just having a steady routine. I know it’s preseason, but you can never get days off. It’s about getting better every day.
Last postseason, with Rose out, the Bulls expected Boozer to step up. Instead, he finished the series against the Sixers averaging 13.5 points per game, shooting 42.2% from the field, always being where the fingers are pointed at when it comes to defensive problems. There are still $47.1 million left to pay Boozer for the next three seasons. If Chicago see that Gibson is picking up the slack and turning into a reliable, consistent force in the paint, it’ll probably be a quick farewell for Boozer, a 2-time all-star, who never delivered the goods he was expected to once he signed the $80 million, five year contract.