One of the questions many Chicago Bulls fans have asked themselves has to do with the Taj Gibson – Carlos Boozer debate. Why hasn’t Boozer been amnestied? Why does he get more minutes? The funny thing is that through advances stats or simply by watching a game, the Bulls are better when Gibson plays next to Noah in the frontcourt and the rest of the starters.
At least when looking at this chart assembled by TheGreatInquisitor, which pretty much shows that in a lineup that includes Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy and Joakim Noah, switching Taj Gibson with Carlos Boozer gives the Bulls an advantage in almost every possible category.
There is the matter of a smaller sample size, with Gibson getting about a third of the time next to those four when compared with Boozer. Their per 36 minutes are similar (Boozer gets a slight edge) and overall, this season is the first time Gibson is playing just as much as Boozer, both on the floor for 29.1 minutes a night, although Gibson gets more time with the second unit.
The Bulls often keep Boozer on the bench late in games, or at least in defensive possessions. Unlike the whole image of the team, Boozer doesn’t project toughness, and simply isn’t a good defensive player. He doesn’t block very well and moves very slow on switches and rotations. Gibson is quite different to him in that aspect, but there’s also a much smaller sample size in these charts, which actually gives Boozer the edge when it comes to metrics.
But there’s more to comparing two basketball players than their advanced numbers. Whatever happens these playoffs, the option of amnestying Boozer, entering the final season of his contract, will be on the table again. It has nothing to do with the Carmelo Anthony rumors, and even by taking Boozer off the cap, it won’t be enough to bring in Melo without a few more moves that probably include trading Gibson as well, which is something most are against.
Carlos Boozer can get hot early in games with a soft jumper and that high, looping shot of his. But he also has games when it seems that layups are difficult for him to convert. Gibson is a lot more solid and consistent. He relies a lot more on what he does in the paint and less on his jumper, but he has a good enough mid range jumper, and he’s not the kind of player to go cold all of a sudden. He can also contribute in other ways. When Boozer’s offense isn’t working, it’s actually better to leave him on the bench.
Just like the Kendrick Perkins question in Oklahoma City, the Bulls might have made a mistake by keeping Boozer for this long. But it’s not just about not paying him money (which they actually will be, just off the books). It’s whether or not they can get someone to contribute in the same way for less money. Maybe they haven’t been creative enough over the years in finding a solution to the Boozer problem, but one thing is for sure. With every game that goes by, the reasoning behind Boozer’s lineup spot is harder and harder to explain.