Bulls Land Their Power Forward in Boozer
The Chicago Bulls made a bold and smart move yesterday filling a major hole they had by signing power forward Carlos Boozer for 5 years $80 million. Boozer or fellow power forward David Lee were the top free agents available (not named James) after Wade and Bosh agreed to terms, and the Bulls desperately needed to land one of them. While I think Lee might be the better player, Boozer is the safer bet if you don’t know that you will land King James. The one knock on Lee is his inexperience, particularly leading a team to the playoffs (not wholly his fault considering he was on the Knicks). Boozer on the other hand has plenty of playoff experience to bring to a relatively young Bulls team, and fits the low post scoring threat the Bulls have been lacking.
Although the Bulls paid a big price for Boozer, he did get less than the max which does keep them in play in the LeBron James market. And whether that money is earmarked to James, a trade or multiple 2nd tier players, that lesser contract makes Boozer a great value. When you consider what a player like Stoudemire got, who is a similar offensive minded power forward, its a great deal. Boozer might be a year older and has some durability concerns, but they aren’t nearly as great as Stoudemire’s injury woes. The savings that the Bulls got could really be the difference between this team contending or not.
Boozer fits in well with Chicago and not just his playoff experience added to a young team. The Bulls needed a scoring power forward and someone else who can crash the boards. Boozer is a double-double guy each night and should fit alongside center Joakim Noah, who is a defensive first center. Boozer also isn’t a lane clogger which is important with slashers like Rose and Deng (and potentially James) leading the offense, and will be a favorite target of Rose’s. Boozer’s arrival does take away minutes from promising rookie Taj Gibson, but he is better for a 6th man role anyways. Besides given Boozer’s likelihood of missing a few games, Gibson will have plenty of chances to contribute.
Now the real question is, will Boozer be enough to make LeBron James come to the Bulls? While I don’t think there is any great answer to that question, I will not count the Bulls out of the equation. Yes there is the Noah-James spat last year, and Rose’s comments about wanting Joe Johnson, but I don’t think those are deal breakers. For one, Noah needs to shut up and show some respect in courting James. If he has a grudge or isn’t apologizing he needs to realize that he is by no means an elite player. As for the Rose comments, those seem likely to be fixed with a simple phone call. Boozer now gives James the perfect lineup to win a championship with. The Bulls would have the best starting 5 in the NBA, and could make them Finals contenders this year. While there are benefits to some of the other cities, I wouldn’t count out the Bulls especially now that they made this move.
James or no James, Chicago made a move that makes them a legit contender next season. While they still might not be at the NBA Finals level, they are right on the cusp. The future looks bright in Chicago, and they made a great move by locking up Boozer.