Last year over at NBAPlaybook, Sebastian Pruiti took a look at players who struggled during the season and looked at whether it was a fluke season or the start of a trend. This year, Sebastian is bringing the series to Basketball Prospectus.
After signing a five-year, $75 million dollar contract, Carlos Boozer had one of his more disappointing seasons as a pro. After missing a chunk of games at the beginning of the season due to an injured right pinky finger, Boozer saw his scoring average drop from 19.5 two seasons ago to 17.5 last year despite taking about the same number of shots per game. With four years left on his massive deal, Bulls' fans are hoping to see Boozer bounce back, but can he?
Where Did He Struggle?
The reason for Boozer's dip in shooting percentage is that he is simply not shooting the ball as well as he did his final season in Utah. Boozer's True Shooting Percentage (TS%) went from 59.9 percent last season to 54.2 percent this season. So where did Boozer struggle to shoot from? Well, using HoopData, we can pinpoint two areas where he went from above-average shooting to below average: from 3-9 feet (FG% dropped from 49.2 percent to 40.2 percent) and from 16-23 feet (FG% dropped from 44.0 percent to 37.0 percent).
Boozer's dip in the 3-9 foot range can be attributed to his poor play in the pick-and-roll game this past season. Two years ago, Boozer was one of the best finishers in the NBA when rolling to the rim on pick-and-rolls (top 8 percent), posting a PPP of 1.491 on 74.4 percent shooting. This past season, Boozer was in the bottom 30 percent in terms of PPP when rolling to the rim, scoring just 1.062 points per possession on 50 percent shooting. Why did this happen? Well, Boozer always had a nasty little habit when rolling to the rim of taking at least one dribble when making the catch. The problem is in Chicago, Boozer is making the catch sooner on the roll:
Because Derrick Rose is so dynamic coming off of ball screens, teams have a tendency to trap him as he comes off of them, or at least hedge at him, giving Boozer a free roll to the rim but also forcing the ball out of Rose's hands sooner. So when Boozer makes the catch on the roll, he is usually doing it with the space to go straight up. When he takes the dribble that he did in Utah (which was to get around defenders, and was effective for the most part), he is allowing the defense to rotate over to him and contest the shot.
When Boozer does have success rolling to the rim, it is when he goes straight up with it, getting the shot up before the defense can rotate to him:
On both of these plays, Boozer makes the catch early on the roll, but instead of taking a dribble he goes straight up with the basketball and that allows him to get his shot off without the defender getting to him and contesting the shot. Boozer has a history of struggling to finish over bigger defenders, so if you take the dribble away from him and let him finish before the big gets over to him, he is going to be more successful when rolling to the rim.
When it looking at Boozer's midrange stroke this season and comparing it to his shot two seasons ago, there seems to be something that he is doing differently with his lower body that could be leading to misses. In Utah, Boozer used to get up really high on his jump shots, letting the ball go at his highest point:
In Chicago, he's not really jumping as high, and that seems to be throwing everything off in terms of his shot:
Boozer isn't jumping as high, but he seems to be hanging on to the basketball for the same amount of time, essentially letting his shot go on the way down instead of at the highest point, throwing his shot off and, in my opinion, causing a good percentage of Boozer's misses.
Can He Bounce Back?
Whether or not Carlos Boozer can have a bounceback season next year all depends on Boozer himself. If Boozer goes out and plays the exact same way, taking that extra bounce while rolling to the rim and shooting the same way he did last year, he is going to struggle again.
If he listens to his coaching staff--because let's me honest, if I am noticing these things, the Bulls' coaching staff probably does too, especially the extra bounce when rolling to the rim--and makes adjustments to his game, I think he can go back to having the same type of success he did his final year in Utah.
Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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