As we get set for the upcoming Bulls season, let's take a closer look at each player on the projected roster. It’s a roster which has been the subject of more debate and excitement than any other in recent memory.
Player: Carlos Boozer
Salary: $14.4 million, first year of five-year deal he signed this summer
Role for Bulls in 2010-'11: As long as Boozer stays healthy, he will be a great fit for the Bulls. He provides the low-post presence that will complement Joakim Noah well, and he should be able to average 20 points and 10-12 rebounds a game like he did in Utah. Boozer is excited to play with Derrick Rose and both understand how important they will be to each other's success. Expect the pair to make a living running the high pick and roll.
"He's tight," Boozer said of Rose earlier this month. "He can play. With our combination of what we have on our team, with myself in the post, with D-Rose at the point guard spot, Joakim [Noah] plugging that middle up, Luol Deng being very versatile on the wing, I think we have a team that can rival anybody. I think we'll be able to compete against every team in the league."
What happened this summer?: Boozer has said and done all the right things since signing his new deal. He told ESPN Chicago that the Bulls have the ability to win a title, and he believes that Rose has the ability to lead the team for years to come. In many ways, he is a better fit for this team than Chris Bosh would have been, a belief that Bulls general manager Gar Forman reiterated when he was introduced. He isn't afraid to bang in the post, and he is the back-to-the-basket scorer that should give Rose even more room to operate. After winning a gold medal during the Beijing Games in 2008, Boozer and the rest of his teammates sat out the World Championships. The burly forward says he feels great and has been bouncing around Chicago looking for a new place to live and enjoying the city when he's not working out at the Berto Center.
Best-case scenario: Boozer avoids the injuries that plagued him at times in Utah and produces an All-Star caliber season. He clicks immediately with Rose, and the duo runs the pick and roll so often that fans are reminded of John Stockton and Karl Malone. Boozer, Noah and Deng combine to form one of the best frontlines in the NBA as the Duke alum becomes a popular locker room figure because of his hard-nosed play.
Worst-case scenario: Boozer gets hurt early in the season and fans question his toughness from the outset. He and Rose have a hard time getting on the same page and clog the floor up for the rest of their teammates. He doesn't become the double-double machine he has been his entire career and his contract ends up making Deng's deal look palatable.
As a quick aside, the day Boozer and the Bulls agreed to the deal, I was asked to go on a talk show in Salt Lake City. Granted, the hosts may have been a little biased in their assessment of his play, but the prevailing theory they had for Chicago fans was, "Buyer Beware." Boozer developed a reputation as a guy who didn't always play through injuries (he missed 138 games during his six seasons in Utah) and looked out for himself. The guys in Salt Lake City admitted that he was a great player, but they didn't sound broken up that he was leaving. Only time will tell what kind of reputation he develops in Chicago, but it's worth noting what people have said about him in the past.
Bottom line: If he stays on the floor and produces like an All-Star, Bulls fans will be ecstatic, and Boozer will be beloved. If he doesn't, people are going to look back at the free-agent class of 2010 and wonder how the Bulls whiffed so badly with so much on the line.