Lakers Grab Former Cavs, Jazz, and Bulls Forward off Waivers

Darius Soriano —  July 18, 2014

If you follow me on twitter, you know how I feel about this particular player by now. If you don’t, well, just know I am not a fan.

But this isn’t about me, it is about the player the Lakers just signed to a one year, $3.251 million (that extra 10K was tacked on a la a Price Is Right bid) contract via the amnesty waiver claim on Thursday. So, yes, Carlos Boozer is a Laker.

I’ll save the negativity for later, so if that’s what you came for just scroll down a bit.

Boozer, over the course of his career has been a fine player. After a very good career at Duke, Boozer slipped to the 2nd round of the draft but was quickly able to show that his slide was a mistake. Very good production for the Cavs put Boozer on the map, but it was his time with the Jazz that really established him as a very good power forward in this league.

Playing in Jerry Sloan’s Flex offense brought out the best in Boozer’s game, allowing him to play from the elbows offensively, putting him in position where he could shoot his mid-range jumper or easily work his way to the low block where his combination of bulk and touch on turnarounds was well used. The Flex also showed Boozer’s ability to make good reads as a passer, where he was often able to play high-low basketball or pick out cutters sliding along the baseline. All in all, Boozer has been a well rounded offensive performer who you could plug and play in most systems. Combine those skills with his always plus work on the defensive glass and there’s a reason he’s been paid all this money over his career.

When you think of Boozer, then, it’s easy to think of the guy he was and when that is translated to a $3.25 million salary for a single year, you can find some value in that. Add in that Boozer, a veteran player with savvy and some skill, can teach some things to Julius Randle and Ed Davis (footwork and getting your shot off against length, for example) while also being another big man in the rotation (NBA teams can never have enough rotation bigs) and you can see even more value.

There are problems, though. And not small ones, either.

Boozer is no longer the player he was with the Jazz. He’s actually not even the player he was for his first couple of seasons with the Bulls. Last season Boozer suffered through what was probably his worst season as a pro that wasn’t his rookie season. I won’t get into all the stats, you can do that yourself here. Just know that the Bulls were a much better team on both ends of the floor when Boozer was on the bench in favor of Taj Gibson.

That’s right, both sides of the floor. I could go on and on about Boozer’s poor defense, but there’s a saying about beating dead horses that would apply. Let’s just say he’s not good at defending and that would be generous*. But it’s his falling off offensively that should concern people as that has been his calling card over his career. Sure, the footwork and savvy remains, but the effectiveness has dwindled. Last season in Chicago he posted a True Shooting percentage of .489 and a free throw rate of only .197 — said another way, he turned into a jumpshooting big man who didn’t hit his jump shots. Add to that his poor finishing around the rim and this is the type of shot chart you get:

Yuck.

This doesn’t even get to the roster issues, either. As noted above, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have an extra big man around. Big guys get hurt. They get in foul trouble. They get tired more easily. Having extra ones around to compensate for these things can be valuable. In a vacuum, that is. But games aren’t played in vacuums, and when you look at the Lakers’ roster construction you have to wonder exactly where Boozer will fit in and at what cost to other players.

The Lakers drafted Julius Randle with the 7th overall pick. His natural position is power forward. The Lakers just re-signed Jordan Hill to a 2 year, $18 million contract to play a lot of center, but to also, presumably, play some power forward. The team just inked Ed Davis on an excellent value contract to do the same as Hill. They also still hold the rights to Ryan Kelly who, while having his own warts defensively and on the glass, has a very good offensive skill set for today’s NBA and showed in his first season to have a positive effect on the team’s offense when he was on the floor (the Lakers were 5.6 points per 100 possessions better offensively when Kelly played versus when he was on the bench). All four of those players (assuming Kelly is back — which I hope occurs) need minutes next season and all of them should play some (if not the bulk or all) of those minutes at power forward.

Boozer also plays power forward. He does not play center. Essentially, then, any minutes that Boozer gets will come at the expense of a younger player who, at the stage of their respective careers, should be on the floor more than Boozer in order to develop. What the Lakers have done, then, is create a log-jam where there was none and put a decision on the coach’s hands (whoever that guy may be) where he will have to choose between a Boozer (a former all-star! a big name! you saw him on TV last year!) and another young player who’s career is in front of him, not behind. Which choice do you see a coach making? Especially if said coach is a veteran one who, with the types of veteran additions the team has been making, will likely still be trying to make the playoffs next season?

Needless to say, I don’t like this signing. If the team could sign Boozer for $3.25 million, I figure they could have tried to give that money to a defensive wing to help cover up the deficiencies that Kobe and Nick Young boast on that end (or any wing at all, really, considering how thin the Lakers are at SF and SG right now). Or they could have gone for a more traditional center to help at that spot should Hill and/or Davis prove to be too small/light/fragile to play heavy minutes there all year.

But that’s not what they’ve done. They have, instead, chased a name player with a game in full decline who was so bad defensively his coach held him out at the end of games. They have grabbed a player who plays the same position as their first round draft choice and put them in direct competition for minutes. And they have done all this, seemingly, in the name of winning and trying to compete for a playoff spot next year.

Time will tell if this was a good move, but at the outset, even for the little cost and short term investment, I have my doubts.

*I tried not to pile on about Boozer’s defense above, but I will only add that if you thought Pau struggled defensively last year, imagine a guy who is, essentially, the same but shorter and with less length. That’s what you have with Boozer. He will not protect the rim. He will only sometimes make the back line rotation that is the difference between an uncontested lay-in and one that is even partially challenged. He will reach when he should slide and he will side step when he should stand firm. He cannot be trusted on the back line of any capable defense for more than short stretches without a hyper-active big helping to cover for him (like he had in Chicago with Joakim Noah). Last I checked, the Lakers do not have a Joakim Noah on their roster.

Darius Soriano

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32 responses to Lakers Grab Former Cavs, Jazz, and Bulls Forward off Waivers

  1. rr,
    I agree 100 percent with your take on Boozer. He is a very bad player. That’s why I’m suprised you don’t like it. Playing Boozer over Randle will add 7-10 more losses to this team. It’s pretty clear with the Lakers not adding any talent this offseason besides the two draft picks (who probably won’t play much) have made up their mind to try and keep their draft pick next summer. You don’t agree with this?

  2. OK, so we know how Darius feels about Boozer.
    As I stated in the last thread..
    I think they just felt like if they could get a guy of his experience and caliber at 3 mil, he was a good pickup.
    They may not have grabbed Davis if they knew they’d land Boozer.

    I do feel that sometimes having a little competition for minutes can be a positive thing among teammates.
    Nobody can relax here. Minutes must be earned.
    So what if a coach has a tough decision?
    The players will dictate who deserves the PT.

    I find the Boozer acquisition less offensive than passing on Stephenson, who appears to have been available to us if we had been willing to offer a 3-year deal.
    The strategy of keeping cap space cleared for 2016 is pathetic.
    Look at the decisions Carmelo and Pau just made for proof of that.

    Eventually we will need to build.
    Boozer is a stopgap and a nod to Kobe that this isn’t a “full rebuild” and we want to win some games this year.
    Boozer may help.

  3. I agree with all you’ve said. Now having said that and assuming that Mitch knows basketball why would Mitch (and or Jim Buss) even have considered this move? They can read the stats just like anybody else. How do they really think this waste of money is going to help the Lakers going forward?

  4. I’m not enthusiastic about the signing, to say the least. The positive is, there is a world full of Lakers fans whose best analysis is Ringzzzzz!!!, and they could like this move.

    In all seriousness, I am a bit intrigued with Randle being used at the 3. He has shown he can drive and his handle is pretty good, plus he can move the ball. Those bigger, quicker 3s that may be used to cover him will not like his physicality. I’ve not been able to watch the Summer League games much, other than highlights, so I don’t know if Randle has just stayed away from shooting or has been bad at it. It is my understanding that he can shoot. Point is, if Randle is playing the 3 as well as the 4, then the logjam isn’t as bad as it looks.

    So, if we play a drinking game of taking a shot every time Boozer shouts AND1 without making the fieldgoal who dies of alcohol poisoning first? I vote for gene.

  5. Warren Wee Lim July 18, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Can we amnesty Aaron? maybe the Bulls will claim.

  6. In Response to Aaron July 18, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Aaron,
    He’s anti-tanking. If the team is bad, they’re bad, but they need to play hard and just try, let the chips fall as they may. As for me, I’m just not sure what the Lakers strategy is. I’m hoping they pull off a miraculous trade mid-season and repeat the magic of the 08 season (low expectations turning into an amazing season).

  7. I agree 100%. However, is it possible that LA is looking to trade Randle? Maybe Bledsoe? If so, having Boozer makes sense. Otherwise, he’s not gone win you enough games to get into the playoffs and will just slow down the development of the younger guys.

  8. Aaron,

    First, I think Randle will play a good amount next season and I would be surprised if Clarkson doesn’t get something like 20 minutes a game. If Clarkson’s shooting comes together, he will develop into a long term starting PG in the league. Maybe not an all-star but he looks really, really good. He plays really good D, has length and quickness, he gets to the rim, he can create for himself and others, he is athletic and explosive. Again, he keeps shooting well and develops court-control the guy will be really good and has a chance at being better than any PG the Lakers fielded last season.

    A healthy Randle is probably not the equal of a healthy Pau at this point of their careers. A healthy Randle is probably better than Pau was last season, in terms of being a plus player and actually playing. Couple this with Kobe coming back and the team having some semblance of health and the team should be much better than last season’s. To me, there is little chance the Lakers fall to the bottom 5. Then I took a look at last season’s standings, figured out which teams got better and which ones worse. I guess there may be some sense to thinking there is a chance the Lakers still wind up pretty bad. I don’t see bottom five and then leads us to praying for a miracle at the draft lottery.

  9. The young players will benefit from practicing against Boozer…Maybe Boozer was unhappy in Chi….

  10. I beleive the Boozer signing was a direct request from Bryant. Right now, Kobe has 0 teammates he has any meaningful relationship with. None of the players on the roster have any experience playing in any “meaningful” games. There are no veterans on the team besides Kobe. What Kobe sees in Boozer is someone with experience, and some one who he can “gameplan” with. Aside from those 2, no one knows the ins an outs of the NBA. Throw in the USA relationship from 2008 if you’d like. I think this is the reason Boozer was brought in. The Lakers are not THAT stupid.

  11. Nick Van Exile July 18, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Good, objective article, Darius.

    I’m not as down on the Boozer acquisition as you. I think Boozer will help Randle with his transition to being an NBA starting PF. It takes the pressure off of being thrown to the wolves, alone, as the Lakers’ future savior. Randle may get in foul trouble, he will hit the rookie wall, he may get injured, he will probably struggle a bit adjusting to the length of NBA frontlines and double-teams, and he will have to learn to shoot that 15-18 footer (and trust in his ability to shoot it in the game). Boozer can help him learn the in’s and out’s of the PF position while providing valuable backup minutes. I see this move cutting into the playing time of Kelly, but to me, Kelly’s ceiling is as a 3 point specialist (like Bonner/Novak), not someone that should be playing a lot of minutes like he had to last year. He can get his minutes by being plugged in to the 3, 4, or 5 spot for short stretches at a time, depending on the match-up, to provide floor-spacing. Adding Boozer is a low risk move that will hopefully pay off in Randle’s development being guided along by a former all-star player at his position.

    If Boozer balks at taking on this mentor role, then it’s no big deal to waive him but at this stage of his career (as well as Nash’s and Kobe’s), they need to think about helping the younger guys get better and ready to take over for them.

  12. The lakers needed body’s, and they want them on 1 year deals. This was a way to do that and give Kobe another vet to play with. I don’t like boozers game either, but who else were we going to get on a 1 year deal (that’s not a d leaguer)? A little too much negativity about this pick up for my taste. Randle will still get his minutes, don’t worry…

  13. Darius makes a great point in this post. This signing is really about context. And we don’t know the context yet because we don’t know the coach.

    If Boozer was signed to play 15-18 minutes a game, back up the 4, provide a low-post option for the second unit, and mentor the Lakers’ young bigs, then OK. Reasonable move, even if I can think of other ways to spend the $.

    If OTOH, Boozer is gonna start and see significant minutes because he’s a “name,” and because we have a veteran coach trying desperately to make the playoffs, goaded by a star in the twilight of his fabulous career, then not so good. The coaching choice will reveal a lot about this context. Till then I’ll withhold judgment.

  14. I like the idea that was brought up of Randle playing and learning against Boozer in practice, and Kobe having a seasoned veteran on the team.

  15. I expect the Lakers to try to emulate the Spurs. Everybody playing less than 30 mpg. and at least 6 players averaging double digits in scoring. This table would be an ideal and realistic situation:

    Player MPG PPG RPG
    Kobe Bryant 30 20 4
    Jeremy Lin 30 14
    Julius Randle 30 14 9
    Jordan Hill 25 10 10
    Carlos Boozer 20 10 5
    Nick Young 30 14
    Ed Davis 20 8 6
    Others (Nash, Marshall, Jordan, Sacre, Kelly…) 55 13 10
    TOTAL 240 103 44

    We have a deficiency at SF position. I hope that Randle and Kelly, depending on matchups, could cover at least 50% of the SF minutes per game (in addition to their PF responsibilities) and Nick Young and Kobe the remaining 50%. Offensively this is not a bad scenario and could be accomplished. The lack of 3point shooters and the floor spacing with so many mid-range shooters are things that have to be addressed.

    The real challenge for the Lakers will be defensively. Could they hold the opponents around 100 ppg to be a middle of the pack defensive team? To achieve this goal the Lakers will mainly have to cut down on fast break points by the opposition (worst team in the NBA for the last three seasons). That means less turnovers (22nd the last two seasons), less Kobe Bryant and rest of the guards playing centerfield defense and not getting back on defense and, the positive side of not having a lot 3 point shooting, that hopefully will improve the fg% and decrease the long rebounds that lead to fast breaks.

    Of course, I don’t see the Lakers as contenders this year, but meeting the above requirements could make us a first round playoff team that could be attractive to a big free agent in 2015, while having an entertaining regular season.

  16. Aaron,

    A guy at another site wrote a piece late last season entitled “Mitch Kupchak: Tanking Ninja”, the point of which was basically that Mitch had added guys who

    a) Made it look as if the Lakers were competing
    while
    b) Actually making them a bad team so they could improve their draft position

    IOW, Mitch was basically a one-man conspiracy theory. I thought the piece was a long reach and said so, even though the site writers/mods there, who are big FO honks, loved it and promoted the guy to being a site writer. After the season, Mitch himself told Sam Amick that he thought last year’s team could “win in the 40s.” I believe him.

    So if you were going to pick a guy who would

    a) Look like a guy who would part of a team trying to compete and look good to Kobe
    while
    b) Not actually helping the team win.

    One name you’d arrive at would be Boozer.

    But I don’t buy that sort of theorizing, so I will operate based on the idea that the FO believes that Boozer will help the team. Leaving intent aside, heavy PT for Boozer will lead to a few more losses IMO–but not 7-10 more, and like Kaman did, he will have a couple of turn-back-the-clock games when he puts up nice numbers and maybe shifts a game into the win column.

    As to the signing itself: like I have said before, for the most part, the more people have to try to explain a move, the worse it is. We see that no one was trying to explain the Ed Davis signing–the reasons for it were obvious and the money was right. No one will need to explain why the team brought back Xavier Henry at the minimum, either. With Boozer, though, we are seeing all kinds of explanations: the Lakers are trying to emulate the Spurs; the Lakers want Boozer to set up additional moves down the line with the other 4s, the Lakers want a mentor for Randle and someone for him to practice against, the Lakers are going to a power game and will make Randle a 3, the Lakers did it for Kobe etc, etc.

    The reason for that is that as Darius’ post details, the basic, observable facts about Boozer are negative: he is old, not very good, declining, duplicates skills and adds to problems the Lakers already have, blocks guys who need to play, and he can’t be traded.

    When it was announced, I said “maybe it will lead to something else.” On its own, it looks bad to me.

  17. It seems to me like they’re compiling tradeable assets–short-term deals of varying value to fit any cap situation they may encounter. Jordan Hill’s deal in particular makes sense if you think of it as salary cap filler.

    Not much else explains the massive surplus at the 4 and the gaping hole at the 3, though today’s signing of Henry helps a bit. If they swapped two PFs for a SF and C, you’d have a real NBA roster taking shape.

  18. Darius,

    Agree with your comments on Boozer. In perspective, I don’t regard signing Boozer as stupid as the Lakers signing Nash. Said it was stupid the day Nash signing was announced and Nash has done nothing to change my opinion.

    Some times as a Lakers fan we have to roll with questionable roster decisions.
    Signing Boozer is one of the times, because he is garbage!

  19. My goodness…we got 5 power forwards and not one of them is known for their defense or they are undersized….can we get a center? I’m sure Okafor could be a bargain….we need a tony allen like wing..hell maybe tony allen himself would work but we need someone to try put on the Durant’s etc if we want to get better….not a bad roster but this roster really kinda reminds me of the Butler/Odom roster back in 2005 or 2006 whichever year that was…pretty decent players but won’t be enough…

  20. rr,
    I didn’t read that piece but I said last year that the lakers were trying to tank by signing guys like Kaman who have nice veteran names but can’t play any defense. Mitch isn’t a moron. He knows the team at best is the 11th best team in the west. He knows they can’t lose the only positive (a top 5 pick) that can come out of next year. I’m surprised you think so lowly of the front office. You think they believe Boozer helps them win games?

    And yes I think Boozer was that bad the last two years. Taking Randle (our best player next year) out and putting in Boozer (the worst PF in the NBA) I think is a 7-10 loss swing.

  21. You think they believe Boozer helps them win games?

    Yep. How does giving Nick Young four years fit in with this plan of Mitch’s?

  22. . Said it was stupid the day Nash signing was announced

    I actually went back and looked up that day and the next day’s posts. Didn’t see you there saying it was stupid, but I may have missed it, or you have may have said it elsewhere.

  23. Also, it is not really that I think “lowly” of the FO. It is more that I think they see some things very differently than I do.

  24. Patrick Lanigan July 18, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    I hate this signing for what it says about the front office. Paying over $3 million to another old PF was about the last thing this team needed short of another old PG. It is plain to see that the Lakers will not be a good team next year. No middling signing at this stage is going to change it. So, whether you’re in the “tank” category in the hopes that the team can retain their draft pick, or whether you just want to see the team return to glory as quickly as possible, the surest way to accomplish your goals is not to bring in an old guy who plays the same position as two promising youngsters (Randle & Davis), one of whom is essentially on a 1 year deal so you need to evaluate him quickly.

    When the Lakers acquired Jordan Hill, he was considered a bust, but given the right opportunity he looked like a very nice asset. Many of us hope the same will be said of Davis. Now, with Boozer likely ahead of him on the depth chart (and Randle surely higher up), how many PF minutes will Davis get? Few, in all likelihood, and he’ll be relegated to playing spot minutes out of position at the center spot.

    Instead of this dreadful signing, had the team spent this money on an actual center (a position they are woefully thin at), the PF minutes would be split between Randle & Davis, and in the event of injury or foul trouble they always have Hill to play those minutes at what is his natural position. Instead, both Hill and Davis will be out of position, and the team will give Davis very little opportunity to show or develop his abilities. All for a guy who sucks at basketball and is among the pound for pound softest players in the league. I hate this move….

  25. Nick Van Exile July 18, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    I wouldn’t get so hung up about Hill/Davis playing out of their natural positions as there are very few huge centers and/or centers that can actually post up in the NBA now. Hill and Davis should only have problems matching up with a few of them over the course of the season (and conversely, they’ll be able to guard stretch 4’s and 5’s better than a classic-sized center like Hibbert). I think Davis will get plenty of minutes to play when Hill is resting, injured, or in foul trouble. Who knows, he might even outplay Hill and earn the starting job?

  26. I’ll pile on the vitriol here; if you want the stats, click here: http://www.clublakers.com/post3982458.html#p3982458

  27. Since the Lakers haven’t pursued centers, I get the feeling they want to go “small.” (Though I don’t know what that means in our context–hopefully the FO does.) So, it makes sense to have another bigger body. For sure Hill will be out a fair number of games w/ injuries. I honestly don’t see Kelly ever matching up against an opponent’s 4’s or 5’s. I like his smarts and hustle, but he gets pushed around like a child out there, and not just when he’s in the paint. At least Boozer should get some rebounds.

    I didn’t think of Boozer getting a whole lot of minutes here. That would be a scary scenario,,,It might mean that Randle isn’t as NBA ready as he’s looking, so doubly scary.

  28. Carlos Booooozer!!!!! I LOVE it! Who are the top three picks next year?

  29. Patrick Lanigan July 18, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    With this roster they might as well have kept D’Antoni.

  30. Great article. Hate the Boozer pick up. The best long term goal is to keep our top 5 protected pick from the disastrous Nash sign and trade. Instead of catering to Kobe, we should be focusing on low cost but YOUNG players who are craving an opportunity, not visibly declining oldsters with massive holes in their game. I have never heard that Boozer is a great teammate, so his value as a “teacher” is highly suspect.

    If they did this to appease Kobe, then they are simply compounding the absurdity of the Kobe contract. Kobe has never been a great judge of basketball talent (see Phil Jackson’s book regarding how Kobe liked Slava’s game), and I would rather have Mitch decide who might be useful than Kobe.

    This pickup continues to demonstrate that the biggest mistake made in Dr. Buss’ career was to try to force his monumentally unsuccessful son into a role that he is not equipped to play. Jimmy would finish last in my fantasy basketball league. Putting him in charge of “basketball operations” for this storied franchise is ludicrous.

    The Lakers are poised to have a terrible season in which they finish 10th or 11th in the West, snag the number six pick in the draft (giving the Suns the best possible pick they could achieve through the trade), Kevin Love will get traded to Cleveland and take himself off the 2015 market, and any free agent with sense will only use the desperate Lakers as leverage to get a better contract from a team he really wants to play for.

    What talented free-agent is going to sign with a Lakers organization run by a reformed beach bum who has learned nothing from watching successful organizations (such as the Spurs) scout out hidden gems with late first-round and second-round draft picks? The legendary history of the Lakers was built by others. The Lakers are in danger of becoming a rundown “historic building” useful only for reminiscing about the past, unless they jettison Jimmy. That cannot happen soon enough.

  31. @Mr clutch Kobe liked that slava was a willing shooter and not afraid of the moment. There’s a difference.

    Great post Darius,

    The Lakers definitely got a value add in Boozer, but I don’t understand the pick up other than a roster fill out and an opportunistic move. It doesn’t hurt them flexbility wise going forward and Boozer is not a scrub and playing in a defense first system in Chicago probably just wore him out. Deng even had to have a spinal tap. But the Lakers could have used that spot and the money along with a Nash stretch on Stephenson or another young prospect. Boozer is a known commodity that you’re not really going to add to any championship roster. I just hope it doesn’t take away minutes from Randle. I do think this move was more about Rob Pelinka and Kobe, but the Lakers did win him in an auction lol so I dunno. I am definitely happy we kept Henry and Johnson on those one year deals. I think both of them have a lot to offer I just wish we would have signed them to deals similar to kelly’s to give them a little more security. Overall I have to give Mitch Kuptchak a B+ this off season. We upgraded at pg with clarkson and lin and got a potential steal in clarkson, I’ve never seen a player like him with his athletic ability and skill set. Kobe is back, we resigned Henry, and might keep Kane. Have to considered that an upgrade at sg, Young and Johnson are back so SF at least is better or the same. Our front court to me is where we took the hit losing Kaman and Pau. But again, I have to give credit to the FO, getting Jordan Hill who was a hot commodity for a two year deal was great, with solid minutes and a role he will justify that price tag with his production easily. Ed Davis was another value add that is probably going to bring more on defense than Pau or Kaman did and is a solid pick up. Then we have the future who I am very excited for. Randle.

  32. It started with the infamous trade for Chris Paul that the league, specifically David Stern, vetoed. Causing a very talented and productive Lamar Odom to demand a trade after feeling unappreciated. Making Pau Gasol feel uncomfortable for the last few years, after being in trade rumors every year. With that leading up to him not wanting to re-sign with the team Then trading so much to acquire the contributions of Steve Nash along with going ga-ga for Dwight Howard, who truly didn’t want to be a Laker and paired with Kobe in the first place. Bad coaching and injuries galore. It has been a very rough time in Laker Nation. I’m sad to say, that the Lakers and Laker Nation will be the Dallas Cowboys of the NBA for years to come