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:
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.