Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Boozer May Be Expendable in Utah

Thanks in part to Paul Millsap, Carlos Boozer may not finish this season with the Utah Jazz. Since Boozer, who hasn’t played since November 19, went down with a quadriceps injury, Millsap has stepped in more that admirably, averaging 17.1 ppg and just over 10 rpg. In his past 12 games (omitting a pair of 8 point, 4 rebound games), he’s averaged 19.3 ppg and 11.7 rpg, while shooting about 55% from the field. Most recently Millsap was Utah’s standout performer in Boston, dropping 32 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and adding a pair of steals and a pair of blocks. In the 14 games the Jazz have played without Boozer, Millsap has scored 17 or more points in 8 of those games and grabbed ten or more rebound twelve times (the last 12 games consecutively). It’s not certain that Millsap can completely fill Carlos Boozer’s shoes, but he’s certainly playing as though he can. And though Millsap will be a free agent after this season, he will likely be available for $7-$9 million a year, rather than the $13-$17 million that Boozer will be looking for. Remember, Deron Williams will also be looking for a new contract soon.

As for Boozer, he's under contract for the remainder of this season and holds a player option for 2009-10, though it’s assumed he’ll opt out after this season, as he’s likely to command an annual salary of at least the $12.6 million he would receive in his optional year, and for at least 5 years. Also, by becoming a free-agent after this season, Boozer won’t have to compete with the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade & Co in the now-famed “Summer of 2010”. Finally, by acquiring Boozer, not only would any competitive team improve its on-the-court product this season, but would become a much more attractive destination for a 2010 free agent.

With that said, why would the Jazz, outside contenders for a title now, look to trade a guy who’s good for 20 point and 10 rebounds, year-in and year-out? Well, rather than wait until the off-season and look to cobble together a sign-and-trade deal, trading Boozer between now and February’s trade deadline would allow the Jazz to leverage other teams’ urgency to make in-season improvements, and maximize the value of the assets they receive in exchange.

Consider the following win-win (and in one case, win-win-win) deals involving Carlos Boozer:

By trading Boozer (and some salary filler) to Miami (his most likely destination as a free agent), in exchange for Shawn Marion, Daequan Cook and Jamaal Magloire (by the way, check out these guys' NBA.com photos!), the Miami Heat would have the guy they covet (and would probably make D-Wade happy), and all they’d really be giving up is a “system guy” stuck in the wrong system with a big expiring contract, a young role player who can score some points, a big body to come off the bench. As for Utah, in their system Marion can get out and run and would fill the lane beautifully for D-Will, Cook would be a solid #8 or #9 man in the rotation and Magloire could spell Millsap for 12-14 minutes a night. OR...

Utah could go three-way and get another team involved, trading Boozer to Miami, with Marion heading to the Detroit Pistons, and the Piston shipping Rasheed Wallace to Utah, with each team adding some salary filler. In this scenario, Utah would add Wallace would be strong veteran presence, with championship experience, who is an excellent one-on-one defender and can play both inside and out (kinda like Boozer, but with 3-point range). Plus, ‘Sheed is another big expiring contract (~$13.5 million), and he may may open the door to for the Jazz to move Mehmet Okur (also has a Boozer-like opt-out clause). Boozer would still wind up in Miami, and Detroit would likely get much more out of Shawn Marion than Miami has, with his rebounding and scoring the open floor giving Detroit and new, more effective look. Plus, Detroit could let both Marion and Allen Iverson’s contracts expire, clearing roughly $38 million off of their payroll at season’s end. Another possibility...

The Jazz could send Boozer to the Dallas Mavericks (another competitive team than could pay Boozer what he’s looking for), in exchange for Josh Howard and DeSagana Diop. Howard would give Utah a unique weapon for their system- a combination slasher/mid-range “3”, who would really benefit from the space created on the floor by D-Will, Okur, Millsap and Kyle Korver’s outside shot. And in Diop, Utah could add a serviceable big body on defense, who rebounds and doesn’t need shots; Diop could also take some of the rebounding pressure off of Millsap and others. And the Mavericks would be able to retool on-the-fly, adding a quality inside scorer to their core, setting up a potentially deadly Dirk Nowitzki- Carlos Boozer-Jason Terry attack, and possibly returning to the Western Conference elite.

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