Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Things to look for this season: Carlos Boozer

Who has been an All-Star two years in a row for the Jazz? This guy has.

Boozer is in a special group -- no, I'm not talking about him being one of the very few people to average 20 and 10 over the last two seasons -- I'm talking about a productive player for the Utah Jazz that Jazz fans love to hate, and hate to love; yet the rest of the media and fans seem to think he's a pretty good player.

It's easy when you're a good player, and loved -- and thus any flaws in your game that you may or may not have are forgiven. Guys like John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek and Deron Williams fall neatly in this group.

It is also easy when you are a bad player, and hated -- and everyone knows that you are a "bad guy", or crappy. Guys like John Amaechi and lovable loser Greg Ostertag fit the bill.

There is this one other category, though, where fans don't really know what to make of them. They are very talented players . . . but somehow their flaws are not absolved like those of other players in higher regard. This group is filled with the Karl Malones and Carlos Boozers of the franchise. Take Malone for example . . . he's not loved all over the world, but no one doubts his abilities as a player. No one usually, except Jazz fans who are divided into thinking that he was "Awesome" or alternatively, "Not Awesome Enough". Stockton is a flawless God, while Malone is regarded as the guy who held him back in some circles. I find this ridiculous . . . because we've seen point guards on bad teams put up good numbers but not win shit (Andre Miller in Cleveland, for example) just like scorers on bad teams who put up good numbers and don't win (Like Carmelo Anthony in Denver). Stockton needed a guy who could put the ball in the basket, and Karl did that better than any other player in NBA history save for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

What does this have to do with Carlos Boozer? Well, for starters, Boozer is a high scoring power forward whose offensive contributions to our team wins games. His defense has been a shadow of what it was when he played in Cleveland though -- and more over, his contributions to the team as a whole, have been greatly reduced in some sort of NBA fan revisionism. Easily one can see that Carlos Boozer isn't perfect . . . but a lot of teams would still start him -- including our team. (Even if he isn't adored but all)

This looks to be a big year in the life of Carlos Boozer -- not only is it a make or break year for the team financially, but it's a year where he can opt out of his contract and demand a max salary. Does he deserve it? Probably not, but when teams are willing to pay Rashard Lewis $14.9 million dollars for less than 5.5 rpg (BTW, Lewis plays the 4 for Orlando apparently) one can imagine a guy who rebounds more than twice that amount per game would earn himself a considerably large contract. Double doubles pay the bills in the NBA. So what can we expect from C-Booz this year?

  1. Unless he gets a season ending injury, he's opting out: This is going to happen. Deron Williams even commented on it during the summer that it's purely a financial move by Boozer that he would do, if he was in his place. The only way that I see Booz not opting out is if he has a season ending injury that would limit his max asking price on the open market. Otherwise, he's going to have a contract year like no other in recent Utah Jazz history.
  2. He's going to score and rebound like crazy: We tend to focus on the negative as fans. Let's take a look at what Boozer has given us over the last two seasons: over 800 rebounds per season and over 1500 points per season. His career stats are 17 and 10, which is what Memo averaged for half a season, only in the games where he played over 35 mpg. It's hard to win the game if you don't have the ball. One of the most frequent ways a team gets the ball is through rebounds. Carlos rebounds. It's hard to win the game if you don't put the ball in the basket. Carlos has averaged 8.75 FGM and 3.5 FTM in the past two seasons, for a combined 21 points (at the very least average) every game. I can imagine that he's going to go a little nuts during a contract year and get something like 25 and 12 this season. It may be a lofty goal, but I can easily see him putting up the shots to get 25 for a season -- especially when money is on the line.
  3. Nothing increases the size of your next contract like winning: Yes, Boozer *may* be about the money (I don't know how true this is), and people everywhere doubt his sincerity . . . but if there is any season for him to be all about winning it is this season. If the Jazz get through the 2nd round it will be because of many reasons. One of the largest reasons would have to be Carlos Boozer, and a rediscovery of how to play interior defense. Yes, Boozer *can* play defense . . . we've seen how quickly he can move on offense, and his fundamentals . . . he used to block shots back in Cleveland in addition to being a good one on one post defender. Jerry Sloan has made it a point this season to stress defense, and you can see for yourself that Carlos is being more active on defense, and putting up more resistance to people scoring on him. For the Jazz it may mean the difference between 6 playoff wins and more than 8 playoff wins. For Carlos Boozer it may mean the difference between a big phat contract, and one that eclipses the Gross National Product of some developing nations.