Now that the draft has passed, it is time to focus on attention to the event that NBA fans have been anticipating for literally years. On Saving the Skyhook, I’ll do a review a day of each of the major players who figure to command the most attention come July 1 — in no particular order. Today features Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz.
In this year’s crop of free agents, the position of power forward is heavily stocked with worthy talents. With Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudemire already profiled, I move on today to another top 4 in the league, who — while certainly not up to their level on terms of desirability — Carlos Boozer is still a solid option at the position for even the best NBA teams.
Boozer has shown he can be a top force in the league since he began playing with the Utah Jazz several years ago. After a few disappointing, if productive, seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the transition to Jerry Sloan’s system, in which he encountered Deron Williams, was the best thing that could ever happen to Boozer.
On the offensive end, Boozer has a very complete and well-rounded game. He combines effectiveness around the basket on layups with an abundance of post moves and polishes it off with range to about 15 feet on his jump shot. His many talents in that regard contributed to his 59.9 true shooting percentage, good for third among power forwards in the league who played 21 or more minutes. That said, he stands at only 6-foot-9, so he does have an inordinate number of shots swatted away by lengthier players.
In what can only be described as a quandary, Boozer excels on the boards despite his short stature and stunningly negligible vertical leap. By muscling and manhandling other players in the post, Boozer establishes fantastic position for rebounding. The effort paid off this season, as he wrangled in over 11 rebounds per game this past season with a rebound rate of 19.4: third in the league among power forwards.
Boozer further augments his talents on the offensive end with sound game awareness and above-average passing ability. In fact, his 14.3 assist ratio slid him in at eighth among power forwards playing 20 minutes or more.
Despite these numerous talents, many are holding off on committing to Boozer for two major reasons, the first of which is his suspect defense. While Boozer manages to largely negate his physical limitations through good work and awareness on the block and the boards, he fails to do so on the defensive end. As demonstrated by the Lakers’ slaughter of Utah’s front court in this year’s playoffs, Boozer simply cannot effectively prevent taller players from scoring on him. They simply shoot over his outstretched arm, and his lack of vertical renders him a complete nonfactor as a shot blocker.
The other major problem people have with Boozer is his susceptibility to injury. During his six-year tenure in Utah, Boozer has played more than 51 games only three times, and he played under 40 contests in two of those seasons. His legs are shaky, and any team that signs him has to be wary of an eventual breakdown.
While Boozer is not the top option at the position, many teams are going to be in the market for a big man who is a proven 20-10 commodity. However, he might not get the money or length of contract he truly desires, as many GMs have concerns about both his defense and injury concerns, much like Stoudemire’s.