Tomorrow the Bulls visit Salt Lake City for one of the more anticipated games of the year. The reason isn’t the return of Kyle Korver of Ronnie Brewer, even if both of them played in a combined 446 games in a Jazz uniform. The reason isn’t because the Jazz are trying to get an important win that will help them improve their current playoff odds from the coin flip ESPN is projecting right now. Those are both important reasons, but the real reason is that Carlos Boozer returns to face a team that paid him over $70 million for 6 seasons of mixed results.
The story of Carlos Boozer was always a complicated one. In the beginning there was controversy over Boozer supposedly going back on his word to the Cavs to sign a free agent deal with the Jazz. In the middle there were injuries that made Jazz fans miss the stability of players like Stockton and Malone. In the end there was Boozer being a little too honest and public about his desires to play for another team. From the alpha to omega, Boozer was one of the most discussed players in Jazz history.
Now, that his tenure is over for the Jazz it is safe to look back on his Jazz career and provide a passing or failing grade to the contract. Let’s review the pros and cons of Boozer’s tenure with the Jazz:
- Pro - When he played he played well. His WS/48 was always above average and most of the time it was in the All-Star caliber range.
- Con - He missed 138 possible regular season games due to injuries. I don’t know if you can fault him for getting injured, but this was something that really hurt the Jazz during those six years.
- Pro – The 2006-2007 Season: He played in 90% of the regular season games and during that time he played incredibly well. He produced 10 out of the 51 regular season wins and finished 8th in the league in Player Efficiency Rating. He continued his incredible play in the playoffs by leading the Jazz to the Western Conference Finals. The key game and one of the most exciting, memorable Jazz games of my life was the Game 7 victory over the Rockets in Houston. Boozer finished with 35 points on 56% shooting in 41 minutes of playing time. Also, he had 14 rebounds, including an the game winning offensive rebound plus two free throws with 20 seconds left.
- Con – The 2005-2006 Season: He played in less than half the Jazz games and only contributed 3.5 Win Shares for a Jazz team that missed the playoffs with only 41 wins. The team had to expect more for a player being paid $11.5 million that year.
- Pro – Helping the Jazz get back into the playoffs: In the years after Stockton and Malone left the team a lot of people thought the Jazz were in for a long, painful road back to the playoffs. If you need an example check out the Minnesota Timberwolves without Kevin Garnett over these past 4 years. However, the Jazz didn’t fall in this trap because with the help of Boozer they became a perennial playoff team again. In Boozer’s last four years the Jazz made the playoffs, which is something that shouldn’t be discounted.
- Con – Matching up against the Lakers: Boozer was a great player for the Jazz. For all the negativity surrounding him, it doesn’t change that fact that against most teams Boozer was a dominant inside force. One huge exception however was when Boozer and the Jazz played the Lakers. He was too short to guard Gasol and too slow to guard Odom. Unfortunately for the Jazz they were matched up three consecutive times in the playoffs against the Lakers. The final result of those three matchups were three wins for the Jazz and twelve wins for the Lakers. A 20% winning percentage, even against the best team in the conference, was not a pretty sight for Jazz fans.
In the end Boozer’s career answered many questions. Was the contract he signed overpriced? Yes, he was paid $70 million to produce 40.2 wins, which means the Jazz on average paid $1.75M per win. To give you a comparison Mehmet Okur produced more wins (44.8) and was paid $20 million less over the same time period. Was he effective on offense? Absolutely yes. Deron Williams and Boozer ran a great pick and roll that helped make the Jazz one of the best offenses in the league. He made 54% of his field goals for the Jazz, which is better than Millsap and Jefferson’s 53% and 48% respective field goal percentages this year. Was he terrible on defense (especially again the Lakers)? Yes and no. His struggles guarding other players was often lamented, but at least he could be counted on grabbing defensive rebounds. Also, the defensive efficiency for this year’s Jazz team is worse than it ever was in any of Boozer’s six years with the Jazz.
In the end was Boozer worth it? Did the pros outweigh the cons? Was he career in Utah a success? All things consider my conclusion is yes.