The wild gesticulations. The bellows of "AAAAAAAND ONE!!!!!" The (sometimes) spray painted on hair. All of these things and more make Carlos Boozer stand out in a way that also render him an easy target. On the day the Lakers claimed him off of amnesty waivers, it was very hard to find a positive take on the move. So far during this young season, the former Bull has done little to make the Lakers front office look like geniuses of any other type than the tanking variety (his fantastic play in the third quarter of Sunday's game against the Hornets notwithstanding).
Just how bad has he been? I decided to dig into some numbers and find out.
All Statistics from NBA.com or Basketball Reference
The Lakers defense as a whole has been a train wreck, and Boozer has been unquestionably bad on that end as he is well on pace for both the worst defensive rating (121.1 allowed per 100 possessions while he's on the floor) and net rating (-20.4 margin of scoring per 100 possessions while he's on the floor) of his career. He and all of the other starters have been atrocious as a defensive unit, with all five of them posting a worse defensive rating than the already putrid Lakers average of 114.6 points allowed per 100 possessions.
When watching the games, it is easy to see Boozer is one of the main culprits for this face-palm inducing defense. He ball watches, loses track of his man, and frankly does not seem to care very much unless he is jostling for a rebound. He seems to be especially prone to this against stretch fours, as Boozer is allowing players he's defending to shoot 45% on three pointers so far this year, and these opponents have responded by taking 35% of their shots from that range with Boozer defending them.
To be fair to Carlos, his individual defensive field goal percentage overall is quite good, as opponents being guarded by him are shooting 12.4 percent below what their normal field goal percentage is. When I first saw this, it was baffling, as anyone who watches the games can see how unaware Carlos is as a defender. The numbers suggest opponents being baited into mid-range shots and missing them, as players being defended by Boozer are shooting 18.9 percent lower than their average field goal percentage within 10 feet of the basket.
Nonetheless, the eye test would lead me to believe that this number is A) not mainly reflective of something good that Carlos was doing, although he should probably get some credit and B) this percentage will probably go up by the end of the season and be more reflective of what most observers see in Boozer's defense.
Six games into the season, it is the offensive end of the floor where the numbers back up those in the "Carlos Boozer as the Stealth Tank Commander" crowd can get some evidence for their case.
Question: If you were to guess who has the Lakers second-highest usage rate ("percentage of a team's offensive possessions that a player uses while on the court") currently, who would you guess? That is actually the recent garbage time gunning of Robert Sacre, who through his high volume of shots when the games have been mostly decided has been able to use 26.3 percent of the team's possessions while on the court. Kobe is obviously in first with his insane 37.7 percent usage rate, but ranking third is Boozer (20.8 percent). Such usage would make a little bit of sense if Boozer was the dependable post up option that Byron Scott seemingly believes him to be, but the numbers do not paint such a picture.
Boozer's offensive rating is fifth-worst on the team (and worst among players who have played consistent minutes/in all six games) at 100.8 points per 100 possessions, yet his usage percentage is third-highest. How does that make sense in any world? Not to draw too strong of a conclusion given the small sample size of only six games played so far to work with, but if one were to only look at OffRtg out of the players who have played in all six games, giving the ball to any other player on the floor would be a better option than Carlos Boozer. This offensive ineffectiveness, coupled with his defensive ineptitude and relatively high minutes, are reasons why Boozer also has the lowest Net Rating on the team.
It is still early in the season, but if within the next 5-10 games Boozer is still playing significantly more minutes than other options right now, like Ed Davis and his -1.3 NetRtg and 71.1 field goal percentage, there'd be reason to question what Byron Scott is trying to accomplish. With Jordan Hill's recent fireball throwing from mid-range the issue of playing him and Davis together is arguably negated.
Boozer will likely be long gone from this team by the time they have real success again. It is time for the Lakers coaching staff to look at the numbers, parse through game tape, and come to the same conclusion that most of us began the season with as our hypothesis: Boozer needs to have his minutes cut down, and the young guys need to play more so the front office can fully evaluate them. The Lakers can break the emergency glass on Boozer again if any of the roster's current front court players are jettisoned at the trade deadline and the team needs someone to play stop gap minutes, but until then the only benefit that Boozer is giving the Lakers is helping them to tank, which maybe was the point all along.