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Lakers season preview: Carlos Boozer’s swan song

With his best years behind him, can Carlos Boozer bounce back as a Laker? What can the Lakers expect from the former All-Star?

Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images

It’s weird to say it, but here we go: Carlos Boozer is on the Los Angeles Lakers. The Chicago Bulls decided to amnesty Boozer after he compiled worst season as a pro with a 49 percent true shooting percentage and 14.4 PER. The Lakers submitted the highest bid ($3.25 million of his nearly $17 million salary) and acquired Boozer in a de facto trade with the Bulls for Pau Gasol.

In Boozer, the Lakers acquired a two-time All-Star and Olympic bronze medalist. He is undoubtedly past his prime, but the Lakers are hoping the 32-year-old power forward has at least one more good year left in his system. Boozer was drafted by the Cavs in 2002 before spurning them for the Utah Jazz. After some absolutely dominant offensive years in Salt Lake, he was sign-and-traded to the Bulls, where he spent the last four seasons. The infamously cheap Jerry Reinsdorf finally agreed to eat Boozer's massive salary this offseason and ended his career in Chicago with the amnesty clause.

There were a lot of reasons why the Boozer era had to end in Chi-town, both financial and basketball related. After a terrible regular season by his standards, Boozer was even worse in the playoffs. He averaged a pedestrian 9.6 points and 7.8 boards per game on 42.6 percent shooting while getting dominated by the Washington Wizards' frontcourt. The advanced metrics showed the Bulls point differential was much better with him off the court, particularly in the playoffs. They didn't need him to eat up minutes with Gibson waiting in the wings and Mirotic coming in from overseas. Amnestying his contract cleared up a ton of cap space, allowing them to sign Pau and make other moves to shore up their team’s depth.

If Boozer was toast in Chicago, why did the Lakers sign him? What should Lakers fans expect this season? More importantly, what should his nickname be in Lakerland and what kind of fun and crazy antics will he bring to the table?

The Booze yells crazy things, is a one-man GIF factory, and has accidentally punched a referee in the crotch while celebrating a tip-in.

Let’s start with the critical part. I’ve come up with some preliminary nickname ideas, but don’t think I have a clear winner yet. The Booze is an obvious choice. I could see Booze Cruise or Boo’s Clues getting some momentum as well. Unfortunately, the Guy Who Used Shoe Polish on His Head, while true, just doesn't have the same ring to it. As far as antics, this may be one of the things I’m most looking forward to. Our friends at Blogabull have documented it better than I could, but let’s just say that The Booze yells crazy things, is a one-man GIF factory, and has accidentally punched a referee in the crotch while celebrating a tip-in. It will certainly be interesting with him around.

It’s easy to see why the Lakers would want him as essentially an expiring $3 million contract. He’s a great teammate and an active member in the community. The Lakers have a potential mentor to young Julius Randle, as well as a competent stop-gap to take minutes when Julius inevitably hits the rookie wall. Boozer has been around the NBA and marquee players for a long time – he’ll have plenty to teach the young guys.

It's a mixed bag on the court, although I think I’d rather have Boozer for $3 million than Pau for $7 million. Neither of them plays much defense and both have seen better days in terms of offensive efficiency.

Boozer's defensive deficiencies are so well documented we don’t really need the numbers to break this one down. He’s slow laterally and struggles to keep up with faster power forwards. Boozer simply does not block or contest shots well. Bulls fans can attest; he plays matador defense far too often and relied on Noah's combination of length and speed to bail him out. Boozer’s saving grace is his dominance on the defensive boards. He’s consistently been elite at this aspect of his game throughout his career and gobbled up over 25 percent of available defensive boards last season.

There’s no doubt The Booze has slipped on offense. His PER crashed to 14.4 last year, a nosedive from when it peaked at 24.1 in 2007. His field goal percentage has dropped from 51 percent in '10-11 to 45.6 percent in '13-14. His free-throw attempts have fallen and he took less shots than ever close to the basket. Although a good shooter for a big man, he’s dropped in efficiency and increased his attempts from outside. Nearly half of his field goal attempts were from outside 10', with a full 26 percent from beyond 16' last season. When you are a mid-30’s shooter from out there, that’s a disaster waiting to happen with each flick of the wrist.

He’s still a decent offensive rebounder, but he’s no longer elite at this point. Boozer is a good passer for his position and had a nice two-man game going with Noah in Chicago. He’ll be able to run am effective pick-and-roll with Nash when they are on the court together with his shooting and offensive I.Q..

Acknowledging there’s a reason Boozer was available on the amnesty market, the Lakers aren't stupid for betting on a Boozer rebound in Los Angeles. He saw a serious decline last year but it’s perfectly plausible for him to have a bounce back season. On offense, I would not be surprised to see him find a nice niche on the team and increase his efficiency substantially from last year. Defensively, he’ll fit right in on the train wreck that is the '14-15 Lakers.

Carlos Boozer isn't riding into town to save anyone or serve as the missing piece on a championship contender. What he can do, however, is play a valuable role as a crafty veteran and serve as mentor to a Lakers team looking toward the future. Here's hoping we're all pleasantly surprised by what Boozer brings to the table in purple and gold.

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