Of all the remaining, active Lakers, there is one player that sticks out of the crowd. It's not the first, second or third year guys, like Jordan Clarkson, Tarik Black, Ryan Kelly or even Robert Sacre. It's not even the young veterans on the team, a list that includes Nick Young, Jeremy Lin, Wesley Johnson, Jordan Hill, Ed Davis or Wayne Ellington.
Then there's Carlos Boozer.
At age 33, the aging power forward has seen better days. His quickness and lateral movement have disappeared, as well as his willingness to bang down low. However, many nights, he's the number one offensive option on a decimated Lakers team. Boozer is averaging nearly 11 shots per game and still grabbing rebounds at around 7 per contest. Statistically, he's producing desirable lines night to night playing less than 25 minutes a game. Not so bad for someone cut for nothing from the Chicago Bulls over the summer. Boozer has a strange function on the team: he's still a decent scoring option, but he's certainly no fit for a team clearly on the rebuild. But there's the rub.
Because he was claimed off of Amnesty waivers by the Lakers, Carlos Boozer can't be traded this season. In fact, the only way he won't be on this team past the trade deadline is if the team releases him. He's a complete filler in the truest sense of the word--he's a player on the Lakers simply for the sake of being a player on the Lakers. He's not a part of the rebuild and he's not trade bait. He's a veteran player desperate for a championship on a team going nowhere.
So with Boozer being in this strange basketball purgatory, why wouldn't the Lakers cut him?
Harrison Faigen: The only possible reason the Lakers would not cut Boozer at this point: they are trying to feign competitiveness. Cutting Boozer would also cut through that facade for the casual fan going to games, because when you really get down to it, who else left playing on this team has the general populace heard of? It also gives Byron a veteran security blanket to feel comfortable with as he still futilely tries to win games and talk up how much the Lakers are not tanking during their tanking year.
The Great Mambino: I don't see why the Lakers cut Boozer. Why? Who else needs more minutes? Who else needs the playing time and exposure? Do we need more than 20-30 minutes from Robert Sacre? Is Ryan Kelly not playing enough? Are we not getting quite enough from Jordan Hill, who might be traded any minute now? Is Jordan Clarkson not getting double-digit looks per game.
My point is that Boozer isn't taking minutes away from anyone. This team barely has enough guys to fill out an active roster, let alone a functional 10-man rotation. He's terrible defensively, but so is everyone else. At this point, Carlos Boozer merely gives this team a veteran name that makes it look like a real NBA team. And not the Sixers. It's a silly notion, but in a way, I think Boozer saves the Lakers from that small indignity.
Ben Rosales: There's no reason. He's blocking Ryan Kelly from being able to play his natural spot at the four, something that's killing Kelly's production and likely hurting his development. On top of this, Boozer's damaging the Lakers' tanking prospects, as he's produced decently as a bench reserve--12.6/7.2/1.2 on 52.7% shooting--and is one of the few players remaining on the roster who can create off the dribble. With Julius Randle returning from injury next season and Kelly still under contract, the Lakers have no reason to re-sign Boozer, so he's devaluing all sorts of present and future assets with his presence. No disrespect to the man himself, who has been a remarkable professional in an otherwise miserable year, but cutting Boozer loose to join a contender somewhere is the best thing the Lakers can do in these circumstances.
Drew Garrison: Maybe the Lakers won't cut him because his on-court yells increase their rebounding chances? Honestly, there's little reason for Boozer to remain on the team aside from soaking minutes off the bench. The problem with that, of course, is that he actually has tangible basketball skills (stay with me here) that could translate into a win or two that otherwise wouldn't be possible. Maybe the money is a problem, maybe both sides would rather just ride out this mess together and move on cleanly after.
The CDP: It's an interesting wrinkle that the amnesty provision has created. Boozer has actually started to put up reasonable numbers, so he would ostensibly have some trade value as a back-up big somewhere. Unfortunately for the Lakers, all he's doing is sopping up minutes that could be going to young players. And if Boozer is more effective, that's actually a bad thing, as we are all on-board the tank train at this point in Lakerland. In the name of tanking and the Lakers incentives to develop their young frontcourt players, set him loose! They should cut him.
Should the Lakers have picked him up in the first place?
Harrison Faigen: No. As I and most at this fine blog have been writing since Boozer was acquired, this season should be about a youth movement. Originally, it was Boozer blocking Julius Randle as the power forward starter from the get go. Once Randle was tragically lost in the season opener, Boozer's minutes would still be better served going to one of the Lakers' bevy of young big men (Black, Sacre, Kelly) or even a D-League prospect who at least have a (however small) chance of turning into a long-term contributor for the team.
Boozer, a consummate professional even once moved to the bench after some initial consternation, has not done anything wrong. He has been productive and by all accounts been a great guy in the locker room as well. But in this lost campaign, Boozer should be plying his still effective trade for a playoff contender rather than teaching the Lakers young guys the "art" of the push-off foul.
The Great Mambino: If only to "appease" Kobe and prove that they were trying to get better, sure, why not? Boozer was realistically never going to help a team that we all thought was going to be terrible defensively before the season. The Lakers never had the type of depth to be able to hide him in a role where he wouldn't affect the team negatively. Ultimately, I truly believe that the front office had the goal in mind to be terrible, try and accrue assets and if indeed they had a chance to acquire a superstar via trade, they would have done it. But the default plan was always to be bad and claiming Carlos Boozer was never going to change that.
Ben Rosales: No. It wasn't that big of a big deal when we assumed his Chicago production would continue, but his rebound season has, as mentioned above, hurt the Lakers' tank and hindered Kelly's development. It would have been even worse if Randle was healthy, as Randle's development was honestly one of the few worthwhile things to look forward to going into this season. Whatever the original intent was behind his acquisition, the Lakers wanting to please Rob Pelinka by picking up another of his clients, offering the fanbase the veneer of competitiveness, or simply looking for a good value target, it hasn't served any good purpose.
Drew Garrison: There is absolutely, positively no reason for the Lakers to have claimed Boozer after he was amnestied. None. The Lakers just drafted their power forward of the future and still had Ryan Kelly on board. Boozer's minutes were clearly going to slow down development, and we'll never know just how much that could have hurt. Miss you, Julius.
The CDP: Probably not. It definitely doesn't make sense in retrospect, but it was a very questionable call at the time. With Randle, Hill, Ed Davis, Ryan Kelly, and Robert Sacre in tow, you could argue that the frontcourt was the only place the Lakers had real depth. Adding a veteran who would eat into their minutes and refuse to play defense wasn't really helpful on an objective basis. Where it did help was with Kobe Bean Bryant and with the perception that the Lakers weren't tanking. The Lakers had to try to prove to their superstar and their fanbase that they intended to make the playoffs. Actual impact aside, Boozer was still a big name that made a splash.
What type of role do you see him in next season? Will he be in the NBA?
Harrison Faigen: Bench big on a playoff team. With coaches *cough Scott Brooks cough* always much more infatuated with the idea of playing known quantity veterans rather than testing out younger, higher upside options; Boozer will be on an NBA roster next year. For example, the Clippers, seemingly always looking for a 4 to sop up some minutes while Blake Griffin rests, would seemingly be a fit for the Booz-cruise. Maybe he can convince Doc Rivers that he is his long lost son?
The Great Mambino: Again, Boozer isn't without skills--it's just that those skills don't complement this team at all. He can still hit a mid-range jumper, he can still get into the lane when he needs to and he can still finish at the rim. If he were to serve as a 10-15 minute big man off the bench for a team, I think he's still a relatively viable option. I think he'll be in the NBA next year, but certainly not playing the type of minutes or taking the quantity of shots that he is right now.
Ben Rosales: He'll certainly be in the NBA next season likely as a bench reserve for a decent team. For all his faults, he brings good bench production and some team will be able to use that.
Drew Garrison: He'll definitely be in the NBA. Boozer will probably find his way to a "playoff team" to contribute off the bench. If he's been a good soldier about doing it for the Lakers, he'll be ecstatic to fill a similar role for a team that's actually going somewhere besides the draft lottery. All jokes aside, he's been an OK bench guy for the Lakers.
The CDP: I think he'll sign for the veteran's minimum for a playoff team. He's useful in some capacity, bringing a scoring punch and some rebounding prowess. As the 3rd or 4th big man, he can come off the bench and focus on the skills he has. Boozer may not be able to carry the load anymore, but he still has a role in the NBA.