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NBA Free Agency Watch: The Top Three Destinations for Carlos Boozer

Joel C. Cordes@@bballJoelNBA Associate EditorApril 21, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 16:  Carlos Boozer #5 of The Utah Jazz in action against the New Jersey Nets during their game on December 16th, 2009 at The Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Photo By Al Bello/Getty Images  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

While Carlos Boozer may not have quite the impact or clout of a LeBron James or Dwayne Wade, he certainly stands to benefit from the bidding wars that will surround those elite players this offseason.

Still, let's not diminish this guy's accomplishments either.  When healthy, Boozer is one of the few automatic low-post scoring threats in the league.  He's a "20 and 10" machine whose finishing and off the ball movements have meshed perfectly with super-point teammate, Deron Williams.

What's more, in addition to typically averaging a steal per game, Boozer has quietly become an effective passer at this stage of his career, racking up three assists per contest this season.

On the flip side, Boozer's limitations are also well defined.  They are the reason why, right or wrong, he is oftentimes still not considered in the same stratosphere as other high-profile free agents-to-be like Chris Bosh (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/378153-nba-free-agency-watch-the-top-three-destinations-for-chris-bosh ) and Joe Johnson (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/375344-nba-free-agency-watch-the-top-3-destinations-for-joe-johnson ).

When it comes down to it, Carlos Boozer is an extremely gifted offensive player who is an average defender. He has never been able to protect the rim—probably due to a lack of height. He has also been susceptible to a myriad of nagging injuries and given plenty of reasons to be perceived as a mercenary for hire.

It is probably karmic payback that Carlos Boozer's stay in Utah has turned out like this, given the sketchiness of his signing heist away from Cleveland six seasons ago. 

Boozer fought through a host of long-term injuries after signing, only to distract a deep Jazz team last year with his impending departure, and then to ultimately disappoint them when he opted-in to his contract anyways.

In the end though, Carlos Boozer has absolutely produced when on the floor.  He has been an integral part in yet another successful Jazz season, and his skillset is the kind coveted by nearly every team in the Association.

Not every franchise with cap space can get LeBron or Wade, but Boozer stands to make a lot of money as a running mate for those that do, or as a consolation prize for those that don't.

Here are the top three possibilities, in descending order, for Carlos Boozer this offseason:

 

1. Utah Jazz

Yes, he's been a little bit of a headache along the way.  Yes, Paul Millsap duplicates many of Boozer's strengths and weaknesses at half the price.  Yes, Boozer is likely to find more money elsewhere, even if Utah really were willing to re-sign him again.

However, Jerry Sloan's offense is perfect for Boozer.  Deron Williams is the perfect setup man who can also hide the fact that Boozer's weaknesses when it comes to crunch time.  Andrei Kirilenko is the perfect "freakishly athletic" shot-blocker who can cover Boozer's back, while not needing to take away his offensive opportunities. 

Mehmet Okur is the perfect three-point shooting big man who won't clog up the lane for Boozer to operate, but who will make teams pay for doubling down.  Paul Millsap is the perfect unassuming backup who, to this point, has not complained about producing efficiently off the bench, while also providing plenty of punch as a starter whenever Carlos is hurt.

Utah has succeeded during the Carlos Boozer era.  They have perennially been a playoff team, despite operating in one of the NBA's smallest markets.  Boozer's share of the credit in that must not be overlooked.  Can that sort of success be guaranteed if he is asked to carry a New Jersey or a New York team?

Boozer has long made it obvious that he'll go to whomever can "show him the money", but he's a big fish in a little pond when it comes to playing for the Jazz.  That's bound to change if he moves on elsewhere.

While staying in Utah seems somewhat unlikely, in a perfect world, this is where Carlos Boozer probably still belongs.

 

2. New York Knicks

It's probably not a good thing if Carlos Boozer is the headline signing for the Knicks this offseason.  David Lee could replicate much of Boozer's production at a much lower price, if re-signed.

However, if New York—a team that now possesses even more cap room than previously expected—is able to sign a top-flight guard, such as LeBron, Wade, or even Joe Johnson, Boozer will prove to be an extremely valuable acquisition.

Moving to New York would give Boozer the recognition, the spotlight, and the cash that he's indicated are important to him.  Moving there with another top-flight free agent will hide the fact that outside of offensive production, he's not really a true superstar.

During Boozer's first two seasons in Cleveland, he built a reputation—which has largely endured to this day—as the most effective wingman that LeBron's ever had.  He's a finisher who absolutely thrives when the overall defensive attention is on someone else.

Placing Boozer in a similar "co-star" role on one of basketball's biggest stages would be a New York show worth watching.

 

3. Chicago Bulls

Yes, the Bulls make this list for the third article in a row.  It's true that a high scoring forward like Boozer would fit with most teams in the league, and that Detroit, Miami, and New Jersey are all squads that have already pursued Boozer, or would be wise to so. 

Yet, Chicago has been chasing this guy for two-plus seasons now.  Their roster versatility and need for a low-post scorer is well documented, and thus they are still an attractive fit.

Let's compare the similar assets that Chicago can flank around Boozer, while still offering a bigger stage than Utah.

Chicago has a controlled offense, like Jerry Sloan's, that still looks to push the fast break when possible with Derrick Rose as a setup man and closer, instead of Deron Williams. 

Instead of Andrei Kirilenko, it’s Luol Deng and Joakim Noah as long armed defenders to hide Boozer's lack of height.  They also have a roster slightly too full of jump shooters, like Utah’s, to benefit from the inside-outside passing that doubling down on Boozer is sure to bring. 

The Jazz are probably going to keep Paul Millsap and part ways with the 2nd most prolific Power Forward in their history.  If they do, and if New York can't/doesn't offer to make Boozer a co-star, it's Chicago again that offers all of the perks that Boozer really wants, along with all of the fire-power support that he really needs.

Trust me on this one.  After all, I am a doctor.

- "Dr. Trade"

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