Almost three weeks into NBA free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers have made their biggest acquisition of the 2014 offseason. The team has claimed Carlos Boozer off amnesty waivers.
The Chicago Bulls recently used the amnesty provision to release Boozer and his one-year, $16.8 million contract. Because L.A. has space under the salary cap, they were able to make a blind bid for the big man. The Bulls will pay Boozer the remainder of his contract, while not having it count against the cap, and the Lakers reportedly bid $3.25 million for his services.
"We're very pleased to have won the bidding process and to have gained his rights, and look forward to his contributions next season," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement.
Boozer instantly becomes one of the Lakers’ best players. The team has made a few acquisitions this summer, including trading for Jeremy Lin, but failed to add anyone of significance. Boozer may have had a disappointing year in 2013-2014, considering his past production, but he still managed to average 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game on a playoff team.
The Lakers essentially traded Pau Gasol for Boozer, since the veteran signed with Chicago just days before Boozer’s release. While the move might be viewed by many as a significant downgrade for Los Angeles, the numbers indicate that Los Angeles didn’t get much worse.
On the offensive end, L.A. should see a slight drop in production. Gasol’s averages of 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds on 48 percent shooting were ahead of Boozer’s last year, though he posted those numbers in three more minutes per game. The previous season, Gasol averaged career-lows with 13.7 points and 46.6 percent field-goal shooting.
For much of his career, Boozer has been known as one of the worst defenders at his position. Boozer certainly won’t help improve the Lakers’ ability to stop their opponents, but Gasol’s defense also leaves a lot to be desired. Last season, Gasol allowed opponents to shoot 54.6 percent at the rim, compared to Boozer, who wasn’t much worse at 55.3 percent. Boozer also proved to be a better defensive rebounder, grabbing 27 percent of his opportunities, compared to Gasol’s 25.4 percent.
It’s likely that Boozer will be a more reliable option in the 2014-2015 season. The power forward played in 79 and 76 games in the last two years, respectively. Gasol has missed 55 games in the last two seasons, and battled injuries to his foot, ankle and knees during that time.
Boozer joins a frontcourt that consists of Jordan Hill and newly-signed Ed Davis. Center Robert Sacre is also under contract, after averaging 5.4 points and 3.9 rebounds for the Lakers last year.