Carlos Boozer Stays in Utah, Which May Not Be Good for the Jazz
Boozer is well worth the cash, so this development should be a clear win for Utah, right? Well, it's complicated. Boozer's commitment puts the status of back-up power forward Paul Millsap and starting center Mehmet Okur into question. By casting his lot with Utah for one more year, Boozer may very well have cast his buddies out.
As with so many NBA stories, this comes down to money. As in, Boozer's agent (Rob Pelinka) must not have believed the few teams with at least $10 million in cap space would play ball, or that Utah management wouldn't be breezy about taking back salary in a sign-and-trade. Pelinka came to the conclusion Boozer is better off setting a price next summer, after a hopefully healthy campaign and amid the biggest free agent festival since 2000.
But there's far more interesting cash calculus when we get to Utah's summer plans. Boozer's decision puts Utah at roughly $62 million of committed salary, assuming Okur opts out as rumored. The luxury tax threshold should be around $68-70 million. (The official number should come out this week.) That doesn't give the Jazz (a "no luxury tax" franchise) much room.
Can Utah afford to match a $7 million contract for Millsap sitting on the brink of the tax with rookie-to-be Eric Maynor as the only back-up point guard, with Kosta Koufos as the top non-Boozer center in Memo's absence? I would argue not. And what if Okur changes course last minute and decides to accept his $9.5 million player option? That'd put Utah over the tax threshold from go, and it'd require Kevin O'Connor to pull off a trade of some sort.
And who would Utah trade? Well, Boozer. Andrei Kirilenko is still owed $34 million over two years. Deron Williams is the franchise. Kyle Korver is vital, C.J. Miles and Ronnie Brewer cheap. Unless some desperate despot bestows cap relief in exchange for Kirilenko's mammoth deal, Okur staying on or a matched Millsap offer could force the trade of Boozer, the player you're glad stuck around.
At least Boozer's (slightly) early decision has shrunk the possibilities for Utah. If Okur opts in, Millsap ain't coming back. If Okur walks away, Boozer is likely your starting center, assuming some team doesn't offer Millsap a kingdom and 40 brides. Ball's in your court, Memo.
Meanwhile, if one more year of Boozer costs Utah five or six years of younger, stronger, faster, cheaper Millsap ... that's a net loss for the Jazz. What a weird situation.