One of these players is a much better offensive player?
Last summer I was at a shopping mall with my wife and I noticed that there were a lot of wan, sickly looking teenagers wandering around, more than usual at least. I also noticed that most of them were wearing shirts that either read "Team Edward" or "Team Jacob" and I turned to my wife and said, "is there some sort of email I didn't get, because I haven't heard of either of these teams?"
She told me about the Twilight books (she read all 4 or 5 or whatever), and explained that a pale, sickly teenage girl (Bella) was about to choose, in the series finale, whether to love Edward the vampire, or Jacob the Werewolf and that many young girls and, to be honest, grown women, were pledging their allegiance to the man they felt was right for Bella. For the record I voted that neither Jacob or Edward was right for Bella, because, call me crazy, but I don't think that human teenagers should be having intimate relationships with either vampires or werewolves, but who am I to judge?
One year later, it seems to me that art is truly imitating life. This summer Bella is being played by the Utah Jazz organization and Paul Millsap and Carlos Boozer are the werewolf and the vampire (I'll let your personal biases determine which is which). Like Bella, the Jazz probably would like both the vampire and the werewolf to be part of her life, but she knows deep down that it would never work out. Like Bella the Jazz will be forced to make a decision that effects them both logistically and emotionally. And for the second straight summer we will see where "Bella's" heart lies and find out if the choice will lead to a lengthy and loving marriage, or a birth that causes Bella severe blood loss and broken bones (I promise I didn't read it; my wife informed me).
But for the Jazz front office and many Jazz fans, it is clearly time to take sides. The smart thing for every Jazz fan to do, would be to stay quiet about it and then say that they were for or against signing whichever player works out or doesn't work out in a year. But I am going to take a side.
And I am siding with Team Millsap.
Now before I get into details about how I came to this conclusion, I need to put some facts upfront. I don't take issue with anything Carlos Boozer has done. He is free to make good financial decisions for himself without looking like a money-grubber or anything. And I am not going to assume that he hasn't been anything but sincere and tried his hardest. I have issue with his defense, but I am speaking strictly from a basketball and financial standpoint when I say that Millsap is the better fit for the Jazz going forward.
THE CAVEAT TO THIS IS HOW MUCH THE PLAYER MAKES
Hey, if Boozer comes back to the Jazz this offseason and says, "I don't mind making less or the same amount of money a year on my next deal, I just want more years and more security," then yes, the Jazz should consider re-signing him. But if he wants more than $12 million a year, it would be hard to sign him financially speaking and the Jazz just can't do that. And I will shave my head, if Boozer tells team management he will take a pay cut. Whether he ends up with the Jazz or not, he believes he is getting a raise. On the flip side, the Jazz need to be smart with Millsap also. They can't pay more than 8 or 9 million dollars a year for him either. They don't want an AK salary problem down the road. But as long as the asking price between the two players is about $3 million apart and Millsap is only 8-9 million a year, then I say Millsap is the guy. Let me roll out the statistics now.
IN HIS 3RD YEAR, MILLSAP's NUMBERS ARE COMPARABLE TO BOOZER'S NUMBERS IN HIS 3RD YEAR
It seems like eons ago, but when Boozer first came to the Jazz, he was in his 3rd year in the league. It was that infamous year, where he played pretty well, but then got injured at the end of the season due to his trick hammy and didn't play the last two months of the season. But here are Boozer's numbers in 51 games with the Jazz in his 3rd year, all before he was ever injured.
Mins Pts Rebs (o-rebs) asts blks fg% ft%
34.7 17.8 9 (2.8) 2.8 0.5 52 70
Those are very solid numbers and I know why Jazz fans had so much hope for getting a healthy Boozer back and adding him to a team with a bunch of young up and coming studs. So why do Jazz fans generally doubt that Paul Millsap can give them the same amount of hope? If I had a nickel for every time I have heard a Jazz fan write or say, "Millsap isn't the offensive player Boozer is", or "Millsap has hit his ceiling, he can't get any better," or "Millsap will never be the offensive player that Boozer is," then I would be the king of the nickel arcade on state street in Orem. And my answer to all of those questions is, "how do you know that?"
Millsap started 38 games for the Jazz this past season between the months of November and February. In those 38 games in which he started these were his numbers:
Mins Pts Rebs (o-rebs) asts blks fg% ft%
34.4 15.9 10.3 (4) 2.4 1.0 54 70
"But wait," you might say. "Boozer is just a much more skilled offensive player and we wouldn't be able to replace him with Millsap." And I would counter with, "actually Millsap had a better offensive year this year as a starter than Boozer did as a starter." While Boozer was injured and his numbers this season aren't indicative of his ability, I would like to draw your attention to the numbers of Millsap as a starter and Boozer as a starter both in their 3rd years. Having Millsap in the lineup cost us 2 points a game, but gave us 1.3 more rebounds, twice as many blocks and a better field goal percentage. And free throw shooting, one of Millsap's weaknesses, was as good as Boozer in his third year and a percentage point better than Boozer this year. So I ask you, "if Boozer improved after his 3rd year, why can't Millsap improve as much, if they were similar in production at the same age?" In fact Millsap added a baseline turnaround jumper and improved his 15 foot jumpshot over last summer.
And you may also be thinking to yourself, "I watched this Jazz team this season without Boozer and we weren't as good when Millsap started." And I would say, "I agree with you; we weren't as good. But maybe, just maybe, there was a bigger drop from Millsap to his new replacement, than from Boozer to Millsap." Losing a good player will make any team worse. I am suggesting that if we had two Millsaps on our team, then we would only be 2 points worse than having Boozer and Millsap. (And maybe better defensively, too).
IF WE DON'T HAVE BOOZER ON THE FLOOR, OUR OFFENSE IS LESS EFFICIENT BECAUSE OKUR AND BREWER THRIVE ON BOOZER DRAWING DEFENSIVE ATTENTION
Is this true? Did you read this header and accept it as fact? I have heard it a lot and at first glance, it seems like it would be a true statement. So let's look at Brewer, Okur and Deron's numbers this season overall, versus their numbers this season without Boozer in the lineup.
Ronnie Brewer - overall season (81 games)
Mins pts rebs asts fg% shots/game
32.2 13.7 3.7 2.2 51 9.8
Games without Boozer 2008-09 (43 games)
31.0 14.2 2.6 1.2 53 10.1
And let's add his 2007-2008 numbers (full season with Boozer)
27.5 12.0 2.9 1.8 56 8.3
Mehmet Okur- overall season 2008-2009 (72 games)
Mins pts rebs 3pt % (shots/game) fg% (shots/game) fts/ game
33.5 17.0 7.7 44% (2.8) 48% (12.3) 4.6
Games without Boozer 2008-09 (40 games)
35.1 18.8 8.7 47% (2.9) 49% (13.3) 5.2
2007-2008 season (72 games)
33.2 14.5 7.7 39% (4.1) 44% (12.3) 3.2
Deron Williams- Overall 2008-09 season (68 games)
Mins pts rebs asts fg% fg shots/game
36.8 19.4 2.9 10.7 47% 14.5
Games without Boozer 2008-09 (40 games)
36.4 19.5 2.8 10.4 48% 14.7
2007-08 season (82 games)
37.3 18.8 3.0 10.5 51% 13.6
So if you look closely at these numbers, you may notice that none of the players are really effected negatively by having Boozer off the floor. They all shoot about a shot more a game, but they also score more. I actually think that Okur becomes a more efficient offensive player when Boozer isn't playing. He shoots more, still shoots and makes the 3, and he attacks the basket more often with an extra free throw a game. I think that is important. Where people think that the team loses offense having Millsap instead of Boozer, Okur probably makes up for alone.
The other important thing is that Deron Williams doesn't seem to exert himself anymore offensively when Boozer isn't playing. This is evidenced by his consistent minutes and shot attempts per game even when Boozer isn't playing. The only thing I can see that is negative, is that Brewer and Williams both average an assist less per game when Boozer is off the floor. But is that too much to give up?
MILLSAP DOESN'T SETTLE FOR THE JUMPER
I believe that the worst shot in the game of basketball is the face up, 15 foot jumper. It is worth the same amount as a dunk or a layup, is more difficult, and most importantly, it is the sign that an offense has been stagnant. In Sloan's offensive system, the Jazz get layups, dunks, and shots in rhythm off of curls and pick and rolls. But you are playing into defense's hands, when you end up shooting too many 15 footers. I think Carlos takes way too many of these shots. If they are going in great, but if they aren't he is costing the team. During the 2007-2008 season, two years ago to measure a better year, Carlos shot 63% from shots within 5 feet of the basket. Last season, Millsap shot 60% from the same range; advantage Boozer. Except that Boozer only shot 54 % of his total shots from within 5 feet while Millsap shot a ridiculous 72% of his total shots from within the same range. So Millsap is attacking the basket much more often than Boozer, which puts pressure on defenses, increases opportunities for offensive rebounds and...
MILLSAP GETS TO THE FOUL LINE
Over there careers, Paul Millsap has shot one more free throw per 30 minutes of gametime than Carlos Boozer. This is obviously mostly due to Millsap's previously mentioned ability to attack the rim. Furthermore, it also means that Millsap has more room for improvement. If a jumpshooter wants to improve offensive efficiency, then their only choice is to improve their jumpshot, which doesn't happen as often as a person who increases his free throw attempts during a game, which is Millsap's next step. Throw in the fact that Carlos Boozer has consistently gone down each year going from 5 to 3.6 free throws per 30 minutes over the last 5 seasons. So there isn't a real reason to believe that he will get better in that area. Meanwhile, Paul has gone from 4 to 4.3 free throws per 30 minutes the last 3 seasons.
I don't think there is a best way to determine whether or not a player is a better defender than another player, but I would imagine that almost every Jazz fan believes that Millsap is a better defender than Boozer. And I do know that Millsap led the team this past season in overall +/- numbers while Boozer was in the bottom four players. But this last season isn't a fair measuring stick for Carlos. But it may be fair to say that Boozer is going to be one year older next season and he hasn't been as healthy as Millsap over the course of their careers.
So I am with team Millsap, and I think the Jazz should be too.