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Utah Jazz Trevor Booker may be a transitional third big -- Sunday Syncopation 53

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Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

It is possible that my new hypothesis is unfair? Sure. And just to make sure everyone is on the same page here the hypothesis is that Utah Jazz reserve bigman Trevor Booker is not 'good enough' to be the 3rd big on a good playoff team. I site his size (6'7 - 6'8) as a defensive liability. Furthermore, I feel like his energy game is a great change-up to what's happening on the court -- especially on a really well behaved, stable, starting line-up. However, his fire is not really focused, and 20+ mpg may be just too much going forward. That's the hypothesis. That doesn't mean I do not value Booker for what he does bring to the team. I will again re-state that every good team needs a guy like Booker. His on court excitement and hustle get fans cheering. And his off-court charity work and community events really help him find a home on the team he is a part of. Booker is a gem. But I don't know how much more you can polish him.

So, if the hypothesis, which is still being tested, is true. Are there others with more upside than Book? We just don't know.

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Booker and the Big Dawg:

Trevor is a good player. He's definitely a rotation player at this stage of his career, and occasional starter in a pinch. Quin Snyder knows his talents well, and tries to maximize them. Dennis Lindsey knew what he could do, and that's why he signed him two seasons ago. So am I being unfair to Booker by suggesting that he may not be a legit 3rd big on a good team? Well, let's look directly at Utah Jazz history.

When the Jazz were going to the NBA Finals most of us have very fond memories of Antoine Carr. He was The Big Dawg, and he had a really necessary, and inspiring, and complimentary game off the bench in Game 5 of the 1998 NBA Finals. (He scored 15% of all the points the Jazz had in that two point win.) He was, like most of the team, at the end of his career and past his prime. But we remember his on-court performances fondly. We probably remember them a little more graciously than the history books do. (Such is the benefit of being on two NBA Finals teams.) Without a doubt, he was the third big on those very successful Jazz teams. So how do these two guys stack up?

SS 053 Trevor Booker Antoine Carr

Click to embiggen.

Okay, so Booker and Carr's averages are very similar. Startlingly similar. There are two things to remember before we unpack this. Booker is in his physical peak right now and playing for a lotto team. Carr was at the end of his career and playing on a championship contender. Second, Booker's games played in a Jazz uni are 23.6% of Carr's total; and his minutes played in a Jazz uni are 25.5% of Carr's total. Effectively, Antoine has this averages with 4x the total minutes. His sample size is much larger.

So, what are the differences? Carr was a better scorer because he was a better FT shooter. His .7911 is much larger than Booker's .5811. If you are a back-up big you are not going to get a lot of chances at the line, so you have to make the most of what little you get. Carr was much better here. Furthermore, this also looks at how the Jazz are just a bad free throw shooting team right now. Maybe a lot of that is just experience? Vets have had a lot more of their life to get better on the line than young guys. That just could be something we keep in mind.

Booker gets twice as many rebounds per game, and in 113 more seconds per game. That's significant. Booker also really helps with getting second shot opportunities, by fighting for 1.78 offensive rebounds per game. When you factor in that Carr weighs more and was taller this is a really bright feather in Booker's cap. Of course, this may deal with who these guys are on the floor with. Just like I am mitigating Carr's FT% bonus (+21.00 FT%) by pointing out that he's older and had more practice, I feel it is necessary to point out that Carr just couldn't get as many rebounds because his teammates were huge rebound hogs (Karl Malone, Greg Ostertag, even the guys like John Stockton had a keen eye for the ball.) Booker is playing with guys who have a lower "Basketball IQ", so maybe some of the rebounds he gets would not be available if he was on the same court as Stockton.

Any excuse to show Stockton getting this board OVER Antoine Carr.

Anyway, Big Dawg blocked more shots, Booker assisted and stole more. I think that washes out a bit -- it really depends on what the role for your player is. In the 90s back-up bigmen were very traditional -- defend the paint. So blocks mattered more then. Today bigmen have to play facing up a lot more, and pass to wings who are in the paint, and not them. So times have changed.

The biggest difference is three point shooting. And that's the most visible "times have changed" aspect of what are you looking for from a bench bigman. Booker takes about a three per game, and makes one third of them. It's just not at all a part of what Carr did for the Jazz back in the late 90s.

So, if I am holding Carr as the "gold standard" of what you want out of your 3rd big -- a guy who will defend and do the dirty work, while make the most out of his few offensive chances -- then Booker isn't that far from that standard. Sure, Carr was a much better defender, even at his older age, than Booker is now. But Booker is probably more of what some coaches want off the bench today.

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Booker and Threes:

The main difference between those two guys, aside from Carr = defense and efficiency ; Booker = hustle and rebounds, is threes. For his career with the Jazz Trevor Booker has been okay. He's not Mehmet Okur level. But thankfully he's not David Benoit level either. But how does he compare to his apples to apples peers of today? Here are the top bigmen three point shooters (by most three point attempts) so far this 2015-2016 season:

Rank Field Goals Three Pointers
Bigs NBA Player TM G FGM FGA FGM/G FGA/G FG% 3PTM 3PTA 3PTM/G 3PTA/G 3PT% 3PTA/FGA
1 5 Kevin Love CLE 10 60 151 6.00 15.10 39.74% 23 71 2.30 7.10 32.39% 47.02%
2 24 Ryan Anderson NOP 9 54 124 6.00 13.78 43.55% 16 47 1.78 5.22 34.04% 37.90%
3 25 Kevin Durant OKC 8 77 153 9.63 19.13 50.33% 21 47 2.63 5.88 44.68% 30.72%
4 32 Draymond Green GSW 11 47 112 4.27 10.18 41.96% 18 43 1.64 3.91 41.86% 38.39%
5 38 Paul Millsap ATL 11 64 135 5.82 12.27 47.41% 15 42 1.36 3.82 35.71% 31.11%
6 40 Chris Bosh MIA 9 58 128 6.44 14.22 45.31% 16 41 1.78 4.56 39.02% 32.03%
7 48 Marvin Williams CHA 9 36 78 4.00 8.67 46.15% 17 40 1.89 4.44 42.50% 51.28%
8 51 Patrick Patterson TOR 10 24 65 2.40 6.50 36.92% 12 39 1.20 3.90 30.77% 60.00%
9 53 Charlie Villanueva DAL 9 31 74 3.44 8.22 41.89% 10 39 1.11 4.33 25.64% 52.70%
10 54 Al Horford ATL 11 80 154 7.27 14.00 51.95% 13 38 1.18 3.45 34.21% 24.68%
11 67 Nemanja Bjelica MIN 9 27 53 3.00 5.89 50.94% 15 34 1.67 3.78 44.12% 64.15%
12 70 Ersan Ilyasova DET 9 29 66 3.22 7.33 43.94% 15 34 1.67 3.78 44.12% 51.52%
13 73 Dirk Nowitzki DAL 9 61 116 6.78 12.89 52.59% 17 34 1.89 3.78 50.00% 29.31%
14 90 Meyers Leonard POR 9 30 68 3.33 7.56 44.12% 8 31 0.89 3.44 25.81% 45.59%
15 104 Kris Humphries WAS 8 26 56 3.25 7.00 46.43% 13 28 1.63 3.50 46.43% 50.00%
46 238 Trevor Booker UTA 8 13 47 1.63 5.88 27.66% 1 6 0.13 0.75 16.67% 12.77%

For some reason, the internet keeps eating this part up. Booker is somehow less of a stretch big this season than Kris Humphries is. That's astounding. So, we know that Booker is better, on average, than Antoine Carr at being a stretch big -- but so far this season he has yet to really demonstrate that ability in a confident way. Early day, I know. Booker has played just 8 of the 9 Jazz games. But in an 82 game season that's still 10% of the year. Furthermore, OTHER PLAYERS have demonstrated their abilities in the small sample size.

Two Hawks, running Quin Snyder's offense, are doing great. Horford and Millsap are both taking more than three threes a game. Should Derrick and Rudy be doing that? And seriously, Millsap is a Top 5 stretch big today. How did that happen, and what did he do to get there?

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Paul Millsap Metamorphosis:

[N.B. My browser crashed again, and the auto-save ate up the NEXT two sections. So I will try to re-create them as best I can.]

Paul Millsap was a rookie. He was a 2nd round pick, an undersized rebounding specialist from a small school. There were no three pointers allowed to be taken from an energy guy like him. Forbidden, obviously by Jerry Sloan. Today he's a butterfly shooting over three threes a game for a possible NBA Finals club. What happened? Well, Millsap worked and worked and worked on his game. And the game itself changed over time. Coaches like Jerry Sloan "kinda" did when they allowed for a guy like Mehmet Okur to hoist threes up -- but he was already an established shooter coming into it. No caterpillar to butterfly metamorphoses allowed for Sloan. Butterflies were probably also forbidden. (Which may cast some light on his inability to get the most out of players that had non-traditional talents like Andrei Kirilenko and Gordan Giricek.)

Anyway, 'Sap branched his game out and is now a Top 5 stretch big in the NBA. Behold:

Seas Coach G FGM FGA FG% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% 3PTA/FGA
1 2006 2007 Sloan 82 209 398 52.51% 1 3 33.33% 0.75%
2 2007 2008 Sloan 82 253 502 50.40% 0 4 0.00% 0.80%
3 2008 2009 Sloan 76 400 749 53.40% 0 4 0.00% 0.53%
4 2009 2010 Sloan 82 385 716 53.77% 1 9 11.11% 1.26%
5 2010 2011 Sloan/Corbin 76 525 988 53.14% 9 23 39.13% 2.33%
6 2011 2012 Corbin 64 426 861 49.48% 7 31 22.58% 3.60%
7 2012 2013 Corbin 78 429 875 49.03% 13 39 33.33% 4.46%
8 2013 2014 Budenholzer 74 483 1047 46.13% 76 212 35.85% 20.25%
9 2014 2015 Budenholzer 73 443 930 47.63% 77 216 35.65% 23.23%
10 2015 2016 Budenholzer 11 64 135 47.41% 15 42 35.71% 31.11%
2006 2016 All 698 3617 7201 50.23% 199 583 34.13% 8.10%
2010 2013 3 B4 ATL 218 1380 2724 50.66% 29 93 31.18% 3.41%
2013 2016 3 IN ATL 158 990 2112 46.88% 168 470 35.74% 22.25%

With the Jazz only 3% of his shots were from outside. With the Hawks over 20% are. Today, so far this season, that value is over 30%. For the record, in a Jazz uni (regular season and playoffs combined) Memo shot 25% of his shots from outside. Trevor Booker, today, is at 13%. So, the question we have to look at are:

  • a) Could Millsap's individual offensive development have been accelerated by having a green-ish light to try threes from his rookie season?
  • b) Could a more advanced Millsap have been beneficial to the Utah Jazz when they couldn't handle the traditional size of the Lakers in the playoffs?

Yeah, both of those questions suck because they make you feel and think things. Millsap may very well become the stretch big that got away . . . but I think Yoda said it best:

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Trey Mamba Lyles:

I don't get why "Mamba" is part of his self-styled nickname . . . but if it means that he has the balls to take three after three as a rookie, even in the playoffs, then I am all for it. The earlier you start something the earlier it becomes normal. And the sooner that comfort level occurs the sooner you see positive results. In the case of an expensive basketball player, this also means a sooner return on the investment from the potential that person has. Keep shooting, even if it looks bad and feels bad at first! (Also for virginal newlyweds, this works for you guys too.) Right now it's not correct to call Trey a stretch big.

At Kentucky he shot 4/29 (13.8%) from downtown. Only 29 of his 240 FGA were from three, 12.1%. Now, we've been told that he took a lot of threes this summer. Even making a "whole buncha them" in practice once. The details on this tall tale change each time you hear it, but he went 6/23 in the Salt Lake City and Las Vegas Summer Leagues combined. That 26.1% shooting is a lot better than what he did in college, though the real prize here is that 31.5% of all of his shots were from downtown. That's very stretch-big-ish. In preseason that became 0 of 4 from deep, and 4 of 33 total shots means 0% 3PT%, and 12.1% of his shots were from downtown.

So far this season he has gone 1/5, which is only 20% success . . . buu-uuut he has shot a grand total of 26 times. That's 19% of his shots from deep.

And to be real, I am FINE with him shooting 20% of all of his FGA this rookie season from three. And even if he's MAKING only 20-25% of them that is fine too. The more he puts up now the better he will be in the future.

Yeah. Obviously if he was shooting 20% of all of his shots, and making 30% of them they would be better. But I'm not greedy.

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If not them, then is there anyone else?

[N.B. My browser crashed again, and the auto-save ate up the NEXT two sections again!]

If Trey, Trevor, Derrick, and Rudy can't get it done -- is there anyone else who can? Aside from bulking up Joe Ingles to power forward status, I think you have a few options. I'm not going to delve into potential trades, nor will I take a peek at 2016 NBA Free Agency . . . I really do think the Jazz' best bet is to develop someone into something useful. There are a number of bigmen in the draft available, but that means adding on yet another DEVELOPMENTAL YEAR on the schedule before really going out there with guns blazing. Anyway, according to DX, here are the best bigs in this draft.

1 Skal Labissiere (7'0) Kentucky 16 Chinanu Onuaku (6'10) Louisville
2 Ben Simmons (6'10) LSU 17 Marcus Lee (6'10) Kentucky
3 Dragan Bender (7'1) Maccabi Tel Aviv 18 Aleksandar Vezenkov (6'9) FC Barcelona
4 Henry Ellenson (6'10) Marquette 19 Petr Cornelie (6'11) Le Mans
5 Jakob Poeltl (7'0) Utah 20 Alpha Kaba (6'10) Mega Vizura
6 Diamond Stone (6'10) Maryland 21 James Webb III (6'9) Boise State
7 Cheick Diallo (6'9) Kansas 22 Prince Ibeh (6'11) Texas
8 Zhou Qi (7'2) Xinjiang 23 Brice Johnson (6'9) North Carolina
9 Damian Jones (6'10) Vanderbilt 24 Amida Brimah (7'0) Connecticut
10 Stephen Zimmerman (7'0) UNLV 25 Mike Tobey (6'11) Virginia
11 Thomas Bryant (6'9) Indiana 26 A.J. Hammons (7'0) Purdue
12 Ivan Rabb (6'10) California 27 Andzejs Pasecniks (7'1) Gran Canaria
13 Domantas Sabonis (6'10) Gonzaga 28 Joel Bolomboy (6'9) Weber State
14 Ivica Zuban (7'0) Cibona Zagreb 29 Juan Hernangomez (6'9) Estudiantes
15 Kennedy Meeks (6'9) North Carolina 30 Zach Auguste (6'10) Notre Dame

I have no clue if anyone of them can shoot. What I do know is that I have a guilty obsession with Ante Tomic. So far this season he has played in nine games, and is averaging 21.9 mpg. That's a little bit more than the 8 games, and 21.0 mpg Trevor Booker is averaging so far this season. The comparison is unfavorable:

  • Tomic: 13.8 ppg (64.3 FG%), 5.4 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.2 bpg
  • Booker: 3.4 ppg (27.7 FG%), 5.1 rpg, 0.9 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.6 bpg

Tomic hasn't taken any threes, and he's clearly not a stretch big. But I don't know if Booker's 16% is much to crow about right now. Tomic is outplaying Booker, and let's not even bring up Tibor Pleiss.

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What does Utah need from a 3rd big?

Ideally, a third big gives you something you do not have from your starting bigs. So the first thing you need to do is make a skills inventory of what Favors and Gobert give you. Rim protection? Yes. Post defense? Yes. Rebounding? Yes. Energy and hustle? Yes. Can finish around the rim? Yes. Range out to 10 feet? Yes. Range out to 15 feet? Yes. Range beyond that? Not yet. Passing and court vision? Yes. Free throw making? Errr, not exactly.

Booker is an energy guy who does take threes. So that's good. But everything else he does is in a lesser way than what the bigs do. Furthermore, as a three point shooter he's not distinguished enough to make a difference. If you are looking for someone who does the same stuff then Withey, rebounding rim protector who can finish inside, is better suited. He's actually 7'0 tall too, so his size is not a weakness.

But that triple downs on the same skill set and size.

And that leads us back to Trey Lyles. He's 6'10, he's not 6'7 like Booker is. He is taking threes from the get go. Also, he seems to be someone who can finish in transition (no one is as fast as Booker though), or make his own shot on offense.  I guess the point here is that Lyles COULD BE the third big the Jazz want -- one that's even better than the 3rd big by default: Booker.