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Carlos Boozer is Suddenly a Whole Lot Cheaper

Back in December, Mr. section214 made a fantastic argument in favor of the Kings going after Carlos Boozer. I will excerpt it.

Carlos Boozer is an NBA all-star, a career double-double man (21/11 over the past two plus seasons). He is a low post beast that finishes at the rim with either hand, and he can hit the mid-range jumper. He runs the pick and roll with the best of them, and he is currently 27 years old. He has already told the Jazz that he is opting out of the final year of his contract.

Oh yes, that. Carlos Boozer has the reputation of being a "mercenary," a gun for hire, a player with no loyalty. This was born out of his nasty exodus from Cleveland. And there is no way to candy coat this – when an agent thinks that you’re too sleazy to work with, well, that’s sayin’ something. Add to that the announcement to opt out and the fact that he has missed significant time to injury in three of his seven seasons, and you have all of the ammunition that you need to call this guy a selfish pr*ck.

Except that his teammates have never really castigated him for any of this. It is the nature of the beast of the modern day athlete. They all play in glass arena’s and none of them will throw stones, as they are all prepared to take a similar path if the opportunity presents itself.

I agree completely with 214 on these points. The sensationalism of Boozer's separation from Cleveland is not that no one else would ever do it, it was that no one else had ever done it. Especially to a blind guy. Meanwhile, you have a star power forward with one of the best rebound rates in the league, elite scoring instincts and even a record of success following his latest injury.

He has certainly fallen from the lofty standard of "potential max player." Fallen so far he picked up his player option for 2009-10. He will make $12.3 million this season and be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2010.

Why does this matter to the Kings? After all, Boozer is no longer a free agent, and the Kings did not clear enough space to grab him regardless. He is irrelevant, right?

Wrong. Utah didn't want Boozer to stick around. The Jazz almost assuredly wanted Boozer to flee so that the team could keep Paul Millsap without hesitation. Millsap is a restricted free agent whose agent has placed a starting salary of $10 million on his head, but is more likely to get a starting salary of $8 million or so. Now, because Boozer and Mehmet Okur both opted in (bucking expectations at the last minute), the Jazz sit roughly $3 million over the luxury tax line before dealing with Millsap. An $8-million salary in 2009-10 for Millsap would cost the Jazz $11 million in tax penalty and the lost revenue given to teams under the tax (about $3 million in recent years). The Jazz have traditionally been a "no-tax" team. Owner Larry Miller died this past season, and his son Greg took over. The younger Miller does not seem particularly eager to change Dad's stance on this issue. The tax is a real pox on small-market teams like Salt Lake City and Sacramento.

This is where the Kings come in. Assuming Utah is committed to keeping Millsap -- the team was the first to call Millsap's agent Wednesday morning -- they need to move big salary. Andrei Kirilenko? They have been trying to trade him for years. More than $30 million for two more years ain't going to be easy in today's risk-averse NBA. It's got to be Boozer, who has had personality conflicts with Jazz management (including the late Miller and the younger one) in the recent past. When Boozer opted in, he ensured he would be second most rumored trade name this summer (behind Amar'e Stoudemire).

What can the Kings offer? What will it take?

First and foremost, the Jazz need salary relief. The Kings should have more than $7 million in cap space (depending on Ike Diogu or any other free agent signing) come July 8. That means the Kings could trade for a $7-million player straight up, without giving any salary back. But Boozer makes more than $7 million. An extra $5 million, actually. How could the Kings bridge that gap, with the understanding Utah will likely reject salary extending into 2010-11 and beyond.

Kenny Thomas' Expiring Contract.

Some combination of Kenny Thomas, C.J. Miles and/or Matt Harpring could get the Jazz about $8 million in cap relief for next season. (In Miles' case, it would get the Jazz cap relief for 2010-11 as well.) That doesn't make up to full Monty, and perhaps another team (Oklahoma City? Memphis?) could put together a better cap relief package. But if Geoff Petrie wants a star in the frontcourt while maintaining flexibility if it doesn't work out, if Petrie wants to spend pennies on the dollar for an All-Star, Boozer's the dude.