Will the Jazz trade Carlos Boozer?

With regard to Carlos Boozer’s future in Utah, Johnny Ludden of Yahoo Sports writes that the Utah Jazz “are expected to explore trading him and devote their resources to keeping Paul Millsap.”

Boozer angered franchise officials and teammates alike early in the season, when he spoke openly of wanting to test his free agency this summer. It didn’t help that he made the comments while he was nursing a quadriceps injury that cost him more than half the season.

After Monday’s season-ending loss, Boozer now says he’d like to return to the Jazz, adding that he feels like “one of those cornerstone people who brought this team back to prominence.” In truth, the decision might not be entirely up to him. Even if Boozer doesn’t opt out of his contract, the Jazz are expected to explore trading him and devote their resources to keeping Paul Millsap.

As if the Jazz needed any more evidence of Millsap’s value, he helped lead Monday’s comeback while Boozer watched from the bench.

“We’re not getting that effort every night from everybody,” [Deron] Williams said, “and we’ve got to have that.”

I may be wrong, but this sounds like the general feeling of the writer more than the actual position of the club. The key phrase is that “the Jazz are expected,” which only means that some nebulous person or persons is of the opinion that Utah will explore trading Boozer in order to keep Millsap. It doesn’t mean that that’s what the franchise is planning to do.

This summer’s free agent market is going to be tough on the players, so even though Boozer has previously stated that he plans to opt out, he may ultimately decide to play out the final year of his contract in order to prove to teams that he can stay healthy. Other than the Jazz, there are five teams that have the cap space to make an offer of $10 million per season or more — the Pistons, the Hawks, the Grizzles, the Raptors and the Thunder. He’d certainly help make the Thunder a playoff team, and he’d be a good fit in Detroit with their current problems along the front line. The Grizzlies have the need, but may not be willing to make the commitment. The Hawks don’t really need a power forward, but the Raptors could certainly use him as a complement to Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon (and it might ultimately keep Bosh in Toronto).

In addition to Boozer, Mehmet Okur ($9.0 million) and Kyle Korver ($5.3 million) can each terminate their contracts early this summer, so the Jazz might have a very different face heading into the 2009-10 season. My guess is that Okur and Korver will play out their contracts since they are unlikely to find that kind of money in free agency. Boozer is set to make $12.3 million next season, so he’ll probably be looking for a deal averaging somewhere in the range of $13-$15 million. But with his history of injury, will anyone be willing to pony up?

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