NBA AM: Bidding on Boozer

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Who’s Bidding on Boozer?

The Chicago Bulls made some news on Tuesday by being what should be the last team to use the amnesty provision allowed for in the most recent collective bargaining agreement. The Bulls used the provision on Carlos Boozer, of course, something rumored to have been an inevitability since the moment the amnesty provision became an option for them. It became a necessity this summer, however, after the Bulls came to terms with Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic.

Chicago will now pay Boozer $16.8 million to go play somewhere else, but the question is where?

Any team with cap space can make a waiver claim on Boozer, also submitting a blind bid in the process. The team that places the highest bid is the team that ultimately lands the player, unless he clears waivers, at which point Boozer would be able to play wherever he wants.

In this case, we know pretty certainly that “wherever he wants” is Miami, even now that LeBron James is gone. Boozer owns a home there, already has a rapport with new HEAT signee Luol Deng, and Basketball Insiders’ own Steve Kyler has stated publicly that, as he understands it, Boozer will be a member of the HEAT should he clear waivers.

The problem for Miami is that no one really expects Boozer to clear waivers. Teams must make an opening bid just shy of $1.5 million to pay Boozer his minimum next season, and even coming off his worst season in years, that kind of cash for a player and leader of his caliber is a perfectly appropriate bargain for a team looking to get ahold of the guy on the cheap for next season.

If Miami isn’t ending up with him, the question then turns to which teams have the cap space to make bids, and which are most likely to have some interest in the 33-year-old power forward.

According to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowksi, the Charlotte Hornets and Atlanta Hawks are two teams that could be willing to submit reasonable bids for Boozer’s services:

Atlanta is having a horrible time even getting free agents to agree to meet with them, so adding a player even as good as Boozer has proven challenging. Charlotte, meanwhile, wants to add as much veteran firepower as possible, and one with as much playoff experience as Boozer certainly wouldn’t hurt them, especially after losing Josh McRoberts.

The Lakers are another potential landing spot for Boozer, though it’s not clear at this point how much cap space they’ll have after they sign all the players they’ve promised to sign. It’s believed they’ll have enough space to make a low bid, however, and Boozer would help mentor the Lakers’ young front court more than anything. Kobe Bryant would undoubtedly welcome an older veteran presence, as well.

Other teams expected to have the cap space to make a bid include the Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucs, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz. Of those, Milwaukee, Orlando and Philadelphia don’t make much sense based on where they are in their own rebuilding processes. Detroit might be interested if they decide to move on from Greg Monroe, though that isn’t likely. Phoenix could use some frontcourt depth, and of course Boozer had some of his best years in Salt Lake City.

At the end of the day, though, this all depends on who makes the highest bid during the waiver process. Charlotte, Atlanta and Phoenix seem to make the most sense, but wherever he ends up, Boozer is likely to be one of the better values of this free agency session, at least for the team that gets him.

Kyle Lowry Takes Charge of His Team

Another free agency value this summer was Toronto locking up point guard Kyle Lowry for $48 million over four years—great money for a borderline All-Star who almost certainly will prove to be more valuable than the $12 million a season he’s about to make.

The Raptors are coming off one of their best-ever seasons, winning the Atlantic Division and earning home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. That all played a role in Lowry returning, but so was his ability to run his own team rather serve as a subordinate to some other star on some other team.

“I was happy going back to a team that had a good core together, and there’s something about calling a team your own,” Lowry said, adding that he thinks his team is on the track toward competing for a championship.

“I think we have the right pieces to keep building to get to that point,” he said. “We have some young guys who are going to continue to get better, and they’re hard workers. At the end of the day, though, you’ve still got to get on the floor and play hard. You can’t just say you want to win a championship and then it happens. You’ve still got to lace up, get out there and play.”

Lowry also mentioned All-Star teammate DeMar DeRozan as a deciding factor for his staying in Toronto, even though DeRozan never recruited Lowry or pressured him to return.

“Our connection definitely helped,” Lowry admitted. “Me and DeMar talked just about every day of the process, and I really believe he would’ve been happy for me no matter what I did. That’s the kind of friend you want to have.”

Having one of the league’s savviest general managers in Masai Ujiri certainly didn’t hurt anything, either.

“There’s trust with Masai,” Lowry said. “When I first got the job, through all the trade rumors, there was very open communication. When you get to a GM that can do that, you can learn to respect a man and the decisions he makes. And he really hasn’t made any mistakes lately.”

With a coach and a front office he trusts, teammates he likes and a future that looks undeniably promising in the clearly weaker conference, it’s no wonder Lowry stayed with the Raptors.

“If you’re in, you’re in,” he said. “I’m all in with Toronto, whether it’s Summer League, preseason, I want these guys to know I’m all-in. At the end of the day it’s about the Toronto Raptors. It’s not about me, it’s about this team.”