The Utah Jazz made a free agent signing this off season for former Washington Wizards forward, Trevor Booker. The signing for Booker, wasn’t one that seemed to get a lot of people excited, but there is a chance that Jazz fans should be a bit more excited to have the four year power forward in Utah.
I had a chance to talk with Ben Mehic, who is the Editor for the Washington Wizards Fansided Division, Wiz of Awes. Ben has had a chance to watch every game that Booker has played in over the last four seasons, so he seems like the perfect guy to talk to on who Trevor Booker is.
P&B: So first off, you said that you have watched every game that Trevor Booker has played in over the last 4 years, so you should know his game pretty well I’d say. So from when you first seen him play, to now, how has his game improved? What has he shown that needs worked on? What is your overall assessment of his game?
Ben: Coming out of Clemson University, Trevor Booker was known as a bruiser, energy forward, despite being undersized for his position. Well, that’s basically what he has been ever since his rookie season. Injuries sort of hindered his development in the first few seasons of his career, but it certainly didn’t help that he was playing with a core comprised of John Wall, Nick Young, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee.
Trevor Booker is a very good rebounder and he has shown improvements on both sides of the floor. At times, Booker shot the ball pretty well from the mid-range area, but I think he benefits most from playing at a high-tempo offense. Booker is very, very explosive and he could definitely contribute to any team around the league. He still needs to improve offensively, but he’s certainly not a liability on that end of the floor.
Basically, Booker is someone that could grab double digit rebounds on any given night and he’ll surprise a few people with his improved offensive game.
P&B: What is your favorite memory of Trevor Booker in a Washington Wizards uniform?
Ben: I don’t think I have one particular favorite memory of Trevor Booker, but I do remember how he instantly became a fan favorite when stepping on the court during his rookie season. After watching Andray Blatche for as long as we did, Wizards fans were desperately seeking a player that could help change the team’s culture. Trevor Booker was the complete opposite of Andray Blatche. He rebounded, hustled and gave it all he could every single time his name was called.
Oh, and Trevor Booker really loves cereal. I think that’s something Wizards fans will remember.
P&B: When you heard that Trevor had signed a free agent contract with the Utah Jazz, what was your reaction? Sad to see him go?
Ben: I was kind of surprised that Booker signed with Utah, especially since there were plenty of teams interested in him, according to several reports. Washington didn’t extend a qualifying offer to Booker, which would have been nearly $5 million, so I wasn’t surprised that Booker didn’t choose to stay in the nation’s capital. I was definitely a bit sad to see him go, but there were plenty of high-energy forwards available in free agency. Cook Book was eventually replaced by DeJuan Blair and Kris Humphries, who both signed cheaper deals than him.
P&B: The Jazz have a very young core, and seem to be pretty talented at the big man position with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Coming off a season where he played alongside guys like Marcin Gortat and Nene, do you think he is a good complimentary piece alongside our two young guys, or how do you see that playing out?
Ben: I think Trevor Booker is a very solid third big man on any basketball team, including the Utah Jazz. Booker has proven that he’s capable of playing starter’s minutes, so if Favors misses some time, it wouldn’t be catastrophic. Booker is very good at running the floor, so he should be a good fit along side Trey Burke and Dante Exum. Utah will definitely be a team I check out on League Pass quite a bit this upcoming season.
P&B: Like I kind of mentioned above, the Jazz are pretty stacked with big men this season. Along with Booker, Favors, and Kanter, they also have Rudy Gobert, who is freakishly long, but doesn’t see much playing time, they have Jeremy Evans, who hasn’t seen the floor much but played nice off the bench last season, and they also just traded for veteran Steve Novak from Toronto to play his “stretch four” role in the new offensive system. Really, Booker will be fighting for minutes with Novak. Who is the better play off the bench for the Jazz then? Booker or Novak?
Ben: It depends on what the Jazz are looking for. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that Booker is a better player than Gobert, Evans and Novak. After all, the Jazz didn’t just sign Booker to a $10 million deal to have him warm the bench for Steve Novak. I think it’s possible for Booker to share the floor with someone like Gobert, or even Novak if the situation makes sense. Even though he’s undersized, Booker is an above average rebounder and it won’t be an issue in that case. But, at the end of the day, I think Booker will be Utah’s third big man.
P&B: I would have to look up the stats, or watch some video, but can Booker space the floor offensively? Is he capable of knocking down outside shots?
Ben: If you’re expecting Trevor Booker to play the “stretch four” role, than I think you’re going to have a problem. Could he knock down the occasional 15-foot jump shot? Sure. According to NBA.COM/stats, Booker shot 50% from the 8-16 foot area from the floor, which is a respectable percentage. He showed his improved outside shot in Washington’s first round series win against the Bulls, where he even had a bit of a heat check moment from mid-range. Booker isn’t someone I’d use strictly as an outside shooter, but he could certainly knock down a pick-and-pop jumper every once in a while.
P&B: Talk a little bit about Booker’s game on the defensive side of the court. New Jazz head coach, Quin Snyder, wants to put guys on the court who can defensively make them better. Can Booker do that?
Ben: Trevor Booker is no Joakim Noah, but he’s not a liability either. He struggles defending pick-and-rolls at times, but he’s capable of blocking shots and chasing players down on fast-break opportunties. Utah was the worst defensive team in the league this past season in term of defensive rating, and I don’t think Trevor Booker will hurt them on that end of the floor. He’s a capable defender, but I wouldn’t expect him to win the Defensive Player of the Year award any time soon.
P&B: A lot of what I have heard on Booker, is that the Jazz like him because of his high motor that he plays with, he doesn’t take plays off. Do you agree?
Ben: Absolutely. Trevor Booker is all about high energy, motor and hustle. Washington rarely ran plays for him, and I don’t expect Utah to run their offense through him either, but he still manages to get involved. Whether that’s blocking a shot, getting an offensive rebound or exploding for an unexpected dunk, Trevor Booker will get make an impact. If there’s one thing that you could depend on Trevor Booker for, it’s not taking plays off.
P&B: The Utah Jazz organization tends to try and bring in players that, not only fit their current roster, but also are good people. Talk a little bit if you can, about Booker off the court, and what Jazz fans could expect from him in the community. Use any examples if you have them.
Ben: Trevor Booker is a really cool dude. In fact, he’s so cool that he challenged some of his Twitter followers in NBA 2k a few years ago, and I was lucky enough to play him. To those wondering; yes, I beat Trevor Booker and Trevor Booker, the video game version, was the player of the game.
Booker cares about basketball and he’s certainly not the type of player to goof off and ruin his reputation off the court. Oh, and did I mention that Trevor Booker really, really loves cereal. According to Booker himself, he eats about 20 bowls of cereal per week. That’s almost three bowls of cereal per day!
P&B: Booker signed a 2-year deal with the Jazz worth $10 million. A lot of Jazz fans questioned if that was too much money. What do you think of the financial side of the deal?
Ben: I think Utah got a decent deal for Trevor Booker. He plays hard, rebounds and will bring some leadership to a very young Jazz squad, so he’ll be worth the $10 million. It’s only a two year deal and he’s not very expensive for a reliable third big man. Were there cheaper alternatives, like Washington got with Blair and Humphries? Sure, but it’s not something I’d lose sleep over.
P&B: When the Jazz and Wizards match up this upcoming season, which I suspect the Wizards to have another great year with the majority of their core returning, how does Booker play against his old team? Do they know how to beat him offensively and defensively? Does he play a decent game? Does he play out of his mind in revenge???
Ben: Trevor Booker will get a very warm reception from the Wizards fans and he’ll bring lots of energy to the game. Like I said before, Booker’s best asset is his ability to rebound the ball, and I he might have a hard time doing that against Washington, who I expect to be a top rebounding team this upcoming season. Humphries and Blair are similar to Booker, but I think he’ll still have a good game against Washington. I don’t think there is any ‘revenge’ though. Booker was very understanding about the business side of the NBA and he’s very well liked by Washington’s players, coaches and of course the fans.
P&B: If this question is repetitive, I apologize, but what can Jazz fans expect to get out of Trevor Booker in a Jazz uniform?
Ben: Trevor Booker will be a fan favorite in Utah, just like he was in Washington. He’ll rebound the ball at a very high level, he’ll block some shots and he’ll display his athleticism with some SportsCenter worthy dunks. I also forgot to mention that Trevor Booker doesn’t seem to like Blake Griffin very much, so you’ll look forward to that match up. He plays hard every game, but man, he plays ridiculously hard against Blake Griffin. You’ll enjoy the Jazz-Clippers game, for sure.
P&B: Last but not least, after talking so much about a team you’re not rooting for, brag a little about your own team now. The Wizards are coming off a great season, and see a lot of the same guys back looking to make another run in the playoffs. Talk a little bit about the fantastic young back court of John Wall and Bradley Beal, the re-signing of Marcin Gortat, and what teams will see from the Washington Wizards this next year. Can we see them make a deeper playoff run?
Ben: I haven’t been this excited to watch Wizards basketball in a really long time. For the first time in years, it seems like the Wizards have put together a team that’s capable of making a push to the Eastern Conference Finals, and after enduring years of futility, I’ll gladly take an appearance in the conference finals. Wall and Beal make up the best young back court in the NBA, and after watching Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr. dominate in the summer league, the Wizards might have found another couple pieces to add to their young core. Paul Pierce will also give Washington another proven leader, while Nene and Marcin Gortat will continue to be one of the league’s most underrated front courts. I don’t want to jinx anything, but the Wizards could be very good next season. I’m excited, to say the least.
After the conversation with Ben, who I really appreciate helping me out, I feel like Jazz fans are going to really like having Booker on the Jazz roster next season. One of my favorite things to watch for next year will now be when the Jazz play the Clippers, and Booker has to play against Blake Griffin. It sounds like he will be going extremely hard in that game.
I mentioned in an article when the Jazz signed Booker, that radio voice of the Utah Jazz, David Locke, mentioned that the Jazz could be playing Enes Kanter at the power forward position this season. If that is the case, I can definitely see Booker being the primary back up at the power forward position. His rebounding skills and hustle will push him ahead of Novak on the depth chart, I believe.
As Ben mentioned, Booker was a fan favorite while in Washington, and once the season begins, Booker should continue that role with the Jazz.