2011/12 was far from the best year of Chris Kaman's career. He was traded to New Orleans, where the Hornets kept him out of action for a number of weeks while the team attempted to turn around and deal him again. When he was finally brought back, Kaman posted a .446 FG%, the lowest mark of his career, for a squad that finished last in the Western Conference.
The good news for Kaman? If you're a seven-footer and you're heading to NBA free agency, there's a great chance you'll do well for yourself. Given the dearth of quality true centers in the league, the 30-year-old is poised to land a lucrative multiyear contract this summer.
Of course, Kaman is coming off a year in which his salary exceeded $14MM, so shooting for a raise may not be realistic. But it's not like the big man will have to settle for the mid-level exception either. Despite shooting a career-low percentage from the floor, Kaman still averaged 13.1 points and 7.7 rebounds in less than 30 minutes per game, and his PER (15.3) was above average for the third consecutive year. Last offseason, centers far less productive than Kaman, such as Samuel Dalembert and Kwame Brown, signed deals in the neighborhood of $7MM. A reliable big such as Kaman could earn an offer that pays him an eight-digit salary annually.
What sort of contract Kaman signs this offseason will also depend on his priorities. Having earned well over $60MM in his career, according to Basketball-Reference, Kaman could turn down the largest offer in search of a more modest payday from a title contender. The Heat, for instance, would likely jump at the chance to pay Kaman their mid-level exception. But the seven-footer would have to be willing to leave a lot of money on the table — as a taxpaying team, Miami could only offer a contract starting at $3MM using the MLE.
It's more likely that Kaman lands with a team willing to use a chunk of its cap room to sign him to a larger deal. The Rockets had interest in him prior to the trade deadline, and will have the space to make him a sizable offer, if they so choose. The Celtics are another team that could clear plenty of cap space, and will be searching for a presence in the paint. The Pacers and Nets could also have interest, though I expect both teams to re-sign their own restricted free agent centers, Roy Hibbert and Brook Lopez.
Kaman isn't the player that Steve Nash is, and isn't quite so close to the end of his career, but there are similarities in their free agent cases. Both players will likely receive significant offers from teams that could be playoff contenders, along with smaller offers from clubs that will be in great position to contend for a title. While the draw of a championship may win out in Nash's case, I can't see Kaman leaving a ton of money on the table at age 30. He should have time to chase a title later in his career — this summer, I think a team with cap room to burn will make him a lucrative offer that he won't be able to turn down.