Chris Kaman entered last summer as a 30-year-old coming off a down season, but as a 7-footer just two years removed from an All-Star berth, an $8MM annual salary seemed reasonable. That's what he got from the Mavericks, but surprisingly, his deal is only for one season. Kaman wasn't without other suitors, as the Pacers showed interest, and the Spurs, Jazz and Kings were reportedly in the running as well. Kaman's one-year deal seems even more curious given that earlier this season he told Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida, "Nobody wants to do a one-year deal."
This season has been a prime example of why Kaman and others might be motivated to lock themselves up long-term. The former sixth overall pick, approaching his 31st birthday next month, has missed 14 games so far this season, mostly due to a concussion he suffered in late January. It's the third straight season he's been out at least that many games, and even when he's able to play, he doesn't see much time on the floor. He's seeing a career-low in minutes per game, and his production has taken a commensurate hit. His 11.4 points per game average is his worst since 2006/07, and his 5.9 rebounds per game are the fewest he's collected since he pulled down 5.6 as a rookie.
Still, when Kaman has played, he's performed about as well as he ever has. Only once in his career, during his All-Star season, has he scored more than the 18.5 points per 36 minutes that he's delivering this year. He's posting a 16.4 PER, a better-than-average mark that exceeds his 14.6 career PER. That might explain why Kaman was so upset when coach Rick Carlisle kept him on the bench after only two minutes of playing time Tuesday against the Bucks, as Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News details. Kaman said he wouldn't let the incident dissuade him from considering another go with the Mavs in free agency this summer, and just last week he praised the organization's professionalism, remarking that he hoped the Mavericks would have him back next season.
Given his lack of minutes and the Mavs' likely pursuit of Dwight Howard this summer, Kaman appears a fallback option at best for Dallas, a team that would probably be just as hesitant to give him a long-term deal as it was last year. Joe Kaiser of ESPN.com (Insider link) came up with a list of teams that could be better fits for Kaman, pointing to the Celtics, Bucks, Sixers, Bobcats and Blazers. Of those teams, I think the Blazers probably make the most sense, as they're set to have plenty of cap room and would give Kaman, who's only been to the playoffs once in his 10 NBA seasons, a chance to join an up-and-coming club. Still, he'd likely only be a Plan B in case Portland can't re-sign J.J. Hickson. Few teams will have Kaman too high on their wish lists during an offseason in which Howard, Andrew Bynum, Al Jefferson, Nikola Pekovic, Tiago Splitter and others are also set to hit free agency, so "Plan B" might become the theme of the summer for Kaman.
That's why I think Kaman may have to settle for the mid-level exception that Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors believed he wouldn't have to take when he looked at Kaman's free agent stock last year. The full non-taxpayer's mid-level would give him four years with a starting salary of $5.15MM, and the total package would be worth up to nearly $22MM. That would open up the bidding to more than just teams with cap space or clubs willing to pursue a sign-and-trade, a maneuver that will be tougher to pull off now that taxpaying teams can't acquire signed-and-traded players. Kaman could go to a contender, or at least a playoff team, and still have the long-term stability he seems to want.