The reported signing of unrestricted free agent center Chris Kaman would make him the sixth big man on the Portland Trail Blazers. The signing obviously changes the rotation, but by how much? How does this signing affect Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard, two younger big men looking to crack the rotation?
Dave weighed in with his thoughts earlier. Here, a panel of Blazer's Edge writers adds their thoughts.
Dane Carbaugh: Whether or not adding a backup center was the biggest priority for Portland was really a matter of whether or not Mo Williams was coming back to the Blazers, and for how much. With Williams reportedly weighing his options and by some accounts, preferring Texas over Oregon, General Manager Neil Olshey made a move at the next pressing need by securing a big man off the bench.
Portland apparently reached out to Spencer Hawes first, and when he declined to join the Blazers, Kaman was next in line. Both players are shooting big men with pick-and-pop capabilities, so you can see the thinking. Kaman, 32, provides little to no defensive upgrade versus Joel Freeland, but his confidence shooting the ball can't be ignored.
Both Freeland and second-year man Meyers Leonard struggled when it came to consistency with their jumper last year. Portland's offense with LaMarcus Aldridge on the floor compared to when he was off was vastly different in construct last season, and narrowing that gap is going to largely be Kaman's job in the coming season. Being able to shoot a jumper might be his only upside.
Meanwhile, his signing still leaves the backup point guard position to be filled, not to mention some kind of additional bench penetrator. Teams were able to key off on Williams defensively last season after they realized they only had him to worry about when it came to getting to the paint.
Olshey was pretty much forced into making a move with Williams mulling his options, and likely felt that Kaman was the best use of his MLE as big men are one of the NBA's most expensive positions. What this leaves now is some kind of trade, likely with Dorell Wright being involved and some combination of Freeland, Leonard and Allen Crabbe. Steve Blake has been mentioned as a possible addition, but the likes of Devin Harris, D.J. Augustin, Jarrett Jack could all be in play as well.
Timmay!: As soon as I heard about the Blazers signing Chris Kaman, I had to try to reconcile my ambivalence.
It shouldn't have been too shocking. One year earlier, the Blazers met with Kaman at the start of free agency. And at the mid-season trade deadline, I quietly wondered if Portland might pick up Kaman to shore up the front line for a playoff run. But I was still shocked. I think I was hoping for someone younger, someone who could sign a longer contract and grow with the existing nucleus. And with Spencer Hawes and Josh McRoberts taking the MLE elsewhere, the thought still crosses my mind.
But in the end, I get it. Big men are notoriously more expensive than any other NBA player. If Robin Lopez suffers any injury, even a short-term one, the Blazers could be in trouble. And if you want an NBA caliber big man, that's where you need to spend your MLE. Therefore, yes, they targeted the right position.
I'm not too worried about the number of big men on the roster. Three are in the rotation (Aldridge, Lopez, Kaman). Two are question marks, still in development (Leonard and Robinson). And the last, Freeland, is a wild card. As an emergency injury-reserve, he's almost a luxury, but he could also be an important trade asset this summer, especially when combined with someone like Dorell Wright. A trade package would bring the Blazers down to 5 big men, and with a lopsided trade, could open up a roster spot as well. I'm not convinced Neil Olshey is done wheeling and dealing.
Sam Tongue: First off, it seems that you really can't have too many bigs in the NBA. Last season Portland was extremely lucky when it came to health -- and Blazers fans know all too well the injury issues that you can face on the front line. In that sense, it was worth it.
The other way that it was worth it was that Kaman is an experienced player. Whether it was Mo Williams or someone else, Portland needed to make sure that whomever was the summer signing, they had some experience.
However, when it comes to position fit, the jury is still out on whether finding another center was the correct decision. What this really indicates is that C.J. McCollum's role on the team increased dramatically. If he turns out to be the player that people were anticipating he could be when he was first drafted, then it could be another choice by Olshey that was thinking three moves ahead. However, if he doesn't earn/deserve the playing time that will be necessary for a backup guard, then it could get ugly. Obviously Barton is still an option, plus there's still time for another unforeseen move.
So, if McCollum or Barton give the bench a boost next year, it's a good move. Otherwise, I'm not so sure the team is better this week than it was last week. And a lot of that has to do with how thin they are in the backcourt.
Chris Lucia: When I first heard about the Kaman signing late last week, I was taken aback. Why would Olshey give two years and the full mid-level to a guy who will be on his fifth team in five years and made $3.2 million last year on a one-year contract?
After some digging, though, it looks like Kaman could be a decent shooter and defensive rebounder who can play passable defense. I do worry about his durability, but he should only be picking up 20 minutes or less a night next season, hopefully helping to preserve his health.
I have no problem with Olshey prioritizing back-up center this offseason with his mid-level exception. Freeland did an admirable job last year as backup center but I think Kaman's an upgrade and allows Stotts to play Freeland at back-up power forward if Robinson is struggling off the bench. Leonard showed no signs that he was ready to take over reserve duties at center, either.
Would you rather have seen Darren Collison get the full mid-level from the Blazers? I wouldn't, and I can see why Olshey would shy away from overpaying a back-up point guard who will likely see fewer minutes than Williams did last year behind Lillard (I'm a believer that Barton or McCollum will be able to split reserve point guard minutes with a guard signed for the Bi-Annual Exception).
Not only does Kaman upgrade the Blazers' frontcourt depth, but his contract appears fairly tradable, as it can net back decent talent due to the amount of money and is effectively an expiring contract with only $1 million guaranteed next year. I like Olshey's swift action to sign a capable backup center after swinging and missing on Spencer Hawes, too.
Sagar Trika: I have no problem with the Kaman signing or GM Neil Olshey prioritizing a front court position. A team can never have too many big men on their roster (as long as other needs are met, of course). This signing puts the roster to three men deep at both power forward and center, something which is fine by me.
Portland got lucky with injuries last season. Freeland did suffer a sprained MCL that kept him out of the second half of the season. That injury did stretch Portland a little bit thin at the power forward and center positions. The need for a new big man was likely exaggerated by Leonard's lack of preparedness when Freeland was injured. The Kaman signing, in my eyes, is somewhat like an insurance policy. In the unfortunate scenario that either star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge or starting center Robin Lopez go down with injury, head coach Terry Stotts can turn to Kaman as a starter rather than a player like Freeland or Leonard.
This signing can also indicate a lack of faith from the front office in Leonard. I believe that if there was significant development in Leonard's skill set this summer, the need for another big man would have been reduced. Olshey probably didn't see enough development. I'd expect Leonard to be a continuing project through his third season, at least.
The price Kaman was signed at is reasonable and can be dealt if need be. I believe Olshey has a trade up his sleeve and if need be, Kaman can be an asset sent out.
Ben Golliver: I'm not a huge fan of this signing, as contracting with an aging, oft-injured center who doesn't address Portland's defensive issues and won't play starter's minutes next season seems like a stretch given how central the use of the mid-level exception was to the Blazers' offseason planning. That said, I think the signing will look a lot better if GM Neil Olshey is able to flip Joel Freeland's expiring contract to a team for a player capable of playing rotation minutes in the backcourt or on the wings.
These days, Portland might need to include additional draft assets with the expiring contract to get a player worth acquiring, but I think that would still be worth it. Freeland is now redundant on Portland's roster, the Blazers should continue to work with Meyers Leonard in hopes of developing his upside, and you just don't need four centers. A roster-leveling trade of Freeland would help turn the Kaman signing into a "2 for 1" move for Portland's bench. His $3 million salary is a good size for deals, and I'd prefer that Portland keeps Dorell Wright around for small ball purposes.
Alternatively, Portland could try the same thing with Victor Claver's $1.4 million contract (which would likely be less helpful in bringing back a rotation piece) or package Freeland and Claver together to take back a mid-level type player that another team is trying to ditch. It's quite possible such moves would be easier to execute at the deadline.