Portland Finds Its Big Man.
The Portland Trail Blazers entered free agency knowing one thing: It needed to improve its bench. That could be done in a number of different ways, but as it turns out, general manager Neil Olshey spent his energy looking for big men, and a big man he found in Chris Kaman.
On Thursday night, Portland came to terms with Chris Kaman on a two-year, $9.8 million deal, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. Per Wojnarowski’s report, “The second season of the deal has $1 million of the $5 million guaranteed, a source said.”
So what does this signing mean? It’s emblematic of three major themes.
The Trail Blazers don’t trust Meyers Leonard. That’s not surprising considering how his production dropped in his second season, and despite having the potential to turn his career around, he’s simply not ready to step up and be the first center off the bench.
With Kaman on board, you know what you’re getting. The last two years we’ve seen his numbers dip as a result of fewer minutes, but he’s still been effective while on the floor.
His PER has actually risen those past two seasons, and he’s kept his blocks around one per game and his field-goal shooting above 50 percent.
Kaman isn’t a flashy signing — especially considering his role last year with the Los Angeles Lakers — but he’s going to fill a role the Blazers needed. Portland will utilize him far better than the Lakers ever did, making this a stronger match than some first recognized.
The Blazers had a Mid-Level Exception to spend in free agency this season (approximately $5.3 million), and their hope was to use it on Spencer Hawes. The center was coming off of a career year with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and while it was up in the air as to whether or not he’d accept a deal around $5 million, the Blazers made sure to meet with him as soon as the free-agent moratorium began.
At first, all was looking fine. They’d received word that Hawes was interested in a potential partnership, and with his ties to the Northwest, there was hope that he’d accept something of a “hometown discount” to play on a promising roster.
Unfortunately, the move to sign Kaman shows that Hawes was ultimately going to be too expensive, and in the coming days, we’ll likely see him agree to a contract that would have been too rich for Rip City’s blood.
Since Olshey’s arrival, he’s done one thing that fans may or may not realize: He’s set this team up for flexibility in the future.
When looking at the Blazers roster, the summer of 2015 is going to be monumental. We all know that LaMarcus Aldridge could leave if he declines Portland’s contract extension, but take a look at who else could potentially come off the books (or be up for contract renewals):
- Wesley Matthews
- Robin Lopez
- Thomas Robinson
- Damian Lillard
- Dorell Wright
- Joel Freeland
- CJ McCollum
- Meyers Leonard
- Victor Claver
- Will Barton
- Chris Kaman
Let’s break that down a big. Will Barton and Victor Claver have player options. Damian Lillard, Thomas Robinson, CJ McCollum and Meyers Leonard have team options (don’t count on Lillard leaving). Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, Dorell Wright, Joel Freeland and, yes, Aldridge will be unrestricted free agents.
That’s a whole lot of player movement that could take place, and it’s not by accident.
Olshey signing Kaman to the kind of deal he did shows that he’s sticking to the plan. With the second year of Kaman’s deal non-guaranteed, the move to bring him in (in that fashion) shows that management isn’t deviating from the plan.
This was a move to get better now, but more importantly, it doesn’t hinder flexibility in 2015. That’s what every move has done since Olshey’s arrival, and we shouldn’t have expected that to change in 2014.