With the NBA's March 15 trade deadline about a month away, trade speculation regarding New Orleans Hornets center Chris Kaman is heating up. When it comes to possible negotiations, however, the Miami Heat have the advantage.
According to John Reid of the New Orleans Times Picayune, the Heat are the most prominent team interested in acquiring Kaman. The former All-Star has an expiring contract of $14 million that is of little use to the Hornets other than for the purpose of salary-cap relief. With that in mind, they are almost forced to accept a deal by the deadline.
Kaman briefly left the team late last month as the Hornets explored trade avenues, but they ultimately decided to keep him as no trade was deemed to bring back fair value. Injuries have now necessitated his return to the starting lineup, and he has excelled—particularly on Monday when he poured in 27 points and snagged 13 rebounds against the Utah Jazz.
Kaman's sudden surge has gotten the rumor mill started once again, and it certainly makes sense that the Heat might be interested. Miami has gotten by without a true center aside from Joel Anthony, so adding a player like Kaman to the core of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would be huge.
Miami may not have a ton to give in return as far as picks, young players and expiring contracts go, but they have the upper hand on the Hornets in any potential trade talks. The Heat don't necessarily need Kaman to win the title, but the Hornets do need to get trade bait for Kaman or else they'll be losing an asset for nothing.
Heat president Pat Riley obviously knows this, so he's only going to pay what he deems fit. The Hornets can play hardball if they so choose, but they'll have to cave in at some point. With the league controlling the Hornets, it would be shocking to see Kaman remain with New Orleans, as dealing him would bring financial relief for the remainder of this season.
When Kaman was previously on the block, the Hornets could afford to be picky because the deadline wasn't imminent. Once things get a little tighter, however, New Orleans will be willing to ship Kaman off to the highest bidder.
It's impossible to say at this point if the Heat will be the highest bidder since it isn't known what other teams may be in on Kaman, but speaking strictly in terms of the Hornets and Heat, Miami is in a very good position right now. The Hornets have no use for Kaman and they will be happy to avoid having to pay the remainder of his contract this season.
The Hornets truly are in an unfortunate position. With the league owning them, they have no choice but to get as much salary off the books as possible. Since every team around the league knows that, the Hornets are likely to receive some low-ball offers.
At the same time, the NBA is all about survival of the fittest. The Heat will soon smell blood in the water in terms of these negotiations, and it seems like a foregone conclusion that they will eventually strike.