NBA Trade Rumors: Boston Celtics Should Make Aggressive Push for Chris Kaman

Ethan NorofCorrespondent IMarch 2, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 28:  Chris Kaman #35 of the New Orleans Hornets tries to move against Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on February 28, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Hornets 99-95. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics desperately need a center, and Chris Kaman can be obtained from the New Orleans Hornets in a trade.

With a $14 million expiring contract, Kaman also fits another major need for the Celtics in an entirely different way: cap space in 2012.

The Celtics are struggling for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest challenges for Doc Rivers this season has been finding a consistent lineup without having a true center available.

The fragile Jermaine O'Neal has missed nine games this season and is currently out with what is being called a sprained wrist, but there is no timetable for his return.

It's hard to say the Celtics will miss him.

Boston is now 6-3 in games O'Neal has missed this season, and he's averaging a meager 5.0 points and 5.4 rebounds on a career-low 43.3 percent shooting.

O'Neal's absence has moved Brandon Bass into the starting five, a change that Doc Rivers had been considering making for some time.

It's a logical move considering how well Bass has played in his first season with the Celtics, but it shortens an already shallow bench and causes production issues in the second unit.

To say that the Celtics face an uphill battle in competing for another title with this core in a crowded Eastern Conference is an understatement.

Boston needs to retool the roster after the 2011-12 season (if not sooner). To do so, it's critical the team clears cap space.

With more than $30 million set to come off the books between the contracts of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, general manager Danny Ainge has put his club in a good position to be an aggressive suitor in the free-agent market.

Here is where Kaman comes into the picture.

The veteran center "will almost certainly be moved" prior to the March 15 trade deadline.

New Orleans has no use for him and simply wants to get something -- even if it's just a second-round draft pick -- for him, according to sources.

A month ago, when the Hornets told Kaman to stay home and wait to be traded, they were asking for a young player, a draft pick and an expiring contract. Now, their aspirations aren't so lofty. Golden State, Houston and Miami have interest in Kaman.

Those teams all make a lot of sense for Kaman's services, but here is the case for Boston.

The Celtics don't appear inclined to give 2011 first-round pick JaJuan Johnson much of an opportunity to contribute in a frontcourt rotation consisting of Garnett, Bass and Chris Wilcox.

Similarly, Boston would likely jump at the opportunity to move O'Neal and his expiring contract in the right deal.

Ainge would have to get creative.

A package of O'Neal and Johnson won't work financially in exchange for Kaman, and a third team would have to be involved to make the salaries match up and facilitate a deal.

Adding Kaman would create significant salary cap space for the Celtics to turn around the team after the season.

Boston could re-sign Kaman, look to sign-and-trade him for more assets or simply let him walk and spend the money elsewhere.

Ainge and the rest of the front office has to start exploring outside-the-box solutions at this juncture of the season, as it's clear that this is an aging team which is fading in a crowded Eastern Conference.

Start from scratch.

Put the pieces around Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo going forward. 

Build a team using a deep 2012 draft, a solid free-agent class and allocate resources wisely.

Nobody said it would be easy.