During the offseason, Chris Kaman was brought in by the Los Angeles Lakers to try to fill the gaping hole left by Dwight Howard's departure to Houston. However, things haven't gone according to plan, and although it is disappointing to see Kaman underutilized, the signs were there from the beginning.
Mike D'Antoni has always gone away from the traditional post-up in favor of increasing the tempo and running a guard-centric offense. As reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, D'Antoni believes the post-up is the least efficient means of scoring in basketball. This is why Howard struggled last season.
Although Howard and Pau Gasol were able to form a rapport and play efficiently toward the end of last season, it took a lot of adjustment using their supplementary skills to succeed. While Gasol had to rely more on his high-post game and his jumper, Howard had to use his physicality and size to get good positioning and force his way into the paint for easy baskets or second-chance opportunities.
Neither of them had a lot of opportunities playing with their backs to the basket.
Now, consider Kaman. Although Kaman possesses a slightly more refined back-to-the-basket game and a better mid-range jumper than Howard, he doesn't do anything else better than Superman. With Gasol as the resident high-post creator and D'Antoni's emphasis on doing everything except the traditional post-up, Kaman's skills don't fit in with the Lakers' offensive scheme.
With the Lakers averaging 99.3 points per game and allowing opponents to score 105.1 points per game, it is clear that D'Antoni's system has not been working on both ends of the court. Despite the team's struggles, D'Antoni continues to rely on a system that caters to less talented players like Jodie Meeks and Robert Sacre instead of proven commodities like Gasol and Kaman.
Out of the 70 shots Kaman has taken from within eight feet of the basket, he has converted on 52.9 percent of them. This shows that Kaman can still get things done in the paint. However, D'Antoni hasn't allowed him to get his touches in the interior.
While part of the blame could fall on Kaman for not demanding the ball in the post, it is hard to force your way into the post without a system that caters to it. While there are merits to the way D'Antoni runs his offense, as shown by the 10-9 start the Lakers had before all of their point guards were struck down by lightning, it is pretty obvious that Kaman is the odd man out.
However, it is hard to believe that players like Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly are getting more consistent looks than Kaman. While Sacre has taken some strides toward being a very good player as he develops, there is no way that Kelly deserves to be higher on the rotation than Kaman.
While developing young players is always good for a team destined for the lottery, Kelly provides almost no production on the court. His most valuable attribute is his ability to stretch the floor with his shooting. However, he is too inexperienced to keep pace with the more seasoned and athletic big men in the league and does not rebound well at all.
With season averages of 3.6 points and two rebounds per game, Kelly still has a few more offseasons of development until he can be a feasible option at the power forward spot.
It would be prudent for the Lakers to pull the plug on the Kaman experiment and allow their young big men to develop by usurping Kaman's minutes if D'Antoni isn't going to give him a fair shake. Even if they do try to get Kaman back into the rotation consistently, it wouldn't do much to stop the free fall the Lakers have been undergoing.
Should the Lakers try to trade Chris Kaman before the deadline?
With a contract worth close to $3.2 million, trading Kaman might not be the most feasible option if the Lakers are looking to get value back in the form of a savior to their morbid season. However, the fact that it expires this season could count for something in the trade market.
At some point, a decision needs to be made on Kaman. D'Antoni needs to decide whether Kaman can find a consistent place in the rotation. Otherwise, trading the disgruntled center before the February 20 deadline could still net the Lakers some value if D'Antoni doesn't believe that Kaman can provide them any.
All stats are accurate as of January 13, 2014.