With Dwight Howard’s controversial departure to the Houston Rockets leaving a gaping hole in the middle, the Lakers signed arguably the best available big man within their price range of the mini midlevel exception (just less than $3.2 million), according to ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne.
The Lakers can now only use the veteran’s minimum -- worth approximately $1.2 million, depending on how many years of experience the player has in the league -- to fill out the rest of their roster.
Kaman’s one-year deal fits perfectly with the Lakers’ goal to not have any players under contract heading into the 2014-15 season (they’ll only have Steve Nash on the books), thus allowing them to have the requisite cap space to sign a superstar or two from the star-studded free-agent class of 2014.
It’s unclear whether Kaman, 31, was brought in to start or not, but he’ll most likely come off the bench behind Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill and split his time alongside both big men. Similar to last season (20.7 minutes), he’ll likely average between 15 and 20 minutes per game.
As a member of the Dallas Mavericks last season, Kaman averaged 10.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocks, while shooting 50.7 percent from the floor and 78.8 percent from the free throw line (52.9 true shooting percentage). He spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Los Angeles Clippers and spent the 2011-12 season with New Orleans after he was part of the trade that sent Chris Paul to L.A.
The nimble big man has an effective post game from the left block and is one of the NBA’s premier midrange jump shooters (he shot 51 percent from 16-23 feet last season), ranking seventh among players who played in at least 40 games.
Despite being an ambidextrous finisher, Kaman shoots below average at the rim for a center (64.3 percent) and attempts less than 30 percent of his shots there.
He’ll provide Kobe Bryant and Nash with a legitimate threat out of pick-and-pops -- Kaman ranked 20th in points per play as the screener in pick-and-rolls -- as well as a dangerous spot-up option on the weak side if Bryant or Gasol is posting up on the strong-side block.
While Kaman has the size (he’s 7-foot) and strength (265 pounds) to be an intimidating presence defensively, the Mavericks actually allowed more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor (104.8) than when he was on the bench (103.6).
His help-side defense can often be slow and he has a difficult time containing the ball or rotating back to his man in pick-and-roll situations.
Kaman is a solid defensive rebounder, though, posting an above-average defensive rebounding rate last season (21.8), and will provide the Lakers with good post defense because of his girth and ability to properly contest shots.
At just less than $3.2 million for one year, Kaman is clearly a bargain. Though Kaman’s on the wrong side of 30, most 7-footers with his skill would command multiyear deals and slightly more money per year on the open market.
The Lakers still have to address their lack of size and length on the wings, but they can take solace in the fact that their offseason goal of adding frontcourt depth for cheap has now been satisfied.
Stats used in this post are from ESPN.com, NBA.com/Stats, MySynergySports.com, HoopData.com and Basketball-Reference.com.