Clipper Player Profile: Chris Kaman

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It seems as though everyone’s given up on Kaman and are just focusing on the Clippers’ youth movement in the years to come built around Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin. Forget down the road, right now they have one of the few good centers in the entire league. One who can play both sides of the court. And he’s only 27. However, because he missed 26 games in ’07-’08, and then a whopping 51 last season, people assume he’s done. That he was a flash in the pan like Michael Olwakaanummommanandadi.

The big German-American who everyone likes to call Caveman was actually pretty darn good last season before he got hurt. In those 15 games he averaged nearly 14 points with 9.4 rebounds shooting 57% from the field and, for a big man, a nice 75% from the free-throw line. When he came back for the remaining 16 games, yes, it was a different story.

He was naturally rusty initially, and with the Clips completely eliminated by that point, there was no sense in him trying to kill himself. He even came off the bench for 7 games, during which he averaged only 20 minutes (although he still managed to get almost 10pts and 7rbs which’d be a good night for many centers for an entire game). Even by the end of the season, in the last 5 games he only got up to 28 minutes, but he managed to average nearly 12 & 9. The worst part of his game during them final 5 games? Somehow his free throw shooting dropped to 14.3%. No, you did not read that wrong. Even weirder, the career 73.4ft% shooter shot 71.4ft% during his first month back. Obviously this must be considered a fluke, and since the Clips always have to shoot free throws at the end of practices, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to get back to his normal percentage there.

Common perception is…

…that if you look at his stats for last year there’s a huge drop-off from the ’07-’08 season (perhaps his best year). Truth is, factoring in games both pre- and post-injury (aka, all of them), his fg% jumped up from 48.3% to 52.3%, his points per forty minutes remained almost exactly the same (16.9 versus 16.2). The one area with the big drop (besides the aforementioned free throw oddity) is his rebound rate. He dropped from getting 19.7% of all rebounds to 15.5%. However that’s misleading for two reasons: 1. In the ’07-’08 season Elton Brand was out, so there were more rebounds available. 2. Last year, before the season started, most pundits predicted Kaman would get less rebounds because the Clips added Marcus Camby, one of the top rebounders in the league. Also, despite Zach Randolph’s many faults, he too is a solid rebounder who’s averaged around ten/gm for many years.

Kaman actually has a pretty refined post-game and around the basket can go either way (the righty actually tends to go lefty more of the time). Unfortunately he’s not a great passer out from the post, and despite his soft hands, he’ll turn it over down there. That said, maybe watching Blake Griffin’s post passing will help him a bit. Kaman also has a fairly decent jump shot for a big man (likely the result again of all those free throws the Clips take at practice), so he can play the high-post when Griffin is down on the block.

Defensively, he’s not the help-defender that Camby is (although besides Dwight Howard, who is?), but he’ll still likely average 1.5 blocks. In terms of individual one-on-one defense against big men down low, he’s actually probably superior to Camby. His strength and bulk enable him to keep solid defensive position, ala Kendrick Perkins.

So basically what it comes down to is this: can Kaman stay healthy for the whole season? Before the last two years, he was fairly decent his first four years except for one season. His games played were, starting from his rookie year: 82, 63, 78, and 75. That means half his career he’s played 75+ games out of 82, which is darn good, but the other half he’s played less than 63. Seems it’s a fifty-fifty shot. I’ve got no idea which way he’ll go. However, I do know if he is healthy, he’ll be a solid force that should help the Clips make the playoffs this year.