The Difficulty in trading Kaman

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Published: January 27, 2012

The Hornets are actively looking to move Chris Kaman, but finding a suitor might not be as easy as you might think.

According to Dell Demps today, “We had a conversation with Chris [Kaman] and expressed that the Hornets are going to go in a different direction. We mutually decided for a number of reasons that we are not going to play Chris as we pursue a trade. Chris has been the ultimate professional during this process and we thank him for the way he has handled this situation.”

The Hornets have shelved center Chris Kaman while seeking a trade, partly because they want to get their young bigs some playing time, and partly because they don’t want to see him get injured before they can move him. Considering Kaman’s injury history, this is a pretty smart move by GM Dell Demps, who is hamstrung by a couple of CBA rules that is making it difficult to trade CK35.

The Hornets can trade Kaman today, but they could not include any other players in the deal per the CBA. They would have to wait until mid-February before they could include him as part of a package. Also, as part of the CBA, the Hornets also have to take back salary that is relatively close to the salary they are given away- within 150% to be exact for teams below cap, and within 125% for teams above it. Kaman is on the books for a little over 12 million this year (disregard the salary on Hoopshype, because that includes his 15% trade kicker), meaning that the Hornets have to take back between 8.2 and 18.5 million dollars when trading Kaman to make the deal work, and to get Commissioner Stern’s approval. Sorry, I had to go there.

The problem here is that there aren’t many big expiring contracts out there, and the Hornets don’t want to take back long term contracts in a deal for Kaman. They would ideally want a big expiring contract to make the trade work under league rules and an asset or two like a pick or a young guy on a rookie contract. The Milwaukee Bucks, for example, have a guy just like that in Larry Sanders. They also have a need at center now that Andrew Bogut is out for 2-3 months. The problem? They dont have the expiring contracts required to make the deal. Same goes for teams like the Lakers, the Spurs, or Magic, who are in win now mode and could use a backup center like Kaman for the stretch run.

However, there are a few teams that have the need and the combination of contracts and assets to make the deal work. The Hawks are without Al Horford and don’t really need point guard Kirk Hinrich now that Jeff Teague has emerged. Hinrich, a pick, and Jason Collins for Kaman would work for both teams and would be approved by the league. The Celtics could use an upgrade in the middle as they make one last run, and have two first round picks in this year’s draft that they can pair with over the hill center Jermaine O’Neal.

Rockets and Jazz are said to be showing interest as well according to Yahoo Sports, and both teams have the type of young assets and picks that the Hornets could covet. Houston has their own pick and the Knicks pick, along with young bigs in Jordan Hill and Hasheem Thabeet. Meanwhile, Utah is still owed picks from the Nets, and could easily get a third team involved who might be interested in Al Jefferson, as they swap him out for a more conventional center and a guy on a shorter contract. Pacers are also interesting because they are significantly under the cap and won’t have to come within the 150%. Theoretically they can trade for Kaman and not have to put a penny of returning salary in the deal.

But overall, the market would be much bigger for a 7’0 center with low post moves if not for the odd combination of CBA rules and very specific needs that the Hornets have in this case. Perhaps the Hornets could get a third team involved, or wait until mid-February and package Kaman with another contract they would like to get off the books for a shorter bad contract and assets (Kaman and Ariza for SJax, Larry Sanders, and a top-10 protected pick?).

No matter what, this will be an interesting plot line to follow and another semi-genius move by Demps. He wanted to see if this team could make a run at the playoffs, but once he saw that was not a possibility, he shut down his asset before he got injured and Dell got nothing for him. The league knows what Kaman can do. He is not a savior, but he is not a goat either. He will give some contender a top of the line big off the bench, and will only cost a first round pick or two in the 20’s.

And Demps will have yet another intriguing asset with which to wield his magic.