Chris Kaman’s offense to revitalize bench, aid teammates


With the addition of Chris Kaman in free agency, the Portland Trail Blazers made an obvious effort to shore up their bench for the upcoming season. Unlike Steve Blake, who has had previous experience playing for the Blazers, Kaman largely enters as more of an unknown. I recall some of his Dallas days, and his nap on the bench last year for the Lakers, but otherwise, he’s been one of those “always around but doesn’t stick out” type of players.

To start with, Kaman has had a place in the league because of his offense. As he has matured, Kaman has developed a jump shot, and the shooting zone of 10-16 feet away from the basket was where he shot the most from last year. Despite the volume of attempts, he shot relatively lights out from the area, hitting at a 46.7 percent clip. For comparison to two of our beloved Blazers, Damian Lillard shot 38.9 percent from this area and LaMarcus Aldridge shot 38.8 percent.

Point guard and power forward are certainly vastly different positions than center, and defended differently, but this still serves to demonstrate how lethal Kaman can be from the mid-range. As an added bonus, when Kaman is on the court, the opposing center will have to respect this shooting, ideally pulling him farther away from the hoop. This should, in turn, open up the lane for easier drives by the Blazers’ perimeter players.

Dec 18, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson (41) shoots over Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love (42) and forward Dante Cunningham (33) during the second quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Additionally, Kaman could open up space for players like Thomas Robinson, who play closer in. Robinson, while no doubt athletic and energetic, has not appeared to find his niche yet, especially on the offensive end. He can hit the fourteen footers, and he’s shown flashes of a back-to-the-basket game (although the spin moves are hit or miss), but he generally has not played with a jump shooting big.

Assuming that Kaman and Robinson get a lot of run together off the bench, this could open up new facets to Robinson’s game. If he were to take the next step to developing more of an inside game, now would appear to be the time to do so, with Kaman able to stay offensively relevant while not clogging up the area around the hoop.

While jump shots are a large part of Kaman’s game, that isn’t to say that he can’t do damage from at the rim. Over a quarter of his shot attempts came from within three feet of the hoop, and he connected on a solid 71.4 percent of them. Free throw shooting also isn’t a liability, as he hit an acceptable 76.4 percent of them last season. This plays well into Portland’s pre-constructed fourth quarter advantage in close games.

All in all, Kaman looks to be a solid contributor for a bench unit that sorely needed more contribution from its members last year. The Blazers’ starting five should, in theory, be able to hold their own and generate a lead. The bench just needs to hold serve, which has sadly not been doable for the past two seasons. Kaman’s role in particular should be significant, as the Blazers try to limit starter Robin Lopez’s minutes – only 31.7 minutes per game last season.

It is not all rainbows and unicorns, though. Kaman still turned the ball over at an uncomfortable clip last season (3.6 per 36), and the threat of injury always looms. Kaman has appeared in all 82 games only once in his career, and he has played in less than sixty games during five of his 11 seasons in the league. Last year the Blazers’ training staff did a wonderful job at staving off injuries, but reality hits at some point. The reality is that a 7’0” body in its 12th NBA season is probably not the most reliable thing around.

Being a reserve will mean that Kaman’s minutes are limited, so hopefully this helps to mitigate the risk of such a break down. Even if Kaman can’t maintain perfect attendance, any significant presence of his at all should boost the Blazers bench going forward. In an increasingly talented Western Conference, a boost of any kind will be welcome for a team looking to improve upon a second round playoff appearance.

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