Quick, name the league's top-scoring center. Dwight Howard? Nope. Al Jefferson? Not really. All-Stars Al Horford or Tim Duncan? No way. Not even David Lee, the main beneficiary of Mike D'Antoni's Knicks. No, the league's top-scoring center in fact is a player who has never made an All-Star team, is generally seen as a scoring afterthought on his own team, and is often the source of ridicule for his ridiculous haircut. Yes, your leading scorer at the center position this year is...Chris Kaman?
The pride of Central Michigan's basketball program, Kaman has finally put together the type of year that the Clips hoped for when they drafted him sixth overall in 2003. In his first few years, Kaman was seen as an unequivocal bust, not averaging double-digit scoring until his third year in the league. Kaman's scoring in fact, has been long seen as a significant weakness in Kaman's game, as he's only topped 12 points per game once in the last six years. This year however, Kaman has put it together on the offensive end, averaging 20.0 points per game and grabbing 8.9 rebounds. His points-rebounds-assist average ranks only behind Howard and Lee among the league's centers.
Kaman also has suddenly become a fantasy growth stock with Tuesday's trade of Marcus Camby to the Blazers. Camby's departure leaves a hole of seven low-post shot attempts per game for the Clips, and while DeAndre Jordan may see some of those touches, the vast majority of Camby's shot attempts should now go to Kaman. Camby also leaves behind more than 12 rebounds per game, a burden that Kaman should get first crack at alleviating. The Clips may have waved the white flag on their season Tuesday by trading Camby, but the trade should also serve as a sign that the team is confident in Kaman's abilities going forward as their franchise center. Kaman also should be better complemented by Blake Griffin in years to come than Camby, whose presence often gave the Clippers a "too many cooks" feel in the low post. Kaman now becomes the Clips' low post Iron Chef for the foreseeable future.
In fact, Kaman has represented a return of sorts to low-post play across the NBA. Zach Randolph has suddenly become a Kevin McHale-esque presence after years of not meeting his potential. David Lee's breakout year has been well chronicled. Josh Smith has put it all together this year by sticking to shooting from close range.And Brook Lopez and Marc Gasol are in the running for the Most Improved Player award by realizing their fate as old-school centers. Scoring from the blocks has suddenly become in vogue again. George Mikan would be so proud.
But among all of them, Kaman has been the biggest surprise. He had missed huge portions of the last two seasons with injuries, dropping him to an average of 74th in ESPN fantasy drafts. In fact, prior to the season, ESPN had Kaman as their 21st ranked fantasy center. Kaman has greatly exceeded those expectations and more, not only with concrete statistics, but with improved shooting percentages from the field (50|PERCENT|) and from the line (75|PERCENT|). Given the type of season he's put together, the guy with the funny hair may just be the league's top bang-for-your-buck fantasy player this season.