Great Debate for the Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Kaman or DeAndre Jordan?

Drake SmithContributor IIIMarch 9, 2011

(From L to R): Craig Smith, Chris Kaman, DeAndre Jordan
(From L to R): Craig Smith, Chris Kaman, DeAndre Jordan

One is suited for the high-flying style of the new NBA, masquerading around in a 7-foot body. One is a fundamentally sound, old school center, a throwback to the days of old.

DeAndre Jordan seems to be the new center in LA for the Clippers. Freaky, athletic plays above the rim and can block shots into the 10th row. He's even close friends with Blake Griffin. What more could a Clippers fan want?

On the surface it seems like no contest. Who needs Chris Kaman anyway? For starters, the Clippers.

Kaman could be one of the most underrated players in the league today, and that goes for fans of his own team also. Yes he will make only the occasional, seemingly uncoordinated play, but he cancels it out with a mid-range jump shot, tireless work ethic and a slew of "little things" that go unnoticed.

When the game is on the line, Jordan becomes a bit of a liability. He shoots free-throws at a 44 percent clip, which is, unbelievably, an improvement from his career percentage of 40 percent. Kaman, however, is pushing 80 percent and has a shooting stroke almost unheard of for a big 7-foot center.

Kaman has been lost in the shuffle because he missed a huge chunk of the season. It just happened to be the chunk of the season in which the Clippers became a relevant NBA team and garnered attention from fans everywhere because of Griffin, and to a lesser extent, Jordan.

The fact still remains though that Kaman is a perfectly capable NBA center who possesses skills many successful teams would desire.

The contracts of the two are vastly different, for now.

Kaman is raking in $12 million a year for the rest of this and next season, after which he will become a free agent. Jordan makes less than $1 million this season when his rookie contract comes to an end, and he enters free agency this summer.

The price tag Jordan will ask for remains to be seen.

If the Clippers truly see him as the center of the future, it won't be surprising to see a new contract of $7 or $8 million per season, regardless of whether he is worth it or not. He will be a restricted free agent, so Los Angeles will be able to match any offer a team makes for him, if one chooses to do so. 

Kaman has been steadfastly loyal to the Clippers and would probably take a pay cut in order to stay in LA, especially now that the team is making noticeable strides in the right direction, but nothing is certain.

He has survived multiple trade rumors in recent years and is beginning to prove his worth again after coming back from injury, averaging 13 points and seven rebounds a game off the bench in the eight games he has seen significant time. 

Also, remember the Clippers will be expected to open up the wallet for Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon over the next few years as well, so the financial situation regarding the big men in the future will be an interesting venture for the LA front office.

The team also desperately needs production at the small forward position, and after failing to trade for Danilo Gallinari from New York, the team may make a run at free agents this summer.

A possibility is to keep both Jordan and Kaman in a similar scenario that is playing out this season. An impending pay raise for Jordan and possible pay cut for Kaman could allow the team to move forward in the future with two big men most NBA teams would love to have one of.

A big man rotation of Griffin, Jordan and Kaman sure would look enticing and present matchup problems for a lot of teams, but it remains to be seen if this will be the way LA chooses to proceed when the time comes.

For now, all the Clippers and their fans know is that the team is heading in the right direction and is no longer a doormat franchise serving as a purgatory for top young players.

Maybe the Jordan/Kaman debate shouldn't be a debate at all. Maybe it should be an opportunity to lock up both and serve notice to the rest of the league that the Clippers are willing to do whatever it takes to win games, now and in the future.