With summer dragging on and on and on before the NBA tips off, we’ve decided to initiate a multipart series that will be the definitive look at the best players in the NBA today.

Over lunch at the Outback Steakhouse (word to Steve Irwin), your crack SLAMonline.com staff sat down and ranked the 50 best players in the NBA today. We realize that’s kind of ambiguous, but that’s how basketball is and that’s how we like it. Basically, though, we tried to list the 50 guys we think have the most value to their teams, right now, at this moment. This doesn’t mean they’ll never be traded, and it doesn’t mean they’re due tremendous contract extensions, but it does mean — since value is king in the NBA — that over the next month or so we’ll run down the 50 guys that we think are the 50 best players, right here, right now.

Before long it’ll be time for our annual NBA team previews. Right now it’s time for some law and order…

48. Chris Kaman, Los Angeles Clippers

By Sam Rubenstein
It’s becoming a guard and swingman’s league. The center position is on the endangered species list, and today’s dominant big men are explosively quick athletes with versatile games. Talents like Elton Brand.

On the other end of that is the Kaveman. He’s only 23 years old, getting better every year, and last season he was a borderline double double player. He might be the most rugged big man in the west already and he even has a 20-20 game to his name. Elton Brand was getting MVP buzz in part because Kaman was freeing him up by doing his dirty work. When the playoffs came around he wasn’t healthy, and the Clips lost a seven game series to Phoenix. With a healthy Kaman, who knows what would have happened. He’s valuable enough a player to swing a playoff series the other way.
The production as a rebounder, defender, and garbage buckets man is nice, but Chris also brings a little bit of mystique and intimidation. Just look at him. That hair. The glazed look of a neanderthal that’s about to club you over the head and drag you back to his cave for dinner. He’s been everything for the Clippers that #1 overall pick Michael Olowokandi was not. And you wouldn’t catch Kaman getting tazered. He’s probably got a cross bow with armor piercing tazer arrows at home. It’s probably aimed right between your eyes as you’re reading this, right now. Be still.
You can’t even stop him by going below the belt. Reggie Evans is supposed to be a tough guy, but he had to play dirty to get at Kaman. Chris shoved him to the ground, gave him a look of disgust, and walked away. Swagger. Even though his numbers are good and getting better every year, Chris is one of those outside the box score players. He’s critical to the Clipper rennaissance.