We knew there was a possibility that someone would be the odd man out in the Los Angeles Lakers’ strange collection of roster talent, and it appears that guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is that guy.
Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year deal to return to the Lakers this past summer, but things haven’t worked out, as he is averaging just 9.1 points and 2.5 rebounds in 22.3 minutes per game while shooting 40.7 percent from the floor and 34.9 percent from three-point range.
Now, to be fair, those numbers are right in line with his career averages, but on this Los Angeles team, it just isn’t working.
So, with a trade imminent, here are three squads that represent possible destinations for Caldwell-Pope:
3. Houston Rockets
The Rockets are finally starting to win some games lately, as James Harden is tearing opponents apart and the rest of the team is bombing away from three-point range. Still, Houston needs some depth, and with Chris Paul now sidelined indefinitely with a hamstring injury, the Rockets are even thinner than usual.
Caldwell-Pope would provide a very solid option for Mike D’Antoni, possessing the ability to play a mini-Trevor Ariza role within Houston’s system. That would certainly be of intrigue to D’Antoni.
He is not exactly a knockdown three-point shooter, but he has shown the potential to hit the 3-ball at a decent clip, as evidenced by his 38.3 percent success rate last season. Plus, in the Rockets’ fast-paced offense with Harden as the ball-handler, Caldwell-Pope could fit in perfectly.
Remember, Houston has the contract of Brandon Knight to include in a potential trade, and even though his deal runs beyond this year, the Lakers could always orchestrate a buyout with the point guard.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers have great talent in their starting lineup with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Jimmy Butler, but they are sorely missing two things: depth and outside shooting. Caldwell-Pope could fill a rather significant role for the 76ers on both ends of the floor, providing them with a capable defender to guard the likes of the great guards on the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and Indiana Pacers and as someone who can knock down the three.
Again, Caldwell-Pope is no Kyle Korver, but he is not completely inept from beyond the arc, and Philadelphia could use any outside shooting it can get after trading away Robert Covington and Dario Saric in the Butler deal.
Would Caldwell-Pope put the Sixers on par with the Celtics and Raptors? No, but he would at least elevate their horrid bench somewhat.
The question is, what does Philly have to trade? Caldwell-Pope is making $12 million this year, so the first two salaries that match right away on the 76ers are Wilson Chandler and J.J. Redick. However, they wouldn’t want to trade either of those two for Caldwell-Pope.
A deal including Mike Muscala is possible, but he has actually been one of Philadelphia’s top bench contributors.
The Sixers would have to get creative, but they need to add somebody, and Caldwell-Pope would be a good fit.
1. New Orleans Pelicans
You will notice a running theme here: all of the teams listed are teams that have pretty shoddy benches.
The Pelicans have one of the worst benches in the league. Outside of Julius Randle, there is nothing on New Orleans’ pine that inspires any confidence, so Caldwell-Pope could certainly be a fit.
With Anthony Davis’ 2021 free agency drawing closer and closer and the Pelicans continuing to disappoint, the front office needs to do something to try and appease Davis to show him that the franchise is committed to winning.
New Orleans has Solomon Hill to include in a deal for Caldwell-Pope, as the salaries match. Like Knight, his contract runs through 2020, but L.A. can buy him out if it so pleases.
Another method could feature the Pelicans getting creative and devising some sort of package around Wesley Johnson, perhaps including players such as Darius Miller an Ian Clark for salary filler.
The Lakers probably aren’t expecting much in return for Caldwell-Pope at this point, so some dumpable contracts attached to a draft pick might be enough to get them to pull the trigger on a trade.