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Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope likely to replace Avery Bradley in the starting lineup

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lakers, Avery Bradley

Before the Los Angeles Lakers headed into the NBA bubble this past week, the team got word that veteran guard Avery Bradley would not be joining them. Bradley elected to opt-out of the NBA restart due to family concerns, and as a result, the team quickly signed former LeBron James teammate, JR Smith.

Although Smith is a welcome addition to this squad with championship aspirations, the team loses one of their best on-ball defenders and three-point shooters. The question now is which player will be filling the void in the starting lineup, and Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, on a Zoom call with the media on Monday, dropped a major hint as to which player has the inside track to secure that starting job.

“We’ll always have an open competition,” Vogel said of the starting lineup. “Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did a phenomenal job when Avery was injured early in the season. That’s really where I’m at in terms of what the starting lineup is going to look like with him being in that slot.

“Obviously, seeing how things go throughout practice and other guys will have opportunities.”

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope played in all 63 games before the NBA season was suspended, starting in 20 of those games. He got off to a rough start shooting the basketball and quickly became the team’s least popular player among Lakers fans, but it didn’t take him long to get back on track and prove his worth as a valuable asset in the backcourt for Vogel and company.

In 25 minutes a night, Caldwell-Pope is averaging 9.5 points per game while shooting 47.2 percent from the floor and 39.4 percent from beyond the arc. He can’t provide what Bradley can on defense, but he may be a viable option for Vogel moving forward unless another player emerges as the better fit in the first unit.