Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was once the most hated player on the Los Angeles Lakers. Fans of the team were calling for general manager Rob Pelinka to trade KCP for anything, as the veteran guard wasn’t hitting his shots on offense and couldn’t guard anyone on defense.
However, the narrative around Caldwell-Pope changed in the 2020 playoffs at Walt Disney World. L.A., who won the title in six games over the Miami Heat, got great contributions from KCP. The veteran guard averaged 10.7 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 21 games against the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets and Heat, all while shooting 41.8 percent from the field, 37.8 percent from beyond the arc and 81.5 percent from the free-throw line.
In the NBA Finals versus Jimmy Butler and the Heat, Caldwell-Pope was arguably the Lakers’ third-most consistent player behind superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The 27-year-old put up 12.8 points, 2.8 boards and 2.0 assists and shot 37.7 percent overall and 30.2 percent from the 3-point line.
Caldwell-Pope also played good defense on a variety of Heat players and was one of the few guys LeBron could kick it out to on the perimeter for the open 3-pointer when he drove to the basket.
Multiple reports have stated that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is going to decline his 2020-21 player option with the Lakers worth $8,493,746 and enter unrestricted free agency once the 2020 transaction period begins. With that being said, the Purple and Gold would be wise to re-sign the Georgia native since he played well in the Finals and has a good rapport with LeBron and Davis.
The more shooters you can surround James and Davis with, the better. KCP is a career 34.9 percent shooter from deep with the Detroit Pistons and Lakers. That is production Los Angeles can’t afford to lose since the team doesn’t have that many reliable long-distance shooters to begin with.
Lakers veteran guard Danny Green used to be one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA. However, he really struggled from the outside in the Finals against the Heat, hitting just 28.9 percent of his shots beyond the 3-point line. It got so bad for Green that he and his fiancé received unwarranted death threats after Game 5 of the Finals when Green missed the potential game-winning 3-pointer from the top of the key off a nice pass from James.
The Lakers are hoping that Green will return to form next season with his perimeter shooting. However, if that happens, the team still lacks consistent 3-point threats outside of Caldwell-Pope. So, Pelinka–who has always been a huge supporter of KCP even when the fans were bashing the guard–should re-sign the combo wing to a team-friendly deal.
Is Caldwell-Pope always going to play well? Of course not. Every player in the NBA has a bad stretch from time to time. However, it’s clear KCP is beloved by his teammates in Los Angeles, most notably James and Davis, who share the same agent as Caldwell-Pope, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports.
The Athletic is reporting that the Atlanta Hawks could pursue Caldwell-Pope in free agency. Does KCP really want to leave the Lakers for a rebuilding team such as Atlanta? Probably not. However, if the Hawks throw him a big-money offer, Paul will surely instruct KCP to sign it since getting any big chunk of change in this uncertain economy is something players can’t afford to pass up.
With that being said, look for the Lakers’ brass to work with Paul closely and work out something early in free agency.
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, Paul and Pelinka should be able to come to terms on a deal that not only pays KCP the money he deserves, but one that also gives the team cap flexibility moving forward. Davis is expected to re-sign with the LakeShow after he opts out of his 2020-21 player option. Paul will surely negotiate that deal first before turning his attention to KCP.
Since joining the Lakers in 2017-18, Caldwell-Pope has averaged 11.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game during the regular season and shot 36.9 percent from the 3-point line. The Purple and Gold will certainly need that production, especially if they want to repeat as champions next season.
The Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets will be in the title mix in 2020-21 after not being in the picture this season. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a guy who can guard Warriors guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and Nets All-Star Kyrie Irving on any given night.
That’s the type of defensive versatility head coach Frank Vogel loves to have from his key rotation guys.