The headlines will scream that the Lakers spent $18 million to rent an average shooting guard named Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who spent the first four years of his career in Detroit putting up mediocre numbers (13.8 ppg last year, but only 35 percent shooting on 3-pointers). He’s really good from the left side; significantly less so from the right.
The real story: KCP is repped by Klutch Sports, the same group that represents … LeBron. Everyone knows LA’s target in 2018 is LeBron (along with Paul George), and for a year, now Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka will be in constant contact with Klutch Sports. Good front offices would already be doing that, but at least now the Lakers have an excuse to check in more frequently. You can only imagine how often LeBron’s name will come up.
There’s no telling if LeBron and KCP are friendly, and frankly, it doesn’t matter. What else was LA going to do with all that cap space? At least they didn’t get locked into a long-term deal, which is something KCP wanted. Maybe Atlanta or Brooklyn refused to pay him?
I spoke to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst about Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the Lakers Saturday (32-minute mark):
“Next summer, there’s going to be a lot less salary cap than there was the last few years … if you are a free agent right now, it’s better to get a long term contract now than a year from now … If I were KCP, I’d be way more interested if Brooklyn or Atlanta were interested in giving me a 4-year deal than I am in any 1-year deal in LA, no matter what the price is.”
“At the end of that year, they’re going to send me out to the runaway to wait while they chase Paul George, Russell Westbrook or LeBron James.”
Maybe KCP gets squeezed next year, and he’s chasing a much smaller deal. It makes sense. Or, the Lakers can package Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Luol Deng (who they must unload to make room) and a future pick, and KCP gets a multi-year deal to stay with the Lakers. But they can’t ink him for too long – in a couple years, they’ll have to pay Brandon Ingram.
The book on KCP: Above-average defender, not much of a passer, not much a slasher, but he could pop for 30 if he got hot. Too bad he’s only eclipsed 30 twice in the last two seasons. But at 6-foot-5, he’s got good side!
Only 24, there’s plenty of room for growth, and KCP did look pretty good against the Cavs in a playoff sweep two years ago (15.3 ppg on 44 percent 3-point shooting).
So what are the Lakers next year, a team that wins 30 games, or closer to 40? Here’s how the depth chart looks today:
PG: Lonzo Ball/Rajon Rondo (?)/David Nwaba
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope/Jordan Clarkson/Corey Brewer
SF: Brandon Ingram/Luol Deng/Josh Hart
PF: Julius Randle/Larry Nance Jr./Kyle Kuzma
C: Brook Lopez/Ivica Zubac/Thomas Bryant