Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the Los Angeles Lakers agreed to a deal late Tuesday night, as the 24-year-old will sign a one-year, $18 million contract with the franchise. In what was a major coup for Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka, Caldwell-Pope decided to forgo the security of extra years for a big one-year payday.
Caldwell-Pope was never expected to hit unrestricted free agency this summer, but after the Detroit Pistons landed Avery Bradley in a trade, they were forced to renounce KCP’s rights and move on. That it happened this late in the offseason left Caldwell-Pope without many options, and played right into the Lakers’ hands. To their credit, they swooped in and landed him.
During his first four years in the league, Caldwell-Pope has become a really good two-way shooting guard. He has steadily improved both his 3-point shooting and his defense, and he’s still young enough to have plenty of ceiling left.
Last season, Caldwell-Pope averaged 13.8 points, 2.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 33.3 minutes per game. He hit a career-best 35 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, had a true shooting percentage of 51.9 and posted a career-high PER of 12.90. KCP was also 58th in defensive win shares (2.5) and 87th in win shares (4.5). If he continues to improve his 3-point shot, he could become one of the NBA’s better two-way players.
Yes, $18 million is a ton of money for a guy with only decent numbers, but Caldwell-Pope is clearly player on the rise, and the contract preserves the Lakers’ cap space for next offseason. Additionally, KCP’s agent is Rich Paul, who also happens to rep LeBron James. So this contract has established a relationship Johnson and Pelinka would clearly like to continue.
On the court, Caldwell-Pope is a young, athletic shooting guard who should pair really well with new Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball. Like recent draftee Josh Hart, he will bring defensive toughness to a team that sorely lacked it during the 2016-17 season.
If Caldwell-Pope performs well during 2017-18 campaign, the Lakers will have the money to re-sign him to a long-term deal and still have cash leftover to ink another top player. Los Angeles could also opt to trade the Georgia product during the season in exchange for draft picks (LA current doesn’t have a first-rounder in 2018), or could just let him walk next summer if he under performs. No matter what happens, the Lakers added a young, talented shooting guard to help Ball’s transition to the NBA.
This was an absolute home run signing by Johnson and Pelinka.