After what looked like a very bleak free agency for the Lakers, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka nabbed one of the few remaining big fish. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year deal worth $18M late Tuesday night.
KCP is entering his fifth season in the league, after being drafted with the eighth overall pick by the Detroit Pistons in 2013. The former Georgia Bulldog was originally given a qualifying offer, making hima restricted free agent.
A lot of dominos had to fall for KCP to end up in Los Angeles. It originally started with Paul George being traded to the Thunder. After the Celtics missed out on trading for George, they pursued another available star in Gordon Hayward. On the 4th of July, Hayward agreed to sign with the Celtics, which forced the team to trade away some salary. The Pistons swooped in, and traded for Avery Bradley, ultimately ending KCP’s chances of returning to Detroit.
The Pistons decided they got their man in Bradley, so they rescinded their qualifying offer to KCP. That made KCP an unrestricted free agent, and so here we are today.
Since trading away D’Angelo Russell, the Lakers’ front office made a priority on finding shooters and defense. In Kentavious, they may have found both. During the first half of last season, he shot 40% from deep and averaged 15 ppg.
Unfortunately, KCP suffered a shoulder injury that forced him to sit for a few games. He didn’t play as well offensively, but still finished shooting a career-best 35% from 3-point range, nailing 2 per game.
The offensive numbers won’t blow you away, but his stifling defense sure will. Facing off against Russell Westbrook, KCP held him to 17 points while forcing 5 turnovers. John Wall came to town and scored a whopping 8 points. Let’s not forget the Flash, Dwayne Wade, who dropped a measly 2 points against the Pistons in November. His play garnered a vote for the NBA All-Defense 2nd Team last year, after receiving 23 votes for the 1st Team in 2015-16.
KCP’s ability to stop penetration and guard the perimeter is remarkable. The 6’5″ shooting guard will defend the opponent’s best player on a nightly basis, something that the Lakers definitely needed.
The one-year deal maintains the 2018 cap space for a team that could desperately use some star power, while keeping open the possibilty of KCP returning to the team. The front office finally signed a difference-maker; rest easy, Lakers Nation!