One team’s discarded two-guard is another team’s big free agent signing.
Just days after the Detroit Pistons renounced his rights following the acquisition of Avery Bradley, the Los Angeles Lakers have signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year deal worth $18 million, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has agreed to a one-year, $18 million deal with the Lakers, sources tell ESPN.
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 12, 2017
For a rebuilding team, Caldwell-Pope is a logical fit for multiple reasons. First and foremost, the 24-year-old immediately makes the Lakers better.
The 3-and-D guard averaged 13.8 points per game in 2016-17, shooting a career best 35 percent from long distance while shooting a career-worst 44 percent on two-pointers. His inconsistency and failure to build on a solid 2015-16 season led Detroit to move on. However, he’ll slot in fabulously in the Lakers starting lineup in desperate need of consistency amid a whole lot of youth.
Los Angeles starting five got a major makeover this Summer. KCP will likely line up with Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and Brook Lopez. Ball, Ingram and Randle are the future core, but none of them has averaged more than 13.2 points per game at the NBA level. Caldwell-Pope’s scoring and ability to stretch the floor will take some pressure off the young group.
Despite Caldwell-Pope’s struggles with the Pistons, he’s a perfect fit alongside Lonzo Ball and gives the Lakers a much-needed lockdown defender. Meanwhile, the move allows shooting guard Jordan Clarkson to slot in as the sixth-man, where his skillset is best utilized. Not only do the Lakers starters get better, but the move improves the bench.
So why KCP for a rebuilding Lakers? Well, Los Angeles wants to be as good as possible next season despite the roster’s inexperience.
The Lakers traded their unprotected 2018 first-round pick back in 2013 in the Steve Nash deal to the Philadelphia 76ers (who subsequently dealt it to the Boston Celtics in the Markelle Fultz deal), so there’s little reason to tank. Much like the Brooklyn Nets last season, there’s incentive to win without a draft pick. KCP improves those chances.
Plus, signing KCP gives the Lakers better short-term gains while keeping long-term flexibility in tact. If he doesn’t work out, Los Angeles will still enter 2018 free agency with a plethora of cap room once Lopez, Corey Brewer and KCP clear nearly $50 million in cap space. It will afford them the chance to go chase a Paul George or a DeMarcus Cousins. If he’s worth re-signing, there’s enough cap space to facilitate a new deal.
Lakers president Magic Johnson isn’t looking for long-term deals. Instead, he wants to make the Lakers better today, without sacrificing the future. Signing Caldwell-Pople fits that goal. As would bringing in Rajon Rondo on a one-year deal.
Sources: Despite committing $18M for Caldwell-Pope, Lakers still trying to find a way to sign Rondo. Lakers have a $4.3M exception to use. https://t.co/4tGvW70sro
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 12, 2017
The Lakers might not be good next season, but, at the very least, they’re actively trying to be better.