The Lakers Continue Winning the Summer by Signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Then Lonzo Ball fell into their lap.
And now they're about to ink arguably the summer's best under-the-radar free agent.
Even before bringing former Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope into the fold, the Los Angeles Lakers crushed the free agent season. Now, by getting KCP on a reasonable one-year, $18 million deal, Magic Johnson and the Lake Show braintrust have shored up their franchise for both the present and the future, putting together a roster that can legitimately complete for a playoff spot, even in the scary Western Conference.
Who's Getting Defensive?
Adding Caldwell-Pope into the mix addresses their biggest bugaboo: Defense. Last season, the Lakers D was a big bucket of bad, finishing near the bottom of the Association in virtually every important team statistic.
|Opponent FGs Made||41.5||28|
|Opponent Field Goals Made||48.3%||30|
|Opponent Three Pointers Made||10.1||24|
|Opponent Point Per Shot||1.3||29|
|Opponent Field Goal Percentage||54.2%||30|
The Lopez acquisition was a big get for the Lakers' defense, as I discussed the day after they shipped D'Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov out east in exchange for the former All-Star. But Caldwell-Pope's arrival could make them a legitimate defensive pain in the butt.
Last season, Caldwell-Pope finished 11th in the NBA in steals per turnover, ahead of the entire NBA All-Defensive first team of Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Rudy Gobert, Draymond Green, and Patrick Beverley. He also flashed great hands and court savvy while ranking 16th in steals per personal foul, topping all the aforementioned players, save for Leonard.
He'll replace the Lakers' rotating cast of shooting guards in the starting lineup, and in doing so, will exponentially amp up the Lakers' chances to, y'know, win games, as borne out by his domination in Defensive Win Shares and Defensive Box Plus/Minus, a couple of metrics that equate to, y'know, winning games.
|Player||Defensive Win Shares||Defensive Box Plus/Minus|
But Can He Score?
Caldwell-Pope's former team never made him a focal part of their offense. Last season, despite playing a team-leading 33.3 minutes a night, his usage percentage was a lousy 19.2%, placing 10th on the Pistons. It's almost as if his teammates were playing keepaway, Harlem Globetrotters-style.
That being the case, the numbers won't tell us if KCP will be able to amp up his scoring with the Lakers -- normally you'd go to the per-36-minutes to figure that one out, but he played 33.3 minutes a night, so that's kind of a wash.
But sometimes, it's worth going the anecdotal route.
So here's an anecdote about Jimmy Butler.
In 2013-14, while a member of the Chicago Bulls, Butler put up numbers similar to Caldwell-Pope's of last season.
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (2016-17)||13.8||2.5||3.3||1.2||0.5||39.9%||83.2%||35.0%|
|Jimmy Butler (2013-14)||13.1||2.6||4.9||1.9||0.2||39.7%||76.9%||28.3%|
During the summer of 2014, Butler all but became a hermit, obsessively worked on his game, and made the leap from role player to All-Star.
If KCP puts in the time over the next three months, can he make a similar jump? Did Los Angeles land themselves a player with untapped All-Star potential, a player who, if given the opportunity, can pour in 18-20 points a night?
Anything is possible, but one thing is for certain: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope helped the Lakers win the summer, and he'll likely help them win in the autumn. And in the winter. And in the spring.