Rumors that the Los Angeles Lakers had shown “significant interest” in signing Detroit Pistons free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have been quickly followed up by a report on why. As with seemingly everything the Lakers do these days, it’s part of their effort to target LeBron James in the summer of 2018.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports the the Lakers could "potentially do a one-year deal with Caldwell-Pope at a very high number” and “while he's obviously a good young player, he shares an agent with LeBron James, Rich Paul.”
Wojnarowski didn’t add that paying a Paul client who looks like he’s not going to get the type of giant offer he’s reportedly seeking could help keep the agent happy, but that’s a reality as well. According to Wojnarowski, the reasoning is more about how Caldwell-Pope could help lure James from a basketball perspective.
"Caldwell-Pope is a player they feel could help them long-term, but it's a prelude to their pursuit of LeBron James, potentially,” Wojnarowski said. “As the Lakers' pursuit of LeBron James heats up, they bring in someone from Klutch Sports, and the one thing I think anybody knows if you're going to get at LeBron James, you need a roster of two-way players.
“They could potentially sign him at a high number for one year, create more cap space next year and re-sign him to an extension as the Lakers try to pursue Paul George and LeBron James,” Wojnarowski reported. “Whether Paul is willing to do that one-year deal remains to be seen, but that's what the Lakers are pitching."
Between helping Paul save face after whiffing on finding a giant deal for Caldwell-Pope so far and the reality that the Lakers would need wings who could save defensive wear-and-tear on LeBron, this would seem to be a perfect fit.
The only potential snafu with the plan is that if the team actually wanted pair James and Caldwell-Pope with a player like Paul George, they’d have to clear even more cap space because of how high Caldwell-Pope’s cap hold would be if the Lakers offered him such a giant one-year deal.
The Lakers are surely aware of this, and that reality is why their theoretically signing Caldwell-Pope would seem to make much more sense from an agency pleasing perspective than a basketball one.
It would be possible to bring in all three, it would just take some major salary cap gymnastics, with the Lakers likely needing to move Luol Deng and Jordan Clarkson while not re-signing Julius Randle and potentially other things, depending one how much money Caldwell-Pope signed for and how much James and George take.
This is all highly-theoretical at this point, but the reasoning for the Lakers’ interest in Caldwell-Pope is at least a little bit more in focus at this point.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.