Much has been made about the Los Angeles Lakers needing more outside shooting to surround LeBron James. There is absolutely something to that concern, but acting as if the team is completely devoid of that ability is quite the exaggeration as well. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope tends to get overlooked in these (and too many, frankly) conversations, and he’d like to change that.
In a brief interview to Spectrum Sportsnet after a workout, Caldwell-Pope himself revealed that, despite coming off his best season from three, he’s working to get even better.
“Just staying in the gym and keep working on it, trying to be better than 38 percent. That’s what I’ve been telling myself, and I’ve been telling my coaches I’m trying to be better than last year. So that’s what I’ve been working on,” Caldwell-Pope said.
One thing that should be taken into account in KCP’s numbers from last year is the impact his legal situation had on his production. In the 11 games he played in December, he shot 29 percent from deep. While I wouldn’t advise ignoring that stretch altogether, those were some pretty huge extenuating circumstances that (seemingly) affected his end results.
Between the comfort that comes with being in his second season in Luke Walton’s system, not having to deal with the legal troubles he dealt with last year and adding LeBron James as a teammate, Caldwell-Pope might improve from deep through natural progression.
It’s incredibly important that he at the very least does not regress in that department, though.
Last season, the primary creators of the spacing most people think of were Caldwell-Pope, Brook Lopez, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and ... Um... Well, that was about it, consistently speaking. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram both had stretches where they shot well, but no teams were designing their defenses around precluding them from catching and shooting.
Lopez’s shooting ability from three is going to be missed, but, interestingly enough, JaVale McGee creates gravity of his own (via his ability to cut or roll to the basket and finish at the rim), which leaves more time for shooters to catch and fire comfortably. That LeBron guy creates quite a bit a of spacing as well.
However, all this geometry is for naught if the guys on the receiving end of the passes don’t finish. Caldwell-Pope was very solid for the Lakers in that department last season, and if he merely remains that, he’ll fit right in with the team’s goals. Hoping that he takes a step forward in his development isn’t out of the question either.
We actually previews Caldwell-Pope’s season on an episode of Locked on Lakers. This offers even more context as to why I think he’s going to be a key player next season, but improving as a 3-point shooter would help his case even more.