Things haven’t gone quite the way Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would have liked to start the regular season, at least on the offensive end. Through two games for the Los Angeles Lakers, Caldwell-Pope has not made a single basket in nine attempts. The one point he has scored this season came from the charity stripe.
Suffice to say, it hasn’t been an ideal start from the field or the 26-year-old shooting guard, but he needn’t worry about getting berated by his head coach, Frank Vogel, for it. In fact, after Friday’s game, Vogel came to the defense of Caldwell-Pope, saying he’s been able to impact the game in way beyond putting the ball in the basket.
“KCP’s been one of our best defenders since training camp started,” Vogel said. “He’s got great recovery speed and containment speed and he gets his hands on a lot of balls. The numbers that we’re looking at with 41 percent tonight and only 86 points for the Jazz, he impacts that end of the floor at a high level.”
Caldwell-Pope posted a defensive rating of 125.4 in the Lakers’ regular season opener against the LA Clippers on Tuesday, but in his defense, one of his defensive assignments was Kawhi Leonard, a three-time All-Star who is at least three inches taller than him.
A better representation of Caldwell-Pope’s impact on the defensive end would be Friday’s box score, in which Caldwell-Pope posted a defensive rating of 85.7, the third-highest defensive rating on the Lakers. He also ranked third on the team in box outs behind centers Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee.
The Lakers would be a better team if Caldwell-Pope was hitting shots, for sure, but to say he has no value to to the team right now would inaccurate. The question is whether or not Caldwell-Pope’s defensive effort will be enough for him to avoid getting leapfrogged in the rotation later in the season if he continues to struggle from the field.
Hopefully it doesn’t come to that and Caldwell-Pope starts to show signs of life against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday.