With the departure of Brandon Ingram this past summer, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is tied with Alex Caruso as the longest tenured player on the Los Angeles Lakers.
Caldwell-Pope, 26, signed a one-year, $17.75 million deal in the summer of 2017 after being unable to reach an agreement with the Detroit Pistons as a restricted free agent. At the time, the signing was seen as manna from heaven (as general manager Rob Pelinka put it) but Caldwell-Pope has struggled to be the “3-and-D” player he’s been touted as on a consistent basis — particularly the “3” part.
In his first season with the Lakers, Caldwell-Pope shot a respectable 38.3 percent from behind the arc on 5.6 attempts per game. Last season, that percentage fell to 34.7 percent.
Caldwell-Pope spent the summer making changes to his shot with shooting coach Lethal Shooter, and his new head coach and has taken notice.
“He’s shooting the ball really well,” Frank Vogel said after practice on Friday. “I think he’s made improvements to his jumpshot and hopefully that shows out this year.”
Vogel also praised Caldwell-Pope’s effort on the defensive end, saying he’s been as good as the front office said he’d be.
“You know, we’re talking a lot about Avery’s defense on the perimeter, but KCP’s been exceptional as well — both in chasing guys off screens, showing toughness with containment and then using his hands in passing lanes and getting deflections, and things like that. He’s another guys that’s going to impact both ends of the floor for us,” Vogel said.
Vogel isn’t the only one that’s noticed how good Caldwell-Pope’s looked since the start of training camp, either.
After practice on Thursday, LeBron James — who shares an agent with Caldwell-Pope — said he thinks the former University of Georgia product will give the Lakers another weapon on the perimeter defensively.
“He’s looking great. He’s come in in great shape. He’s come in with a great mentality and he’s shot the ball extremely well and defended extremely well. Between KCP, Avery and Danny, having those two-guards, having those combo guards has been great for our ball club.”
Caldwell-Pope hasn’t reached the heights Avery Bradley or Danny Green — two former All-Defensive First Teamers — have defensively, but he’s still active on that end.
If Caldwell-Pope can knock down open 3-pointers and buy into Vogel’s defensive scheme, he’ll be in conversation for the third-most valuable guard on the roster behind Bradley and Green.