Since Avery Bradley made his return from injury last week, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has had him on a minutes restriction of less than 25 minutes. On top of that, Vogel has been bringing Bradley off of the bench in favor of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Prior to Bradley’s injury, he started all 11 games he was healthy for.
In the five games that Bradley’s been back, he hasn’t done anything to make Vogel eager to insert him back into the starting lineup, but he’ll have more opportunities to do that going forward. After practice on Saturday, Vogel told reporters that Bradley won’t be on a minutes restriction going forward and added that he’s not married to his starting five (via Lakers.com):
“He does not have any restrictions and [putting him back into the starting lineup] is under consideration. That’s all I can really to tell you.”
However, Vogel did give a pretty glowing endorsement of Caldwell-Pope, who has been at his best with the starting lineup:
“KCP’s done the ‘next man up’ mindset times 100. He’s really, really played well. That’s not really going to change if we make that kind of change. Both guys are going to play huge roles for our team.”
At the start of the season, a Caldwell-Pope vs. Bradley debate would have been laughable, and that’s more of a testament to how bad KCP was than how good Bradley was. However, since moving into the starting lineup. Caldwell-Pope has been one of the Lakers’ most impactful starters.
In 19 starts for the Lakers this season, Caldwell-Pope has averaged 11.1 points per game on 50.7% shooting from the field, including 43.1% from 3-point range in 72 attempts. He’s also posted an offensive rating of 114.5, the highest of any starter this season, per NBA.com.
Caldwell-Pope isn’t a prolific scorer, but he doesn’t demand the ball, he makes his 3-point shots at a high percentage and defends pretty well. In other words, he’s the perfect “LeBron James player.”
If Vogel did decide to move Bradley back into the starting lineup, there probably wouldn’t be too much pushback from the fans because of what he brings on defense, but Caldwell-Pope deserves that spot just as much, if not more. It will be interesting to see which direction Vogel decides to go.