The Los Angeles Lakers have paid Kentavious Caldwell-Pope pretty well over the last three years.
In 2017, they signed him to a one-year, $18 million contract. The following two seasons, he made a combined $20 million, including $8 million last season. The only Lakers player that’s made more than Caldwell-Pope in that time frame is LeBron James.
Caldwell-Pope was set to make another $8.4 million next season, but he opted out of his contract with the Lakers to pursue a bigger deal in free agency.
How big? That’s yet to be determined, but according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, he’s willing to leave Los Angeles to get it:
Some of (LeBron) James’ free-agent windows with Cleveland extended over a period of weeks, so this is a familiar plan for star clients with Paul. Paul represents another Lakers free agent, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is looking for a significant new deal with the Lakers — or elsewhere.
Before you sound the alarm in your brain, there are two things you should know. The first is that the Lakers have Caldwell-Pope’s full bird rights, which means they can go over the cap to sign him to the “significant” deal he’s reportedly looking for. The second is that there aren’t many teams that will be able to make a competitive offer for KCP, and there are even fewer that actually need him.
Going into free agency, there are nine teams that will be able to offer Caldwell-Pope more than the $8.4 million he was set to make next season: the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons, New Orleans Pelicans, Charlotte Hornets, the Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors. However, the Kings and Raptors aren’t expected to have cap space once they strike deals with their internal free agents, and the Hawks and Suns already have young talent at shooting guard.
Could the Lakers be outbid for Caldwell-Pope? Sure, especially when you consider the fact that they have to stay under the luxury tax apron to use the full mid-level exception, something that will be even more important if Caldwell-Pope walks. But there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic that they’ll be able to reach an agreement, so this is nothing to be too concerned about yet.