Other than Anthony Davis, bringing back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was likely the biggest priority for the Lakers in free agency. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, they’ve done it, as the purple and gold’s playoff starter has rebuffed interest from the New York Knicks and other teams, and instead agreed to a new deal to return to the team he’s spent the last three seasons with:
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had several interested teams after playing a vital role in the Lakers‘ title run, but sides reached an agreement tonight to keep him in Los Angeles. https://t.co/LssARAoEpV— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 22, 2020
Third year for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the Lakers contains a partial guarantee, sources say. The deal gives him a $15M average salary over next two seasons and $68M guaranteed over five years -- and last year's championship ring soon. https://t.co/LssARAoEpV— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 22, 2020
Caldwell-Pope was one of the most valuable members of the Lakers last season, and arguably their third best player over the course of the playoffs. Caldwell-Pope seemed to relish the pressure of the postseason while keying the team’s transition attack and always being ready to take (and make) big shots down the stretch. Bringing him back is huge for their guard depth, giving them a floor spacer on offense and fleet-footed, tenacious defender who is more than happy to chase smaller players around on defense all night. Losing him wouldn’t have cost the Lakers a shot at repeating, but it likely would have made the road more difficult for the team.
This likely takes the Lakers out of the bidding for any other significant free agents beyond minimum deals, and probably means that Bogdan Bogdanovic will head elsewhere, although anything is possible in a free agency period this chaotic.
On its face, this looks like a steep price to pay to keep Caldwell-Pope, but that was always to be expected after the strong season he just had, and the leverage Klutch Sports possessed in being able to tell the Lakers that they wouldn’t have the resources to replace Caldwell-Pope were he to go elsewhere. This is the price of contention, and just part of negotiating in the NBA. The Lakers couldn’t pay as much to any other free agent, though, and so this should still be good value, and is a much-deserved raise for Caldwell-Pope.
With Caldwell-Pope returning, the front office can now set their sights on building out the rest of this roster and preparing for the expedited return of the season, a season that they will also now definitively retain their favorite status for heading into their title defense. Sure, that status is mostly due to the presence of Davis — who still appears set to return — and LeBron James, but while Caldwell-Pope has often had his contributions glossed over during the last several years, how hard the Lakers fought to keep him leaves no doubt: He has proven himself as a valuable NBA player, and a champion. He’s earned everything he’s gotten.
This developing story will be updated with more information. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.