We already knew that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was returning to the Los Angeles Lakers on a three-year deal that would pay him $40 million, but today the team confirmed the news in a press release: One of their top targets in free agency is officially back.
The Lakers just confirmed the return of KCP pic.twitter.com/xpzYX4Smog— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) November 23, 2020
His return is a good thing, too. The Lakers obviously had looked into the possibility of a Bogdan Bogdanovic sign-and-trade, but that would have been a complicated transaction that would have required the sign-off of at least three parties (the Lakers, the Kings and Bogdanovic), and possibly a fourth (Caldwell-Pope) had he been included to make the salaries work. It was likely too difficult to be truly feasible for a team that was over the cap already and would have had to match salary, and that’s without getting into if all parties could have agreed on a package.
Outside of a crazy home-run swing like that, the Lakers wouldn’t have been able to come anywhere close to paying as much for a replacement as they could pay Caldwell-Pope, and as a result they probably wouldn’t have been able to get anyone of comparable talent. And after already losing Danny Green this offseason, the Lakers needed Caldwell-Pope to flesh out their cadre of guard and wing defenders.
Now that Caldwell-Pope is back for sure though, the only remaining question is how the Lakers will use him. They brought him off the bench for the majority of the regular season before shifting him into the starting lineup when Avery Bradley opted out of coming to the bubble. That lineup (with Green, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard) was obviously good enough to help the Lakers capture their 17th championship, but with the addition of Dennis Schröder, how will the Lakers’ new starting unit fit together, and who will be in it?
After his stellar play in the bubble and big payday, it seems likely Caldwell-Pope will be part of the first five, but it remains to be seen how whoever replaces Green will fit in alongside him and affect his production. That’s not a problem, but it is an interesting situation to keep an eye on in training camp just to see how all these pieces snap together.
If Schröder is brought off the bench — or in games he starts as the Lakers load manage — Caldwell-Pope should thrive playing alongside such a quick guard who can reward him for always running the floor in transition, and he should be able to capably space the floor for Schröder/Montrezl Harrell pick and rolls as well when he plays with bench units. And along with Wesley Matthews, the Lakers now have at least two different options to throw at opposing wing scorers, depending on which player is better suited for the task. And really four or five, if you include LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma. Frank Vogel has some new and fun options to tinker with.
But all of these are things to fully theorize about and break down as we see these lineups on the court more soon. For now, the important thing is that Caldwell-Pope is back. Given the market this summer, that was always going to be a priority for the Lakers, and they deserve credit for getting it done.
This has been a long journey for Caldwell-Pope, from being billed as Manna From Heaven by Rob Pelinka during his introductory press conference, to being called a Klutch tax and getting booed at home games, to becoming a fan favorite by finally proving that Pelinka may have been ahead of the curve with his praise back in the summer of 2017. We don’t know where said journey will end, but it will at least continue with the Lakers for a while longer. After the run he had last year, that’s something to be excited about.