Over the course of the season, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went from being one of the worst 3-point shooters in the NBA to one of the most efficient 3-point shooters in the league.
Through his first 10 games for the Los Angeles Lakers this season, Caldwell-Pope shot 23.8% from 3-point range on 21 attempts. Since then, he’s shot 41% from behind the arc on 200 attempts. For the season, he’s shooting 39.6% on his 3-point attempts, which is the highest percentage of anyone on the team that has attempted at least 200 3-pointers this season.
He’s been great, but he’ll need to be even better when the Lakers resume their season in Orlando. In light of Avery Bradley’s decision to opt out of the season, Caldwell-Pope will have to step into a bigger role for the team — likely in the starting lineup. When Bradley missed 14 games at the start of this season, Caldwell-Pope started all 14 games, He’s also slid into the starting lineup when Anthony Davis and LeBron James have missed time this season.
While Frank Vogel would love to have both Caldwell-Pope and Bradley at his disposal, he’s happy that the Lakers have someone like Caldwell-Pope on the roster than they can rely on during an unprecedented time like this.
“KCP has been one of the brightest parts of our season this year,” Vogel said. “He had a terrific stretch there, in particular that time where Avery was out, and after a little bit of a slow start, really being one of the leaders on our team in playing harder than our opponent. The hustle, the intensity, changing ends of the floor and the shot-making he exhibited during that stretch and really most of our season was a huge reason for our record.
“We need two-way guys that play both ends of the floor, and with his shot-making ability and his ability to make plays off the bounce as well as what he brings on the defensive end, being able to put him on anybody on the perimeter on that end of the floor is a big part of defensive rating, and a big part of our success this year.”
Caldwell-Pope hasn’t been an especially good defender this season, but over the course of his seven-year career, he’s been more consistent on defense than on offense, so it’s safe to assume he’d fare well with more responsibility on defense. The real question is whether or not it would come at the expense of his efficient offense, and if it does, would they prefer the former to the latter after signing two offensive weapons in J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters?
Only time and a lot of experimenting inside the bubble will tell, but the Lakers have a good idea of what they have in Caldwell-Pope after three seasons, and what they have should be good enough.