Kentavious Caldwell-Pope couldn’t have started his fourth season with the Los Angeles Lakers much better than he did.
Through his first 10 games this season, Caldwell-Pope averaged 10.7 points per game on 53.5% shooting from the field and 55.3% shooting from behind the arc. At the time, he was one of eight players averaging at least 10 points on at least 50% shooting from the field and at least 50% shooting from behind the arc. Of those players, he had the highest plus-minus (+12.7).
Those numbers were always expected to decline, but not the way they have recently. With the exception of his season-high performance against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 21, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has shot 35.4% from the field and 25.8% from behind the arc since that 10-game stretch. That confidence we saw at the beginning of the season doesn’t seem to be there anymore, either.
Caldwell-Pope’s fall from grace has been disappointing, but not the least bit concerning, at least according to head Frank Vogel.
“He’s getting a lot more attention,” Vogel said when asked for his theory on the decline in Caldwell-Pope’s percentages before the Lakers’ win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, a game in which Caldwell-Pope shot 2-5 from the field.
“He came out of the gates so hot that there’s just an emphasis on the game plan that you’ve got to know where he is. I just think he’s not getting open as much. So when the ball swings to him, he maybe hasn’t touched it in a while, or maybe guys are flying at him with greater urgency than they were early in the season,” Vogel said. “To me, it’s nothing to do with how well he’s shooting it, he’s just getting greater defensive attention, and that’s his job. To draw that attention and open things up for everybody else.”
The bright side of Caldwell-Pope’s shooting struggles is that he’s still been a positive in the box score over the last 11 games. Only Alex Caruso and LeBron James have posted a higher plus-minus than Caldwell-Pope during that time.
Additionally, Caldwell-Pope is still shooting a career-high 45.6% from 3-point range this season in spite of his cold stretch he’s in the midst of. Even amidst this regression to the mean, if he can start knocking down his shots with some regularity again, he’ll shatter his career-best percentage by the season’s end. So there may be a time to worry about Caldwell-Pope somewhere down the line, but it’s not now, when the Lakers have the second-best record (19-6) in the Western Conference. As we saw last season in the playoffs, he generally makes them when it counts.