Last week, following the Los Angeles Lakers’ 123-110 win over the Phoenix Suns, Frank Vogel unexpectedly endorsed Alex Caruso for one of the NBA’s two All-Defense teams, saying that the fourth-year guard is one of the names that “has to be considered” by voters at the end of the season.
While Vogel still holds that opinion of Caruso, he revised those comments a few days later to include another one of his other players: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
“KCP deserves the very same consideration that Alex does for the All-Defensive team,” Vogel said. “Those two guys have been stellar on the defensive end. Both of them helped us win a championship last year but have been consistent and steady throughout. When you look at the team that has the No. 1 defensive ranking, perimeter defenders like those two guys are a big reason for it, so I think they both deserve consideration.
“I really don’t pay a whole lot of attention to individual defensive metrics, but those two guys do it all. They’re great with containment, they can defend 1-on-1, they’re great with deflections and steals, competing with bigs, negotiating through screens and reconnecting with their man, the pursuit aspect. All those things aren’t really measured in numbers, but all of the coaches out there, anybody that knows the game can see that they’re major contributors on the defensive end with what they bring to the table.”
It’s a good thing that Vogel added that he doesn’t pay too much attention to individual defensive metrics because Caldwell-Pope doesn’t have the strongest argument in that regard. Per 100 possessions, the Lakers have been 3.4 points better on the defensive end with Caldwell-Pope off the floor than they have with him on it. He also ranks eighth on the team in defensive box plus-minus (+0.6).
Not all metrics are so unfavorable for Caldwell-Pope, though. For example, he’s ranked fourth among shooting guards in defensive real plus-minus at +2.80, which also puts him in the top-20 amongst all players. The only shooting guards that are ranked above him are Paul George, Duncan Robinson and RJ Barrett.
But, generally speaking, Vogel’s right: To truly appreciate Caldwell-Pope’s impact on the defensive end is to watch how hard he plays. He may miss a read every now and then, but it’s not due to a lack of effort — he’s always active.
Will that be enough to get him on either the first or second All-Defense Team? Maybe not, but it could be enough to get him another championship ring.