Season So Far Recap/Notes: All Star Break. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
KCP: KCP is one of the most interesting players the Pistons have on their team for many different reasons. He is interesting because he has things that he is definitely good at, but it is not really clear how good he really is. He has made some big improvements this season in some ways, but in other ways he has not. We'll start with the good. KCP has arrived on the defensive side of the ball. In his first two seasons he was good on defense but he still had things to learn because of his youth, but everyone could see that he had the potential to become a really excellent defensive player, but now it is no longer potential, he is one of the best (perhaps the best) perimeter defenders in the NBA. He consistently swallows up opposing point guards and that is hugely important in todays NBA where every other night there is a excellent player playing point guard for the other team. And to go along with his enormous skill and talent for defense, his constant effort on that end is contagious and is a big part of the Pistons defensive identity. HOWEVA, his defense does have a slight caveat though. He is not big enough in either height or girth to be able to be overly effective guarding larger players. This means that he is not able to be the all around destroyer of worlds in the same way as a Kawhi Leonard or Paul George. (others fit this as well) Which means that he can not have a night in night out large impact on the defensive end because if the opponents best scorer is much bigger than 6'5 and is strong then KCP suddenly is wasted away on some random shooting guard who just kind of stands in the corner doing nothing. (While Marcus Morris takes on the bigger wing types of the world) In theory KCP could bulk up a bit and become more effective at guarding bigger wing types, but it might be best for him to stay on the smaller side to ensure he retains his exceptional quickness as long as both Marcus Morris and Stanley Johnson are figuring to be on the team for the foreseeable future since both of them are already proving to be quite capable at handling the elite wing scorer types. But even with that one caveat, his defense is stupendous, and that is a feat. There are plenty of guys who show lots of defensive potential in their early career but do not put in the effort needed to fulfill it and that is a credit to KCP. And his defense leads to his best offensive ability, which is on the break. KCP is a speed demon with the ball in his hands and looks to run at any opportunity. He is a freaking terror on the break. On offense, he has also made some improvements. In his first two years he had damn near no ability to score inside the arc. That has improved to where he now has at least some basic abilities inside. His shot chart is a little misleading because a lot of those shots at the hoop are gimmes on the fastbreak, but still. The "Have KCP run around a screen for a pull up jumper" play has proven to be a fairly consistent, if not very efficient, source of offense. But that is where the good stops for KCP. He appears to have forgotten how to shoot 3s, as he is shooting just 31% from deep this season on nearly 5(!) attempts per game. This is particularly concerning because it is definitely possible that KCP actually will never be a good shooter from outside. He was a decent but not great shooter in college, his first year shot just 32% and last year he shot 34.5%. The hope was that he would finally come into his own as a shooter this season, but instead he has regressed backwards. Now it is not a death sentence that KCP has struggled shooting, but unlike say, Marcus Morris and his struggles from outside, there is no good evidence to fall back on that KCP will come out of it. (more on Morris later though obviously) KCP has also not improved really at all as a facilitator/passer. His assists has gone up a wee bit but so have his turnovers. Simply put, in the half court, KCP is a pretty poor offensive player. And that is fairly concerning. That does not mean he will not improve, but this is his 3rd year in the league after 2 years in college, it would be cool if he showed a little more improvement on offense. HOWEVA, all that said. He is not a total zero on offense as he is and he is spectacular on defense. Even if he were to not improve at all from here he would still be a solid rotation player (whether as a starter or a first guy off the bench type of guy) and that is good. And there is a good chance he will improve at least somewhat. Plus his work ethic is absolutely the type of thing that is contagious and is just a guy you love to have on the team.
Best answer? Arriving defensively. Already covered it pretty much. His defense was not a big question mark because it was already good. But the reality is that he probably tops out as just a ok offensive player, so if he wants to be really good then he would have to be awesome on defense, and he has done that. The reality is that his offense only has to improve to being ok (shoot in the mid 30s from deep. Learn any ability as a facilitator) in order to become a killer two way player.
Biggest Question? How much is he worth to the Pistons? Provided KCP makes some improvements on offense he could well fall into the "it only takes one asshole" category. Which is to say that it would only take one asshole to decide that KCP is worth some big time money. At which point the Pistons would have to decide how much he is truly worth to the team. He will obviously be a restricted free agent so they can keep him if they want too but the reality is that it would be a very hard call. It is tricky to decide how much he is really worth, because it is something, but it is hard to pin down exactly what the value is. And that will be an interesting and important story line for the Pistons next season.
What do you think? How much would you pay KCP? Let me know! We all get smarter!