2016-17 Season Recap/Notes: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
This is the 2nd season recap. Previously was Reggie Jackson. I am all done with the semester, so posts should be coming fast now. I’m going to try and get one out each day, so make sure you keep checking in. If you want to know when a new post is up but don’t want to bother checking the sub all the time you can follow me on twitter, since it’s the offseason I’ll link any post there.
ICYMI: Reggie Jackson.
Side note before starting:
KCP is a pretty hot topic among Pistons fans right now, especially around how much he will be paid this offseason. I mean, the vast majority of the comments on Reggie Jackson’s season recap were people arguing about KCP. As such I would like to make one reminder and one request. As a reminder, remember to not be mean to each other, argue all you want, but don’t make personal attacks. As a request, try not to make this whole comment section about how much to pay KCP. There will be a separate post for that argument, try to keep this about the season that just happened and where he will be going. Obviously that blends into his contract, but I guess I just don’t want the sub to get saturated with nothing but KCP contract talk. There is a reason I tried to avoid his contract situation in this post. But in the end, what ya’ll talk about is up to you.
The biggest good thing for KCP this year was definitely his passing, The basic numbers are not that eye popping, but still impressive as he increased his assists per game from 1.8 last year to 2.6 this year, while lowering his turnovers from 1.4 to 1.1. The increase is more impressive when you go by per 36 minutes as he played a little over 3 minutes less per game this year than last year. Per 36 he went from 1.8 to 2.8, with the same decrease in turnovers. But even beyond just the basic numbers, just watching the games you could see that he was making the right passes more regularly, and was making them quicker. It was a big time improvement for him, and one that I certainly did not see coming. He may not be a brilliant passer, but he went from “very bad passer” to “fairly capable passer” and that is a hard improvement to make in any area.
The next good thing was his outside shooting, even though it isn’t that impressive (I’ll touch on that more in a bit) but after shooting just 30.9% from 3 last year, there was real worry that he might just be a bad shooter. KCP finished the year shooting 35% from deep while tying a career high in attempts per game at 6.2. While it is not the jump that many were hoping for, 35% is very average, he now has 4 years under his belt and he shot: 31.9% (in a rookie year where the team was kind of a mess), 34.5%, 30.9%, and 35%. Throw in the high number of attempts, and it is quite likely that last year was a outlier in the downwards direction and that he will be a fairly reliable shooter going forwards.
Lastly, even though the numbers don’t really back it up, I absolutely believe that KCP was overall a better offensive player in the half court. His high number of fast break points from last year (and a slight decline in them this year) screw with some efficiency numbers to become misleading. He was more willing to go to the hoop (though still very hesitant) and could actually make good passes when he did, and generally showed some shot creation that he didn’t have last year. Admittedly, he had set a very low bar before as his idea of shot creation was “pull up for a contested 3 over the defender” but progress is progress. Last year he was right on the border of hurting your offense in the half court, this year he definitively put himself onto the good side of that border.
His defense. And I feel a little bit bad about putting this under “bad” because the reality is that he was still good defensively, but he still got noticeably worse at it. Last year he was at a level that could’ve earned him an All Defense selection and no one would’ve complained, as they shouldn’t have. His relentless pursuit of opposing point guards was incredible to watch night in and night out, and ranked among one of the most fun things about the team last year, this year it just wasn’t there. He still plays his tail off, gets some steals, and is generally good, but there was no talk about him for an All Defense team, and rightfully so. It’s honestly one of the more bizarre things I’ve seen, a guy taking that big a step back on defense when they are 23. And FWIW, I don’t really buy the “He was saving his legs a bit for offense” argument, because if he was, then he should’ve gotten better offensive results than he did last year. His biggest improvement offensively was his passing and that has nothing to do with effort, and even though he was better shooting from the outside, it is within the range of randomness from last year to this. In fact, his True Shooting Percentage went down this year from last. Which brings me to the next point on the bad spectrum.
Even though I do firmly believe that his half court offense was better this year, his efficiency was still very mediocre. His overall field goal percentage dropped from 42% to 39.9%, but we are not cave men so we don’t care about that. (Seriously, people using FG% instead of TS% and Rebounds per game instead of Rebounding% are my two biggest pet peeves with stats. The year the Pistons won the title Chauncey Billups had a FG% of just 39.4%, but because he took a ton of 3s and FTs his TS% was 55%, which would’ve put him behind only Tobias on this years team. Andre Drummond was 2nd in the NBA in rebounds per game this year to Hassan Whiteside, but was more than a full percentage point better rebounder. The Heat just played faster. Rant over.) But KCP’s TS% dropped slightly as well, from 52.1%, to 51.9%. That is a tiny drop off, the problem is that improving that number was one of the biggest things he needed to do this year, and he didn’t. Once again, a decent amount of this was that he didn’t get as many buckets in transition, and also pulled up for a ton of 3s in transition which resulted in less freebies at the rim, and the presence of Ish Smith explains some of that given that Ish pushes the ball by himself a lot more than Reggie Jackson. (Reggie is much more likely to just pass it off to KCP and let him go) Essentially, the bad of KCP’s offense is that there we are 4 years into his career, and there isn’t anything he does that is really noteworthy, especially on the offensive end. There is 3 seasons worth of heavy attempts that say he is an average shooter from deep, he doesn’t draw fouls, he doesn’t really go to the rim, and he can pass a bit now but it still isn’t anything incredible. Defensively there is obviously hope that he could maybe get back to being as great as he was last year, but this year was super discouraging on that end.
His outside shooting, this year was going to be somewhat of a rubber match of whether he was a decent shooter or a bad one, and this year put him rather emphatically into “decent” which is much better than last year obviously.
Can he get back to an elite level defensively? After this year there is very little reason to think that he is going to become any sort of an offensive dynamo, but if he could keep up this year’s offensive game with last year’s defensive game then it would be a lot easier to justify a big contract for him. Because even if his offense would be very replaceable, it isn’t easy to find guys who defend at an elite level and are competent offensive players. The trouble is that we don’t know for sure if KCP is capable of doing both of those at the same time.
Side note that is purely speculation:
There is something that has bothered me about KCP for a while that no one else seems to have said anything about, so I figured I’d bring it up. To be clear, this is total speculation so take it with a huge grain of salt.
Going back to Zach Lowe’s article on the Pistons just before the all star break. Right at the beginning he notes that “The fact that KCP was guarding Lowry at all is a sore spot. KCP chases opposing point guards because Reggie Jackson, alleged franchise player at that spot, hasn’t been able to since recovering from a knee injury. The Pistons usually hide Jackson on the least-threatening wing player, a reprieve that draws shade from teammates – including during an infamous players-only meeting in December, when a few guys hammered Jackson for his desultory play.” That was honestly the thing that stood out to me in that article more than anything else. To be clear up front, it is not unfair for teammates to be upset by Jackson’s defense, even last year before he was hurt, he straight up did not try hard enough consistently on defense, and we all knew it because late in close games he would often lock in and be pretty good. But when you combine the idea with that it apparently is a “sore spot” with KCP’s fall in defensive play, it makes me worry a little about him. The reason being that, even last year, when Reggie was fully capable (if not always willing to play hard enough for it) of guarding opposing point guards, KCP took the job. KCP’s ability to dominate point guards, and Reggie’s size allowing him to go onto bigger wings without dying was seen as KCP’s greatest value, and something that made them a good backcourt pairing. Even when Reggie was locked in and trying his hardest, (aka, when he was actually pretty decent defensively) they would usually have KCP on point guards because he was so good at it. Combine this idea of it being a sore spot with KCP’s decline defensively, and it is a good sign that KCP made a willing decision to not be as good a defender as last year, and that bothers me, especially since the team was partially built around the idea of him being able to do just that. What if Andre started bitching and moaning about having to run tons of pick and rolls, and having to go to the offensive glass every possession because it tired him out since he had to run hard every play to get back on defense, or that he was sick of having to be the only guy to clean the defensive glass every play because it limited his opportunities to run in transition? People would hammer him for it, and rightfully so.
To be clear, these are not unfair things to say. KCP does have a bit of a beef about Reggie’s defensive effort, just as Andre could have a theoretical beef about having to carry an absurd load on both ends of the floor. But if it is affecting (effect? I always screw that up lol) your play it becomes a problem to me. I don’t know for sure what to think about it I guess. But when you have a guy who everyone says is just a great dude that works his tail off every day and is a great locker room guy, and then you hear that he complained about doing the thing that he was best at, was likely a major part of the locker room problems the Pistons experienced this year, had a drunk driving thing this year, and remember that he was apparently best friends with Josh Smith, (the last one is mostly a joke) it puts some question in your mind about him. And admittedly, one of the main reasons it bothers me is because the bar had been set so high for him in that department. I don’t know, just food for thought, KCP is probably not as much of an angel as I thought before this year.
The verdict for this year and beyond:
What happens this offseason with KCP is going to be fascinating to watch. But whether it is with the Pistons or someone else, KCP has pretty well entrenched himself as being a guy who is fully capable of being a solid starter who is the number 4 or 5 guy on a good team, and his game is the sort that it should fit in easily with just about any team. It is possible that there will be some unseen leap in him yet, just because that does happen sometimes, (the most recent example being Jimmy Butler) but he is most likely going to be a very nice, average, shooting guard. Like Marcus Morris is a small forward. As long as he is you 4th or 5th guy there isn’t anything to complain about there.
What about his contract?
That is such a big and complex question that it deserves it’s own post.
What do you think? What was the thing that impressed you the most about KCP this year? Anything that disappointed you?