The Los Angeles Lakers have been in need of a starting shooting guard to ease some of the pressure on rookie point guard Lonzo Ball and holdover Jordan Clarkson. They now have their man, and without having to part with any of the cap space necessary to land a superstar next summer.
As reported by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Lakers have agreed to a one-year, $18-million deal with unrestricted free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, until recently a member of the Detroit Pistons. KCP had been a restricted free agent but had his rights renounced by the Pistons when they traded for ex-Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley.
We’ll talk about what Caldwell-Pope, a perfectly good player, brings to the Lakers in a bit. In many ways, though, he’s a secondary part of this deal. The big news is that one of the league’s marquee franchises managed to maintain its copious cap space for the summer of 2018, when new top executives Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka hope to add at least one true star — chiefly Paul George, and maybe also LeBron James — to remake the Lakers into a champion again. The team had also discussed one-year deals with the likes of point guard George Hill, and Caldwell-Pope’s new contract certainly fits in with the club’s long-term plans. Adrian Wojnarowski had also reported that the Lakers met with Rajon Rondo on Tuesday, and he may now join KCP on the team soon:
Sources: Despite committing $18M for Caldwell-Pope, Lakers still trying to find a way to sign Rondo. Lakers have a $4.3M exception to use. https://t.co/4tGvW70sro
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 12, 2017
The Caldwell-Pope deal is a solid one for the player in less than ideal circumstances. Caldwell-Pope had hoped to sign a big money deal this summer but saw few offers as a restricted free agent. He had reportedly become a target of the Brooklyn Nets following the renunciation of his rights, but circumstances appear to have sent him to the Lakers. It’s unclear if he preferred a shorter deal to a longer one with a bad team or never saw a reasonable offer from the Nets. Regardless, he now has the opportunity to prove himself on a roster lacking any true competition at the position and can reenter the market next year in pursuit of the first lucrative long-term deal of his career.
There’s reason to think KCP will fit well at Staples Center. He shot 35 percent from beyond the arc on two makes per game and offers quality defense. He’s a role player and probably won’t every be much more, but the Lakers need quality players wherever they can get them. He can guard some point guards to ease Ball’s responsibilities, shoot an open jumper, and not get in anyone’s way. He’d be more useful on a good team, but that doesn’t mean he’s a waste for a lottery mainstay.
Free agency is supposed to be about young players finding long-term homes and older ones maximizing their value while they still have it, but inverting those scenarios can often lead to a sensible partnership. The Lakers need a stopgap, and KCP needs his first eight-figure salary and a fresh chance to get a four-year deal. It’s a business decision for both parties, but deals have been made for worse reasons. At least everyone knows what they’re getting into.
– – – – – – –