Kentavious Caldwell-Pope flew under the radar this offseason, particularly when the topic of NBA Rookie of the Year arose. But, if Caldwell-Pope gets a legitimate shot at the starting shooting guard position with the Pistons this upcoming season, could he be a real contender for this crown?
Yes; and I’ll give three reasons why:
For starters, Caldwell-Pope can really shoot the rock, especially from beyond the arc which is something the Pistons desperately need. For this reason, the Pistons should start him at the two-spot immediately. The team needs a shooting threat at that position and he can fill it.
Caldwell-Pope, as a sophomore at the University of Georgia, averaged 18.5 points while shooting 37 percent from the outside. In the Orlando Summer League, Caldwell-Pope average 13.8 points but shot 37 percent from the field and a putrid 22 percent from downtown. The numbers weren’t great but his improvement was outstanding. After a brutal showing in the first two games (15 total points on 4-20 shooting), Caldwell-Pope shook off the rust and nerves and played terrific basketball to close out the Summer League (54 total points on 16-34 shooting in the final three games).
Caldwell-Pope’s improvement each and every game showed a lot of promise and mental toughness. It was especially impressive because his peer Trey Burke, one of the leading Rookie of the Year candidates, had the same type of shooting woes from the start and wasn’t able to shake them off throughout the summer. Pistons fans will forever compare Caldwell-Pope’s production with Burke because of Dumars decision during the 2013 NBA Draft to go with the Georgia sharpshooter over the hometown hero.
Although Caldwell-Pope is known for his feathery touch from the outside, he shouldn’t be pigeon-holed as just an outside shooter. Caldwell-Pope scores in a variety of ways and he showcased that at the Summer League with runners, a solid mid-range game and the ability to get to the line. A well-rounded and talented shooting guard will give the Pistons an electric and dynamic offensive unit alongside their talented trio of forwards.
Not only can Caldwell-Pope shoot efficiently, he rebounds at a high rate for a shooting guard. Caldwell-Pope brought down 7.1 rebounds per game at Georgia. Standing at 6-foot-6, Caldwell-Pope uses his long, rangy and athletic frame to get into the lane and snatch boards. This is something he won’t need to do with the Pistons since the team has three big-time rebounding bigs, but to have another guy who can get after it on the glass won’t hurt. Adding him into the mix only ensures the Pistons of having one of the best rebounding teams in the league this upcoming season.
Lastly, but most importantly, Caldwell-Pope gets after it on the defensive end. His frame and fluent athletic ability allows him to create a good amount of havoc defensively. Caldwell-Pope averaged two thefts per contest in college and at the Orlando Summer League averaged around the same clip. If he can bring a consistent defensive intensity to the backcourt of the Pistons, that will only enhance the play of his point guard counterpart Brandon Jennings who needs to show that consistency.
If Caldwell-Pope can win the starting job and bring these three phases of his game to the Pistons this upcoming season, who says he can’t be this years NBA Rookie of the Year.
Well, at the very least he could give Pistons’ fans a few highlights like this one he had as a freshman at Georgia…