By: Taylor Summers
The free agency buzz has weened after the first few weeks of July, with the Summer League taking on most of the coverage at this point. Other than the on-again, off-again Carmelo Anthony trade talks (that are on pause for now), all of the big names have either stayed put or have moved elsewhere by now.
That is for one exception. The Pope!
No, not that Pope. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the man with one of the best names in the NBA, has joined the Los Angeles Lakers on a one year, $18 million deal.
A four-year player out of Georgia, KCP has played his first four years in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons (drafted 8th overall in 2013), quietly becoming one of the best young two-way players in the league. (Even I, an avid and longtime Lakers and NBA fan, had to look up videos on his highlights.) With the Pistons fading into NBA obscurity, bolstering only two playoff experiences since their six straight Conference Finals appearances from 2003-2008 (including one championship in 2004 and the Finals runner-up in 2005), this isn’t too surprising for those that don’t follow the team.
Nonetheless, this was a solid signing for both KCP and the Lakers. For him, he becomes one of the highest paid shooting guards, gets to play in one of the biggest markets for one of the NBA’s most famous brands, and should receive an uptick in his statistics will the arrival of rookie Lonzo Ball. Even though it’s not a long-term deal, if he plays well he will receive one once he enters free agency again next summer. In addition, he is represented by Rich Paul, head of Clutch Sports, who also represents…
I know, it’s still most likely a pipe dream that he leaves Cleveland for Los Angeles. However, this is the type of move that will help the Lakers bring other marquee players in the long term. KCP hasn’t played a game for the Lakers yet, but he’s considered to be one of the best free agency signings for the team in quite some time. Let’s take a look at the past ten years for comparison:
2007: Derek Fisher (re-signed from Utah)
2009: Metta World Peace (The Player Formerly Known as Ron Artest), Lamar Odom (re-signed)
2010: Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff
2011: Josh McRoberts
2012: Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks
2013: Wesley Johnson, Nick Young
2014: Ed Davis, Carlos Boozer
2015: Lou Williams, Brandon Bass
2016: Timofey Mozgov, Luol Deng
Yikes at the past four years of signings! (I still get shivers every time I see Deng and Mozgov’s contracts.) Other than Fisher, MWP, and Odom (and perhaps Jamison as well), you could argue KCP has been the best signing for the Lakers in recent memory. Granted, those players were brought in with championship aspirations already in place during those particular years, but it’s a step in the right direction.
However, the biggest draw to this deal for the Lakers is the cap flexibility. While only committing one year to KCP, they still uphold their “capstinence” for 2018. Ironically, they can also thank their rivals, the Celtics, indirectly for making this happen. If they don’t trade Avery Bradley to the Pistons, a move they made to sign Gordon Hayward, KCP is either still in Detroit or signs with another team for a more lucrative and longer deal. And since this occurred later in free agency, the market for KCP shrunk due to most teams already using their remaining cap space.
With the new regime of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka (Kobe Bryant’s former agent and Rob Lowe’s dopplegänger), they fully intent to have the books wide open to bring two max-players come this time next summer. Ideally, KCP plays well and is retained for a long-term deal. But the new management is thinking about the big picture here. The Lakers have been atrocious the past four years, and they are determined to build a young team to draw the big names back to Los Angeles to hang more banners in Staples Center.
Overall, both sides win here. KCP gets to showcase his talents under the Hollywood lights, and the Lakers add a nice young talent that can play on both sides of the court without jeopardizing their cap space for next summer. Only time will tell if more stars will align again for the Lakers, but for now, this one shines bright.
He may not be the savior (or a big name like Paul George), but this Pope could become the precursor in restoring the faith in the Lakers again along with reviving one of the NBA’s greatest franchises.
Besides, isn’t that what Popes are supposed to do? 🙂