After a noteworthy playoff run in the Orland Bubble, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signed a deserved extension and became the starting shooting guard for head coach Frank Vogel and the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2020-21 season.
As the full-time starter, Caldwell-Pope was one of the Lakers’ most reliable players as he appeared in 67 games and averaged 9.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists. However, his biggest contribution to the team was his 3-point shooting, leading the team in percentage at 41% on about four attempts a game.
Caldwell-Pope served as the primary outside shooting threat from the Lakers and he got off to a hot start to the season as he was draining nearly half of his attempts. Although he eventually cooled down, the guard was still someone defenses had to respect from the outside as he provided the necessary spacing for LeBron James and Anthony Davis to operate.
Aside from the shooting, Caldwell-Pope was also one of L.A.’s best defenders, as evidenced by the Defensive Player of the Year vote he received. Caldwell-Pope was primarily responsible for tracking the opposing team’s best shooting guard or wing and did an admiral job even though he often gave up some size in certain matchups.
However, like most of the Lakers, Caldwell-Pope was not immune from the injury bug as he was forced to miss a few games during the regular season. Caldwell-Pope was also forced to miss Game 4 of the first round of the postseason after suffering a left quad injury in Game 3. Although he eventually returned for Games 5 and 6, it was clear he was hobbled as he had trouble moving up and down the court.
With the Lakers down James and Davis just returning from his calf injury, Caldwell-Pope was thrust into a larger scoring role against the Dallas Mavericks. He delivered as he scored a season-high 29 points on 9-of-17 shooting, including 6-of-12 from the 3-point line. Although the Lakers would go on to lose the game, it was an encouraging sight to see Caldwell-Pope step up when the team was in desperate need of someone to pick up the slack.
Caldwell-Pope’s future with the Purple and Gold seems safe as he is one of the few 3-and-D players on the roster, plus the fact that he has the trust of his teammates like James. However, because the Lakers have limited means to upgrade the team, Caldwell-Pope could be moved in a potential deal because of his attractive salary number.
It is more than likely he resumes his starting role next season, but nothing can be ruled out.
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