One key that contributed to the Los Angeles Lakers’ success in 2019-20 — beyond stars and role players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — was the two-center rotation of JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard.
The two rarely played in big minutes individually, but together they helped take pressure off of Anthony Davis and provided staunch rim protection. For the 2020-21 season, that task will fall heavily on Marc Gasol.
Gasol was brought to the Lakers on a two-year minimum contract, which required a trade of McGee after Howard agreed to sign with the Philadelphia 76ers. Gasol is now the only true center on the roster, a departure from the formula that helped bring the Lakers their 17th championship.
However, Caldwell-Pope is not worried, as he sees Gasol as someone who can potentially bring more to the table than McGee and Howard. “He’s been great. He’s just been playing how he plays, bringing that talent to the organization,” Caldwell-Pope said.
“I feel like he fits perfectly. He’s basically doing the same as JaVale and Dwight, but a little more. He can shoot the ball in that midrange, very efficient there, screen and roll, pick and pops. He’s mixing it up a lot and showing us a little bit of everything. He’s been amazing.”
This is very complementary of Caldwell-Pope considering they’ve had about one week of practice together during training camp. It appears the newest Lakers are already fitting into the mold of the team chemistry from last season.
On paper, Gasol truly is a perfect fit on the Lakers roster. A high-IQ, defense-first center who can shoot the 3 at a reasonable percentage is everything that L.A. needs to be successful.
The only issue that remains is that Gasol is the only center on the roster, meaning either Anthony Davis will have to play more regular season minutes at that position, or they’ll need a big leap defensively from Montrezl Harrell.
Caldwell-Pope feels ‘truly blessed’ by contract with Lakers
After three years of taking short-term deals with the Lakers to prove he belonged in a winning environment, Caldwell-Pope was rewarded with a three-year, $40 million contract this offseason.
While he likely had suitors offering greater money elsewhere, Caldwell-Pope is a key piece to the Lakers back-to-back championship hopes, and he was fortunate to be given this opportunity.
“I can do a lot here as far as my career. There’s a lot of opportunities. I’m looking forward to capitalizing on them,” he said.
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