The Los Angeles Lakers received contributions from a number of role players in their run to winning the 2020 NBA championship, but arguably none bigger than Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
After years of being a punchline for many fans, Caldwell-Pope was outstanding throughout the entirety of the playoffs for the Lakers, coming up clutch on many occasions. Because of this, it was no surprise that Caldwell-Pope is choosing to decline his player option in favor of free agency.
With the Lakers not having a lot of cap space, some have wondered if retaining Caldwell-Pope may ultimately become too costly. However, ESPN’s Zach Lowe made an appearance on “The Jump” and when discussing a broader scope of how the Lakers will utilize Dennis Schroder, said that Caldwell-Pope re-signing is widely expected:
“I assume KCP will come back. That seems like a forgone conclusion.”
Dave McMenamin agreed Caldwell-Pope remaining with the Lakers is a possibility, but he also raised the point of his contract instead being used to trade for DeMar DeRozan:
“I certainly don’t think this means he has one foot out the door, but it does mean he’s earned a better salary than what he was making. $8.5 million, obviously in the real world that’s a great salary, but as a high-level NBA starter who was basically the Lakers’ third-best player throughout their playoff run, he should be looking at a salary in the $12 to $14 or $15 million range. The Lakers, because they have his bird rights, can offer that to him. Or he can be an attractive sign and trade piece. Things might not be completely dead in terms of their interest in a guy like DeMar DeRozan.”
This would be a big return for the Lakers as their wing options are relatively slim following their reported trade of dealing Danny Green and No. 28 pick in this year’s Draft to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Although Schroder is a big addition and possible replacement for Rajon Rondo, he deprives the Lakers of a wing defender.
Caldwell-Pope is coming off the best shooting season in his career as he knocked down 46.7% from the field and 38.5% from 3-point range, mainly as a reserve. Inside the bubble, Caldwell-Pope became a starter and was the Lakers’ third leading scorer.
The Lakers have also been linked to the Milwaukee Bucks’ Wesley Matthews as a potential replacement for Green and he is more capable of guarding the bigger perimeter players that Caldwell-Pope has struggled with.
Just like last season, the Lakers must build the ideal roster around its two stars, and Caldwell-Pope has proven to be a perfect fit.
DeRozan embraces Lakers trade rumors
Prior to the Lakers including Green in their trade for Schroder, his name was mentioned as being part of a potential package to send to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for DeRozan.
The Compton native acknowledged playing for the Lakers — a team he grew up watching — would be a dream come true of sorts.
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