Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be huge in the playoffs.
Right now, the focus on the Los Angeles Lakers is that Avery Bradley is not going to rejoin the team during the season’s resumption in Orlando. This is viewed as a big hit for the Lakers, who are losing their starting point guard.
It certainly is a hit and makes the road to the title more difficult. Spawning out of his has been the reports and discussions on whether or not the Lakers should bring in J.R. Smith to provide roster depth.
While depth is never a bad thing, when you really look at the situation that the Los Angeles Lakers are in, the team does not really need J.R. Smith for the playoffs. It still makes sense to see him workout and potentially sign him, but he really should have a minimal role and be a “break glass in case of emergency” option.
A big reason why that is the case is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. KCP was likely slotted to be the team’s sixth/seventh man in the playoffs, a role that he has played all season long as he has only started 20 of the team’s 63 games.
That suddenly changes with Bradley out. Not only should KCP have a bigger role, but he should be the team’s starting point guard without Bradley. In fact, the Lakers might even be better off with KCP starting over Bradley. Not having Bradley at all still hurts, but KCP has been much better for the Lakers than most give him credit for.
Why Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is better for the Los Angeles Lakers than you may think:
KCP has gotten a bad reputation for being a bad player and hand up, I am absolutely on the record for purposing the Lakers to trade KCP in the past. I absolutely fall in the boat of overlooking KCP and for a while he kind of deserved it. However, he has really stepped up his game and has been big for the Lakers this season.
First, let’s just look at his standalone numbers. KCP is only averaging 9.5 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He is shooting 47.2 percent from the court and 39.4 percent from beyond the arc, which leads the Lakers.
He has been the team’s most efficient off-ball shooter this year, even more efficient than Danny Green. This is including a dry spell that occurred right before the season was postponed. He showcased just how good he can be when he is hot from November to January when he shot 44.1 percent from beyond the arc on 152 attempts.
It is unfair to assume the best version of KCP but it is also unfair to assume the worst. His season marks are the best indication.
Despite having a fairly high defensive rating (110), KCP has been good on the defensive end this season. He has accumulated 1.8 defensive win shares this season. KCP ranks 42nd in the league in DWS per 36 minutes, among players with at least 1,600 minutes this season.
Not an elite defender, but certainly is serviceable and is better than league average.
But let’s also look at how the team fairs when KCP is out there. When we look at the Los Angeles Lakers’ 20 most-used lineups this season, we can see that KCP is in the lineup for six of the Lakers’ seven best lineups in terms of plus-minus per 100 possesions.
In five of those six lineups, he is the point guard and Avery Bradley is not on the court. The seventh-best lineup includes Bradley at point and KCP at the two. The best lineup is also without Bradley and consists of Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and Dwight Howard (+36.6 in 60 minutes played).
The Lakers’ most-used lineup this season does have Bradley in it but the second and third-most used lineups do not have Bradley and instead have KCP.
If we look at the best four-man combinations this season, three of the top five include KCP in some combination and none of the five include Bradley. The best four-man combination for the Lakers this season is KCP, Kyle Kuzma, Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Throw Danny Green in there and there is the Lakers’ crunch time lineup.
Oh, and KCP gets better in crunch time. He is shooting 50.4 percent and 44.1 percent from three in the fourth quarter this season, both of which are the best of any quarter this season. He also shoots 44.2 percent from three when the game is within five points.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been really good this season and he is going to be a huge component in the Los Angeles Lakers moving forward without Avery Bradley.