Last season, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope averaged 13.8 points on 39.9 percent shooting with 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists over 33.3 minutes in 76 regular-season games for the Detroit Pistons.
Therefore, it was a bit of a shock that the Los Angeles Lakers gave him a one-year, $18 million deal earlier this summer after the Pistons rescinded his restricted rights.
Even in the inflated free agent market, the 6’5” 24-year-old shooting guard showed signs of offensive regression last season for Detroit, thus making the signing even more confusing, even if he is an elite defender.
But, his deal might have been part of Los Angeles’ master plan after all, which actually might have nothing at all to do with Caldwell-Pope and everything to do with LeBron James, who the team will undoubtedly chase in free agency next summer.
“Multiple league sources suggested to ESPN that a major motivating factor in the Lakers' signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year, $18 million deal this offseason was because Caldwell-Pope is repped by Rich Paul, the same agent as James,” ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported.
McMenamin further explained the situation, saying, “Now the Lakers can spend a year communicating with Paul, showing him how they run their organization, sharing meals, etc., and it will all be protected under the Caldwell-Pope prism, even if it could prove influential as to what James ultimately decides to do.”
After signing Caldwell-Pope, new Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka was quick to praise his new shooting guard and compared him to two Laker greats.
“When Magic and I were really thinking about the architecture around this team and how we wanted to build it, the two of us could not tailor-stitch a more perfect two guard. He has a mentality that is consistent with what Magic brought to the table, what Kobe Bryant brought to the table. KCP is about winning and playing the game the right way,” he said.
As you can imagine, Caldwell-Pope was also ecstatic to receive such a lucrative one-year deal with the ability to test free agency again next summer.
Whether or not the Lakers intended to sign the shooting guard with the sole intention of gaining valuable contact with his agent is debatable and will likely never be revealed. If the Lakers are able to sign LeBron next summer, the team’s fans will not care about the process that the team took in order to make it happen.
The rest of the NBA might, though.