Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s Shooting Improvement in the Portland Series

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been with the Los Angeles Lakers since 2017 and the majority of his time in the purple and gold has been heavily criticized. Mainly due to questionable performances individually, coupled with poor team performance.

However, in the 2019-20 season, despite a poor start, Caldwell-Pope has really turned it around to deliver some of his best performances in a Laker uniform yet. Through 69 regular season games, the 27-year-old averaged 9.3 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. On 46.7% shooting from the field and 38.5% from beyond the arc.

As the NBA season resumed in Orlando, Caldwell-Pope struggled to re-discover form, converting just five 3-pointers in 6 games heading into the postseason. Although, it is worth noting that the team as a whole struggled during this period, going 3-5 for the remainder of the regular season.

Disaster then struck in Game 1 of the 1st round of the playoffs, against the Portland Trail Blazers. As the Lakers fell 0-1 in disappointing fashion, all eyes were set on Caldwell-Pope with his 1 point on 0-9 shooting, in 29 minutes.

The purple and gold did regroup to win 4 straight and eliminate the Trail Blazers in 5 games (4-1). Along with the team regrouping, KCP was a focal point to the Lakers’ success, finding his scoring touch and staying active on defense.

Photos: Lakers vs Trail Blazers Game 1 (8/18/2020) | Los Angeles Lakers
(Image/Joe Murphy/NBA.com)

Over the course of the series, the 6-foot-5 guard’s averages bumped up to 11.2 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1 steal, in 26 minutes per game. Whilst he shot at a below average 39.5%, he did convert at a 39.7% rate from downtown. Which gets him off the hook, as his primary role is to space the floor and knock down corner looks.

On the catch-and-shoot, which accumulate a large bulk of his scoring, Caldwell-Pope shot 52% and when wide open he converted at a 40.9% rate. He was the 5th-highest on the team in plus-minus (7.8), sitting behind Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Danny Green, and Alex Caruso.

He had impressive outings in Game 2 and 5, where he scored 16 points and 14 points, respectively. Knocking down four 3-pointers in both. In the latter, he tallied 3 steals, as the Lakers rounded out the series.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope may be averaging the second lowest averages of his career in points per game and rebounds, but he is arguably playing the best basketball of his career to date. His shooting numbers are at a career-high in both field goal and 3-point percentage, as he is actively contributing on a championship contender.

If he can keep up his shooting from range in round 2, and beyond, he will be a huge piece for the Lakers in chasing championship number 17.

Cover image credit: Associated Press.


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Lakers Sign Waiters, How Will the Bench Step up in the Playoffs?

(Image/Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

In the aftermath of the Los Angeles Lakers’ new signing of Dion Waiters, we look into what his skill-set brings, and what that means for players like Quinn Cook.

Does this spell the end of any potential minutes for Cook? Does this make the Lakers a more potent team? What’s the difference between them? All will be explained momentarily.

Dion Waiters
(Image/Lakers.com)

Waiters vs. Cook

Waiters and Cook are shooters through and through, but what is concerning is the playoffs. Looking at the relatively small sample size as well as what these players have done this year, there isn’t much to say.

Behind the arc that is supposed to be the great equalizer, both players have shot well throughout their careers. Cook at 41.2% and Waiters at 34.8%. Waiters has no rings, Cook has one, and Waiters has played about half the playoff games that Cook has.

In addition, Waiters holds 2 inches over Cook in height, as well as about 30 pounds in weight.

The question here is who do you trust with the ball in their hands come crunch time?

The Bench

This is where players like Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Alex Caruso all come into play. While Rondo has been inconsistent, there is the phenomenon known as “Playoff Rondo”. Who, a few years ago, was able to help Anthony Davis run right over and sweep the Portland Trail Blazers in the postseason.

Is that something the Lakers can expect for a whole playoff run? Time will tell.

Alex Caruso has become a fan favorite and holds a +23 rating playing besides LeBron James. That holds a lot of weight. Plus, the savviness and toughness he brings both offensively and defensively does make up for his average of 5 points per game.

But will he be able to up his offensive production and hold it all together when the lights come on and the dial is turned up 100 levels in the playoffs? With this being the first time he will play in the postseason, all that’s available is hope and speculation. However, if this season is anything of an indicator, it is more likely than not going to be the exact same Alex Caruso.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the long name may sound odd off the tongue, but quietly he has been an integral piece of the Lakers’ rotation. His 10 points per game and nearly 40% shooting from behind the arc is essential.

You could make the case that he deserves to start. But it is working at the moment with him coming off the bench, receiving staggered minutes between units. Although his 1 steal per game is measly, he is 9 out of 10 times playing good man defense and more often than not in the right place at the right time.

Kyle Kuzma and Markieff Morris are the last bench pieces that jump into consideration also. They both do different things but the eye test is most important.

While both are still trying to really get their roles set on solid ground, they definitely do some good things. Morris a 6-foot-9, “3 and D” type of player. Whereas Kuzma is a scorer at heart, with inconsistent defense.

Kuzma is averaging career lows but the defensive effort has been acceptable. Morris can rebound just as good. if not better, than Kuzma and can hit the 3 more consistently.

Image result for markieff morris lakers
(Image/Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

Back to Waiters, What Version of Do the Lakers Get?

The Lakers are in need of a competent scorer and a consistent defensive player. Not great but good enough to make people uncomfortable leaving him open and/or exploiting defensively.

Dion Waiters, on paper, checks all the boxes. He’s a guard, can shoot, from within and beyond the 3-point line, and can convert broken players. Some important additions include that he can ball-handle and create for others too. All of this is good, again on paper, but his behaviour of the court has lacked for quite some time now.

Waiters presents a lot of offensive potential should he keep his head in the game. Will the Lakers’ culture prevail and keep him in check? or will the Los Angeles culture have him relapse into bad habits?

While all is yet to be seen, the playoffs are just around the corner. The organisation, as well as Laker Nation, are hoping to receive the lights out walking bucket that Waiters is, with the defensive effort to assist the Lakers bring home championship number 17. Thus, tying the Boston Celtics‘ record in the process.

Cross your fingers, the postseason is almost upon us.