When the former Georgia Bulldog and SEC Player-of-the-Year heard his name called at the NBA draft, he must have been overwhelmed with emotion and excitement as he started a new page in his life, however, in Detroit and elsewhere, his name brought about booing and general confusion as to how hometown-favourite and Michigan product Trey Burke was passed over for a relatively unknown Shooting-Guard from Thomaston, Georgia.
Barely a minute into his NBA career, Kentavious was already being written off by many Pistons fans who questioned Joe Dumars’ decision to pick the kid with a long, unfamiliar name over their known college hero. Somewhat unfairly, Pope has been constantly compared to Burke this season and both their names are linked after the surprising draft-day events.
Sitting on my couch in Sydney, watching the draft live, I couldn’t say I was surprised to see Kentavious’ name called ahead of Trey’s, the pick made sense basketball-wise and filled a need the Pistons were looking for. What I was surprised with however, was the vinegar and negative comments hurled towards the 20-year old before he even had a chance to put on a jersey.
After a full season of basketball behind them, and a couple matchups, many fans still seem to be unhappy with the 2013 8th Overall pick, evident in Facebook comments on the Pistons’ official page as well as sports forums around the internet, and I have a very hard time understanding why. Pope has proved to be one of the better overall defenders on the team and draft class, and although his shooting has been streaky, it may be due to the poor situation he was catapulted into in Detroit more so than bad shooting touch. A 34% 3-Point shooter in college, KCP connected on roughly 30% of his triple attempts during his rookie season (good for sixth-overall on the team), he showed steady improvement after a rough start, which culminated in December-January where he shot his season highs in FG% (.473) and 3PT% (.383) and correlated with him getting about 28 minutes-per-game. His averages and confidence plummeted in February when he played a season-low 10.5 MPG, after inexplicably finding himself in Maurice Cheeks’ and John Loyer’s doghouses. His stats won’t win him any Rookie-of-the-Year considerations, but if you’ve watched him play and have an average basketball IQ, you’ve seen that Kentavious has the skill and talent to be a solid 3&D player in this league, he personally reminds me of a hybrid Rip Hamilton – Tony Allen combination.
Burke has also had a solid season, his name might appear on a few ROY votes, and I have no doubts he will have a decent career in the NBA. I don’t feel its right for me to pass judgement on Trey’s season as I can’t say I’ve watched all that many Utah games this year, and have a hard time comparing both players as they aren’t in the same situations or even play the same position. There is no saying Trey would’ve done better in Detroit than KCP and vice-versa. This negative stigma attached to Pope concentrating on the fact that he isn’t Trey Burke is complete and utter nonsense; the sooner people accept the fact that Dumars drafted the better option and fit for this team, the faster they might appreciate what Kentavious has to offer as a player, and stop focusing on something as relatively superficial as where a player went to college. The same fans infuriated with Dumars passing over the University of Michigan product in 2013 are probably the same fans who were cheering on the night hometown-hero and Michigan State Point-Guard Mateen Cleaves was drafted 14th Overall thirteen years earlier; hindsight is 20/20, but we all know how that ended. If you don’t learn from history, you are bound to repeat it, and maybe that is one of the factors that influenced the Pistons GM on the day of June 27th, 2013, but we’ll never truly know what reasons influenced Detroit’s draft board.
What do we know?
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, of the University of Georgia, was drafted 8th Overall in the 2013 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons. The 2013 SEC Player-of-the-Year and a 2013 All-SEC First Team selection, he signed his first NBA contract on July 19th 2013 with the team who drafted him.
Throughout his rookie season, he has averaged 5.6 points and 1.9 rebounds on .388% shooting from the floor, .303 from behind the long-line and .786 from the charity stripe.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is here to stay. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is not Trey Burke. Get used to it.