By all accounts, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has performed well in his first NBA training camp, but he's still facing an uphill battle in terms of convincing Maurice Cheeks that he deserves to leapfrog a pair of veterans on the depth chart. From Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
After naming Chauncey Billups the starter at shooting guard for the opener Tuesday morning, Cheeks was asked whether Rodney Stuckey and Caldwell-Pope would get opportunities.
"Probably Rodney will, but I don’t know if Kentavious will or not. I’m not sure," Cheeks said. "I just don’t think he will be starting at this point. I reserve the right to change my mind, but as of this point, no. It would do him a disservice for me to say, ‘No, he’s not going to start,’ because he’s played as well as anybody in training camp.
"I’m a veteran’s coach. Guys that have been around get first crack at most things, but then they have to do the job."
In addition to showing deference to veterans, Cheeks also likes the versatility of having Brandon Jennings and Chauncey Billups on the court at the same time:
"I just like those because Jennings and Billups can play (point guard) or (shooting guard) and the three bigs guys are interchangeable at different spots," Cheeks said.
Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News has some more quotes from Cheeks, who left the door open for KCP to change his mind while also admitting that it takes more than just being talented to crack the lineup:
"They have to do above and beyond to make that mark. Rookies have a lot on their plate. Learning the league, doing certain things for certain guys."
Billups will certainly ease himself into actual game shape, so what it could come down to for Cheeks is Billups' shooting, know-how and calm or Stuckey's size and ability to get to the basket.
"It's the player himself and how he fits with that group," Cheeks said. "A player can be more talented and still not start. We have quite a few games and practices left before we make that decision."
Personally, I don't care if KCP starts from Day 1 so long as he has a defined role in the rotation -- and more importantly, the opportunity to increase that role with his performance on the court.
That was the most frustrating thing with Andre Drummond's situation last year -- despite dominating from the start, he played at least 25 minutes just 11 times, and at least 30 only six. I don't want to go down the rabbit hole of re-visiting the wisdom of that decision (yes, there were some extenuating circumstances, such as Drummond's conditioning and the fact center is a much more physically demanding position), but I'd hate to see it played out once again.
Before this is even an issue, though, Caldwell-Pope needs to perform on the court. After shooting 37 percent in sumer league play, KCP shot just 1-for-12 (including 0-for-6 from beyond the arc) in his first preseason game. I didn't watch the game so I can't actually say if those shots were within the flow of the offense, but strictly looking at a box score and taking into account how efficiently he scored in college, I'm pleased he's willing to be aggressive. Once his three-point shot start falling, he'll have a huge leg up on Stuckey, a career 28.8 percent shooter from long distance.
Now your thoughts.