Homecooking seems to have done well by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who dazzled in the Detroit Pistons' opening-season win against his hometown Atlanta Hawks. Caldwell-Pope was confident, smart and efficient on his way to scoring a game-high 21 points, including hitting four of his seven 3-point attempts.
In the 2013 NBA Draft, Joe Dumars upset some Pistons fans by selecting Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ahead of local hero Trey Burke, who starred at the University of Michigan. Caldwell-Pope was instead the star player from the University of Georgia, a school he picked because of its proximity to home.
Until last night, KCP has never played well in Atlanta against the Hawks. In his rookie season, KCP averaged 4.8 points on a shooting line of .242/.083/1.00. Playing in Atlanta, he was even worse, if you can believe it. In his sophomore season, he wasn't much better. In the two games played in Detroit, KCP was vital. He almost single-handedly kept Detroit in the first matchup and was key to them winning the second. In Detroit, he averaged 19 points per game on a bad shooting line of 385/.280/.500. But while that was bad, his games in Atlanta were worse. His scoring dropped from 19.0 in Detroit to 7.0 in Atlanta on a shooting line of .227/.182/1.00.
That is what makes last night so impressive. It is well known, even across the league, that KCP had bad road splits last year.
Many have called this a make-it-or-break it year for KCP, who has never really put it all together despite a large role in both of his first two years in the league. As he was being talked up in the preseason, most took a wait-and-see approach. The first test, as with every player, was opening night. And with the game on the road, where KCP historically struggles, and in his hometown, no less, KCP passed with flying colors.
Not only did KCP lead the team in scoring and shoot efficiently from the perimeter, but he also grabbed four rebounds and had an assist and a steal. Most of the misses were good looks, they just didn't fall in. He also used his superior athleticism to get up and down the floor. On most possessions, it seemed as though KCP was already across halfcourt before the rest of his teammates had even turned around. Because of his ability to get up the floor, he even had a very nice pass from Drummond for a breakaway dunk.
If KCP can play even close to this level on the road, let alone every game, then the Pistons starting shooting guard position is fine for years to come. The only question would be whether to have Jodie Meeks or Reggie Bullock back him up. My vote is on Bullock.
How did you feel about KCP's performance last night? Tell us in the comments.