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The curious case of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Breaking down the sophomore shooting guard's shooting numbers after 60 games.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

SportVU tracking is a wonderful thing.  On, they have it broken down into numerous categories, such as type of shot, proximity of defender, and even duration of shot clock.  Using these, I've decided to try and figure out why Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the potential SGOTF, has such trouble with consistency.

Kentavious is a sophomore, in a situation that allows him a lot of leeway.  Last year, in his rookie season, he averaged a meager 6 points a game in just under 20 minutes a game, despite starting half his games (41 out of 80 to be exact).  However, 38 of his 41 starts came before the month of February, and from February to the end of the season, he started 3 games out of 37.  Before February, he averaged 25.4 minutes a game over 43 games.  From February forward, it was whittled down to an embarrassing 13.2 minutes a game, as Kyle Singler took over the starting SG slot.

The thing is, KCP didn't do much to have his minutes slashed.  His best months of the season were December and January, with shooting percentages of .437/.358/.632 (his FT was skewed by a horrible December where he went 7 for 13 from the stripe).  He also had true shooting numbers of .501 in December, which improved to .545 in January.  So why, then, were his minutes slashed?  One could argue that the coaching turnover played a part, and John Loyer (who was in way over his head) perhaps relied more on veterans (such as Jonas Jerebko :'() instead of developing youth like KCP.

This season, however, KCP has really stepped up.  His averages in scoring have more than doubled, up to 12.2 per game.  His efficiency still is a problem (40% from the field) but his three point percentage has gone up to 36% from 32%.  His shot attempts have also increased massively from 5.8 to 11.4.  But he still has inconsistencies, so let's dive deeper into the world of numbers and player tracking.

The Numbers


For the purposes of this review I'll be focusing on two main types of shot, the catch and shoot, and the pull up.  There is data available for shots within 10 feet, as well as "other", but I want to focus on KCP's ability as a jumpshooter.  Here are the numbers comparing the two types of shot:

Frequency of shot FGA FG% eFG% Frequency of shot from 3 3PM 3PA 3P%
Catch and Shoot .398 4.5 .371 .533 .341 1.5 3.9 .378
Pull-Up .305 3.5 .341 .401 .113 0.4 1.3 .325

Here's what we can glean from this information.  KCP is a far better shooter off the catch and shoot than off pull-ups.  While his raw FG% may be very ordinary off catch and shoot's, the eFG% tells the true story.  That factors in the 3P% and adjusts for the fact that a 3-point shot is worth an extra point.  A whopping 87% of KCP's catch and shoot opportunities come from behind the arc, and he converts that into a very respectable 38% shooting clip from downtown.  Conversely, from pull-ups, KCP is nowhere near as effective.  Consider that only 37% of his pull-up shots are from three, and even then, his percentage is a miserable 32.5%.  KCP is more likely to shoot from midrange when he pulls up off the dribble, despite his overall pull-up percentage being a very abysmal 34%.  This is also why his eFG% from pull-ups is languishing at 40%.  In short, KCP is lethal in the catch and shoot, and he needs to severely limit his pull-up game, or at least pull up from three instead of settling for a midrange, which is his weakness.


No. of dribbles Frequency of shot FGA FG% eFG% Frequency of shot from 3 3PM 3PA 3P%
0 .526 6.0 .423 .549 .360 1.5 4.1 .366
1 .146 1.7 .360 .400 .044 0.1 0.5 .267
2 .133 1.5 .462 .478 .007 0.1 0.1 .600
3-6 .158 1.8 .287 .338 .053 0.2 0.6 .306
7+ .037 0.4 .440 .500 .009 0.1 0.1 .500

If ever there was proof that KCP should not be isolated a lot, this is it.  The more he dribbles the ball, the worse he becomes.  Again, he's proven to be deadly when not bothering to put the ball on the floor, with a respectable 42% FG% rising to a 55% eFG% because of his deadly nature on catch and shoot threes.  68% of his no-dribble shots are three pointers, and with a 37% success rate, defenses have to pay attention to him.  However, as soon as he puts the ball on the floor, his percentage of shots from three plummets to 24%, again showing a propensity to take bad mid-range shots.  Also, simply from eye tests, he hasn't shown anything like an elite handle to be breaking down defenders consistently and getting open shots.  Occasionally he can pull off a great move, but his shooting off the dribble is very inconsistent.  KCP has a better rhythm on his shots from catch and shoot as opposed to creating his own rhythm.


Another important, yet undervalued statistic is the amount of time a player has the ball in his hands before he releases it.  If you've ever heard the saying "he was too wide open; he took too long", you'll understand what I'm talking about.  Anyone who's played basketball can tell you that sometimes the most wide open shots are the hardest because you can overthink them and mess yourself up.  This is the same in golf where sometimes those three-foot putts can be the undoing of many good rounds.  Players are better served to acting on instinct when catching the ball in a wide open situation.  Setting yourself up can waste time and rhythm, and make the shot feel unnatural.  Let's look at KCP's stats:

Touch time Frequency of shot FGA FG% eFG% Frequency of shot from 3 3PM 3PA 3P%
<>2 seconds .641 7.3 .420 .525 .369 1.5 4.2 .365
2-6 seconds .318 3.6 .350 .394 .092 0.3 1.1 .302
6+ seconds .037 0.4 .440 .520 .012 0.1 0.1 .500

More proof of how effective KCP can be when he doesn't overthink his shot.  When you're shooting less than 2 seconds after catching the ball, there will generally be rhythm in the shot and it will have a higher percentage of going in, illustrated by his 52.5% effective field goal percentage.  Again, KCP has a high frequency of three point attempts when the ball is in his hands for a short amount of time.  When it takes him less than 2 seconds to shoot,  58% of his attempts are from 3, with a respectable 37% clip.  Again, the problems are when he tries to do too much.  Having the ball in his hands for a long time can be tied in to the previous chart about the amount of dribbles he takes before he shoots.


Closest Defender Frequency of shot FGA FG% eFG% Frequency of shot from 3 3PM 3PA 3P%
0-2 feet (very tight) .160 .1.8 .349 .353 .020 0.0 0.2 .071
2-4 feet (tight) .328 3.7 .388 .429 .088 0.3 1.0 .300
4-6 feet (open) .312 3.5 .399 .528 .214 0.9 2.4 .377
6+ feet (wide open) .201 2.3 .453 .602 .151 0.7 1.7 .398

This chart should be a bit of a no-brainer.  Any player in this league is going to have good wide open percentages.  However, it is encouraging to see that KCP is able to convert his wide open looks, especially considering that 74% of his wide open looks are from three point range, and he's hitting them at a 40% clip.  The effective field goal percentage of 60% is also very good.  His "open" looks could be a bit higher, as 4-6 feet of separation is plenty of room to get a good shot off.  Perhaps we can take into account the distracting effects of a defender closing out.  He is still hitting his threes at a good rate from the "open" range.  What could be improved upon is the rate that he gets his open looks.  Nearly half of his shots are with a defender within 4 feet, which indicates a lack of movement off the ball. KCP could learn from Jodie Meeks, who has made a career of running off screens and keeping the defender moving.

So there you have it. KCP's main strength as a shooter is in the catch and shoot, and the more time he takes to get his shot off, whether that be dribbling or setting up the shot, his percentage plummets.  KCP is what we call a "rhythm shooter", which means that he is very effective off movement and quick release.  The slower he becomes, the more time he takes, the worse his percentages will be.  KCP's shooting form itself is not the problem, his inconsistent shooting comes from his shot selection and over dribbling.

The numbers don't lie, and they indicate a very good distance shooter who struggles in the midrange.  KCP could learn to come off screens more as he will get more wide open catch and shoot opportunities, which is his ultimate strength.  If he can reduce his isolation and pull-up shots, his field goal percentages will rise and he will become a more consistent shooter and scorer in this league.