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2016 Detroit Pistons Preview: Time for progress in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s offense

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With restricted free agency looming, this is the year when KCP positions himself as a core or fringe piece with the franchise.

Art by Christopher Daniels

The best way to describe Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is probably "polarizing."

The Pistons have until the end of October to come to an agreement on a rookie extension with Caldwell-Pope. If they do not, then Caldwell-Pope will be a restricted free agent at season's end.

At 23 and a very good defender and a hint of a shooter, some say that he's worth the extension and still has room to grow. Others don't have as much faith in his growth and would be ok to trading him if the price was right.

How he plays in the 2016-17 season will do a lot to push that needle one way or the other.

2015-16 Season Review

It could be said that Caldwell-Pope had the best year of his short career last season.

Minutes, points, field-goal attempts, field-goal percentage, free-throw attempts, free-throw percentage, rebounds, assists and steals all went up last year for Caldwell-Pope. But just because he had the best year of his career does not mean it is where we need him to be.

The playoffs showed the Pistons and their fans a different side of Caldwell-Pope. A lesser used, more efficient Caldwell-Pope.

While his minutes went from 36.7 per-game in the regular season to 40.3 per-game in the playoffs, he shot nearly the exact amount of shots per game in the playoffs as he did the regular season; 12.6 to 12.5. To add to that, in the regular season Caldwell-Pope was shooting 4.9 threes per game and only hitting 30.9-percent of them. But when it came time for the playoffs, he shot 6.8 threes per game and hit them at a 44.4-percent clip.

To put that in perspective, the 44.4-percent would have been third in the league last year and the 6.8 attempts would have been top 10.

Now, a player more than likely has a different drive in the playoffs than he does during the regular season. One loss in the regular season does not mean as much as one loss in the playoffs. And granted, we're talking about a four game sample size. Also, it seems his defense took quite a large hit either from guarding Kyrie Irving or from concentrating on his offense.

But we've seen an efficient offensive KCP and if he can match that with his known defense, then he's going to be vital to the Pistons.

2016-17 Season Preview

Caldwell-Pope spent much of his summer focusing on his ball handling. If you watch his turnovers from the last few seasons, you'll see that most of his turnovers are either bad passes or loss of handle. So it is great that he has worked on his ball handling.

But Caldwell-Pope only had a usage percentage of 18 percent, 12th on the team. He does not handle the ball that often and is more counted on being a stout defender and a cutting or spot up offensive player.

At the time of this writing, he has played in three preseason games. He's only played 28.7 minutes per game but taken 9.7 field-goals per game, 3.7 of which are from distance. Unfortunately, his field-goal and three-point percentages are 24.1-percent and 9.1-percent respectively. Other than Henry Ellenson, a 19 year old rookie, who has shot a total of six times, Caldwell-Pope has the worst shooting percentages on the team (outside of free throws). But again, it is only preseason.

If Caldwell-Pope's shooting does not get better and his defense does not stay at the same level, he could lose his starting spot to Stanley Johnson or Reggie Bullock. It is highly doubtful that happens, however. We will very likely see Caldwell-Pope lead the team in minutes played this year and be a very good defender, once again in talks of being on the All-Defensive team. The biggest question mark continues to be his offensive contributions.

Prediction

34.5 MPG, 14.3 PPG, 41.0/32.0/85.0 shooting line, 4.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG