We are reaching the point of the offseason where things begin to slow to a long, painful crawl until the start of the season. Most of the free agent money has been thrown out like a person with a gambling problem at a casino, and all of the big names are signed.
Summer League is finished for the Pistons and they have completed their offseason shopping by signing Ish Smith, Jon Leuer and Boban Marjanovic. They also re-signed franchise cornerstone Andre Drummond. There is one last piece of business left for the Pistons that does not necessarily need to be resolved this offseason. That business is an extension for shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
According to Vince Ellis at the Detroit Free Press, the Pistons want to extend KCP, but it may be tricky to do before the October deadline.
KCP is a polarizing player among the Pistons fan base. There are the people who love his defense and think he can still figure it out on offense. There is also the crowd that thinks his poor shooting simply cannot be overcome by his defense. There is even a crowd that wants to trade KCP right now while he has a higher value as a player on the rise.
The Pistons, not the fans, are the ones potentially handing out the eight-figure (maybe NINE-figure) extension, though. If Stan Van Gundy wants KCP long-term, and the Pistons say they do, they will have to pay him whether it is an extension before the Oct. 31 deadline or when he hits restricted free agency next summer, which KCP may prefer.
Let's take a look at some negatives and positives with KCP to decide if and when he should be extended:
One thing that favors KCP in justifying an extension is his defense. KCP is a very good perimeter defender who is able to guard the best opposing backcourt player. This is very useful to have for any team, but especially a team that features Reggie Jackson at the point. Reggie Jackson is not a great defender and Jackson takes on a huge load offensively. That, combined with not having the best stamina, makes it very important to find ways to relieve Reggie Jackson as much as possible on defense. The Pistons will need to balance if alleviating some of Jackson's defensive liability at the cost of more efficient shooting is really worth potentially $20 million per year.
Another positive has been KCP's durability. He has only missed a total of eight games in his career, and six of those games came this year from a fluke injury from slipping on a wet spot on the floor in Boston. KCP was also near the top in the league in minutes played with 36.7 minutes per game. The high minutes are partly due to not having a reliable backup with Jodie Meeks out with an injury all season. The fact that KCP is able to play all of those minutes, stay healthy, and never seem to lose a step all point positively in KCP's favor. Many people look at stats when deciding what to pay a player. The fact that you do not have to worry much about KCP missing a bunch of games with injuries (knock on wood), is definitely something to consider even with sub-par offensive numbers.
The biggest knock on KCP that makes the shooting guard such a polarizing player is his shooting. It simply has not been great throughout his career, especially his three-point percentage. He sports a career 32.7 percent from three, and 40.8 percent from the field overall. He was only 31 percent from three this past season.
One encouraging part of his shooting has been an increasing true shooting percentage each season he has been in the league. He had a 48.3 TS% his rookie year, 50.1 TS% his 2nd year, and 52.1 TS% last season. 52.1% still isn't great, but the upward trajectory shows something to point to for signs of improvement. However, in an offense that features a dominant Andre Drummond-Reggie Jackson pick and roll, shooting is very important from the other 3 spots on the floor. If KCP still struggles to shoot the 3-ball, it could be difficult to justify an extension, especially one that could reach up to $20 million per year.
Something to consider in regards to KCP's defense is simply the nature of the modern NBA. In an era of space and pace, where players like Steph Curry can drain contested 3s like they are layups, perimeter defense might not be as valuable as it once was. It is not to say that the Pistons are better off playing a sieve in that spot. But when a player like KCP has not shown an ability to reliably knock down shots yet, you might be better off sacrificing some defense for a more reliable shooter. Maybe the Pistons are better off playing somebody like Reggie Bullock or Darrun Hilliard in his place or going out and getting a better shooter at the cost of some defense.
As Ellis pointed out in the Freep article linked above, the Pistons are already going to be over the salary cap for the 2017-2018 season. It doesn't help that number is now lower than expected. A KCP extension could put them over the luxury tax line.
This is important to consider when deciding whether to extend KCP, because there is not much cap flexibility to find a replacement for him if you let him walk.
Obviously, trades are a thing, and KCP could be flipped for an upgrade or another player could be moved to find a new shooting guard. While I am sure that is something that Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower will consider, we're under the impression that they want to keep KCP.
There are arguments for and against extending KCP. I personally think at his level, he is not worth a potentially $20 million extension. I know just as much as you do about what KCP is looking for in terms of money, but I feel pretty confident in thinking he wants close to $20 million per year in this market.
I think the best approach for the Pistons is to wait and see if KCP has improvement in his shooting numbers. If he can get better shooting from downtown this year, I would feel a lot more comfortable handing him an extension.
Obviously as a restricted free agent next summer, the Pistons hold all of the cards because they can match any offer he receives. And there is always the chance that the player takes the Greg Monroe route by playing a season on the qualifying offer in order to become an unrestricted free agent in a potentially even richer open market. That might be a risk KCP's willing to take considering how healthy he's been.
What are your thoughts DBB? Do you think the Pistons should hold off on extending KCP until there is some more improvement? Should they trade him now? Should they try to get him locked up so they do not have to worry about a potential departure?