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Nets may offer Kentavious Caldwell-Pope max contract this summer

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The New York Post says luring KCP is one of the Nets’ top priority in free agency.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets have plenty of cap space this summer, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope may be the beneficiary. Brian Lewis of the New York Post reports that KCP will be one of the Nets’ top targets this summer, and that they will likely be willing to go as high as a max contract to land him.

Caldwell-Pope, 24, will be a restricted free agent, after he demanded more than $20 million annually and no deal was reached. The Vertical reported Detroit doesn’t want to give him a max contract, but it may not have a choice. The Post has confirmed the Nets’ interest and ESPN intimated they would go that high to get him.

The strategy would be in line with how the Nets handled their cap space last summer, offering $50 million to Tyler Johnson (which was matched by the Miami Heat) and $75 million to Allen Crabbe (which was matched by the Portland Trail Blazers). A max deal would be richer stakes on the part of the Nets, but it might also be what it takes to actually get their player.

The Pistons had the opportunity to lock KCP up over the summer with an extension, but the two sides couldn’t agree on a figure after salaries ballooned with the salary cap increase. With already more than $100 million potentially tied up next season, a max contract for Caldwell-Pope would likely put the Pistons over the luxury tax. As a restricted free agent, the Pistons have the ability to match any offer sheet extended by a team.

A post-rookie scale maximum contract for Caldwell-Pope would be 25 percent of the salary cap, which is anticipated to be about $102 million next season - though cap calculations for max contracts are slightly different. Without going into detail, KCP’s max contract probably wouldn’t be the $25 million you’d figure, probably slightly less. But with Andre Drummond signing his max deal last season, the two would still be absorbing a big chunk of the team’s payroll.

The Nets had glowing reviews of KCP.

“You can make the argument that he’s their most important player now. So I think that just shows you the impact that he’s had. He’s gone from defender to arguably their MVP,” said Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who was drafted by Detroit in 2014 and spent his first two seasons playing alongside Caldwell-Pope.

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“I’m impressed,’’ Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said when asked about Caldwell-Pope. “I love how he competes, how he competes on the defensive end. That’s really the essence of what I see when I watch him play. He plays with force, he competes on the defensive end. On a given night he can get 35 on you easily. His speed off the ball, coming off those [dribble handoffs], flying off and somehow [you’re] going to have to find a way to stay attached, stay close to him.”

Caldwell-Pope has improved each of his four years in the league. This year, he’s shooting a career-high percentage from three-point range and has shown a wider range of ballhandling ability. Bradley Beal is the only guard in the league with a higher win share total this season at the age of 23 or younger to start the season.

But he still has more growing to do to for a team to feel comfortable with him earning a quarter of the salary cap, as he’s still been prone to slumps this season and at times his effectiveness on the defensive end doesn’t always match his energy.