Think back to the offseason of 2014, Stan Van Gundy was in the midst of his first offseason as president of basketball operations and coach of the Detroit Pistons. His main order of business was dealing with the restricted free agency of Greg Monroe. By extending a qualifying offer he enabled the Pistons to match any offer sheet presented to Monroe and retain the big man.
However, that offer sheet never came, or at least he never accepted one. Monroe didn’t want to return to the Pistons, and he knew if he signed an offer sheet Detroit was likely to match instead of losing the big man for nothing. Monroe then chose the unthinkable route — accepting the qualifying offer worth $5.5 million (about $10 million less than he would have made on the open market) and played out the season with an eye on re-entering the market as an unrestricted free agent the next year.
Greg Monroe was betting on himself and three main factors: improving his game, health and the big offers would be there next year.
Could the same situation be playing itself out with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope?
I bring up the Monroe situation not to worry all of the #PayKCP crowd, but to illustrate how a restricted free agent can still find a way to get the power to choose what they want to do.
It is important to keep in mind that we are only five days into the start of the new league year, so even talking about KCP taking the qualifying offer and running is a bit premature. But with the Pistons capped out and no other orders of business to discuss this offseason we are going to do it anyways.
I will take a look at the three main factors I mentioned above that led to Monroe betting on himself and taking a qualifying offer and how they apply to KCP: improvement, health, and a better market.
Showing clear signs of improvement
Caldwell-Pope has been a polarizing player throughout his Pistons tenure. While many fans want to pay him whatever he wants to keep him because of his solid defense and the fact he plays hard whenever he is on the court, many other fans are hesitant to #PayKCP due to his inconsistency on offense.
Last season looked to be heading in the direction of being his best ever, and justifying the payday he was going to receive. Before the All-Star break, KCP averaged 14.2 points per game on a slash line of 41/37/83, those numbers are not eye-popping by any means, but they are solid numbers for a guy who profiles as a solid 3-and-D player. However, KCP’s numbers fell off a cliff after the All-Star break. KCP averaged 12.9 points on 38/31/83 percent shooting.
This drop-off is nothing new for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a player whose only consistency is his inconsistency. Some attribute the drop-off to a shoulder injury he sustained against the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 13 that forced him to miss six games. However, it also could also be another example of the many peaks and valleys in KCP’s career.
This drop-off could be a huge reason why so many teams with cap space have not been linked to KCP this offseason.
Injury is the biggest risk to a player who decides to take the qualifying offer. Get hurt and you’ve cost yourself millions. Monroe bet on himself likely because of a clean bill of health that saw him miss a total of three games over the first four years of his NBA career.
Caldwell-Pope is in a similar boat when it comes to health. KCP did not miss a game due to injury during his first two seasons, and missed a total of 12 games over the last two season due to minor ailments. He is by no means “injury prone,” which makes the risk of playing on the one-year qualifying offer easier for him to take.
He will be suspended the first two games of the season for a drunk driving arrest in April.
After the spending frenzy of the 2016 offseason, the expectation was for the market to cool off a bit this offseason. However, many experts did not expect it to become this dry this quickly. While there has still been a lot of money handed out like to the stars, the restricted free agent market is all but dried up at this point.
The only restricted free agent who has gotten any interest is Otto Porter, who signed a max-contract offer sheet with the Brooklyn Nets that the Wizards are expected to match. Teams with cap room that were expected to chase restricted free agents, like the 76ers and Kings, have gone in different directions by signing veterans to large contracts (JJ Redick with the 76ers and George Hill and Zach Randolph with the Kings).
The Nets could still come around and offer KCP a max contract after the Wizards likely match their offer to Otto Porter, but the Nets appear committed to a Jeremy Lin-DeAngelo Russell backcourt. A team like the Hawks or Suns still have cap space, but the Suns have Devin Booker at shooting guard and the Hawks are probably going to tank.
While these teams may not have interest in KCP when next offseason comes, KCP could have more suitors based purely on the fact that he would be an unrestricted free agent and the Pistons could not match. Predicting how much the salary cap will increase or decrease is too difficult to know at this point, and many teams may not even have cap space due to the spending of last season and this season.
The market may not necessarily be better next offseason, but if KCP values his freedom to pick his next team without having to worry about the Pistons matching, the qualifying offer would be the way to go.
Greg Monroe’s decision to sign the qualifying offer worked out as he signed a three-year max contract with the Bucks during the 2015 offseason.
The KCP situation is far from being resolved and he could sign a fresh, new contract in the coming days and this whole article could be moot. But, until we hear something more clear about what is going on with the KCP contract situation, any and all options are a possibility.
What are your thoughts DBB? Could KCP follow the path of Greg Monroe and do the unthinkable to get out of Detroit?