Tell me if this sounds like an NBA lottery pick to you.
6-foot-6, 185-pound shooting guard. Averaged 18.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.0 steals as a 19-year-old Sophomore in a “Big 6″ conference. Shot 38% from three-point distance and 80% from the free throw line. Top-30 in the NCAA in Player Efficiency Rating (ahead of Nerlens Noel, Jeff Withey, Russ Smith, etc.), and an unquestioned NBA-level athlete at the 2-guard position.
Sounds pretty good, right?
The player above is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and if you haven’t been paying attention to him, now is the time. Caldwell-Pope just completed his sophomore year at the University of Georgia, and because of the fact that the Bulldogs were pretty unwatchable this season (15-17 record), his talents have slipped through the cracks. The numbers speak for themselves, but when you factor in that a) he did this as the absolute focal point of the team’s offense, b) he improved in every area over his freshman season, and c) he was a top-25 recruit in the country coming out of high school in Greenville, Georgia, it becomes clear that his pedigree matches the pure statistical production.
If there is a #1 strength in Caldwell-Pope’s game, it is his jump shot. He has great size for a shooting guard at 6’6, and with that, he has the ability to get his smooth jump shot off in a variety of different ways. In addition to ease of release, he possesses NBA range out to the 3-point line, and, in his sophomore year, flashed the ability to finish at the rim in traffic.
The best thing about Caldwell-Pope, in my opinion, is the fact that he struggled at times as a Freshman (mostly in efficiency), but went out and improved his game in a noticeable way instead of relying on his pedigree and the fact that he was the best returning player for the Bulldogs. There are certainly some flaws remaining (ball-handling for starters) that keep him from being an elite, top-10 pick, but with his already-developed jump shot coupled with the potential of elite defense, he is a lottery threat.
It is important to note that Caldwell-Pope may not be in the 2013 NBA Draft, as he hasn’t declared as of this moment. Frankly, I’d encourage him to depart because of the less-than-stellar supporting cast combined with top-20 draft projections, but he isn’t gone just yet. I currently have him as the #3 shooting guard in the draft (behind Ben McLemore and Victor Oladipo), and in my opinion, he’s an unquestioned lottery pick based on who is available in this year’s draft.
In the midst of a “down” year for college hoops in the state of Georgia, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shined, and if he intends to declare for the draft, people may even start to notice.