As far as draft surprises go, seeing former UGA shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope be selected by Detroit was a relatively mild one. After all, “KCP” was projected to go in the mid-to-late lottery by virtually every NBA Draft pundit, and the Pistons were selecting at #8 overall. However, Detroit had been vocal in telling the world that they were looking for a point guard and, well, Caldwell-Pope certainly isn’t a point guard.
However, the situation in Detroit is very, very interesting for the soon-to-be rookie shooting guard. He arrives in a backcourt that already includes two “combo” guards in Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight, and frankly, Caldwell-Pope is the only “natural” shooting guard on the team. For me, Stuckey isn’t a real concern, as he has struggled mightily in recent years and I can’t see a scenario where he would be a road block for the rookie, but Knight is the player to watch.
There were widespread rumors that Detroit was considering (or even favoring) a move that would send Knight to the 2-guard position, but all of that screeched to a halt on the drafting of KCP. However, Knight, the 6’3 scoring guard from Kentucky, has struggled off of the dribble in his time in the NBA, and he’s definitely not a pure point guard. Throw in rumors that Jose Calderon could be on the move, and Detroit is suddenly a team without a floor leader.
After all of that, I will say this. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope isn’t going to be an NBA bust. It’s not happening.
Even in a situation that I wouldn’t have preferred for him, his NBA “upside” is real, and players with a defined, NBA-level skill set like KCP’s offensive game don’t usually flop in the league. He was one of the best pure shooters in the entire draft, has quality size (6-foot-6) and athleticism for the position, and the fact that he can play NBA defense from the moment he arrives in the league is a positive to get him onto the floor.
In Detroit, I can’t imagine he will be asked to stretch his game in ways that he shouldn’t be stretched. Apart from the possibility that he could be used as a small forward in “small ball” lineups, KCP should be placed in a position as a spot-up shooter, and that is probably best for him as he works on his game in terms of ball handling and mid-range shooting. I’d love to see Detroit bring in a pure point guard, but even if they don’t, the interior passing ability of the team’s best player, Greg Monroe, should allow for kick-outs to Caldwell-Pope, and the focus on stopping Monroe and counterpart Andre Drummond should free him for open shots as a rookie.
For UGA fans, I’m sure they would have preferred to see him running alongside Ricky Rubio with a long-rumored fan of his in the Minnesota Timberwolves, but just because he went to a less-than-ideal spot doesn’t mean Caldwell-Pope will struggle. Detroit’s roster is very much in flux (could they land Josh Smith!?), but one thing is certain. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be on the roster when October rolls around, and he’ll be ready to shoot.