Can Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Flourish in Detroit?


Brooklyn, NY, USA; Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia) shakes hands with NBA commissioner David Stern after being selected as the number eight overall pick to the Detroit Pistons during the 2013 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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.