Burke’s strong start to the season, compared with a slow start for Caldwell-Pope, only made those complaints louder. But a funny thing has happened over the past eight weeks or so … Caldwell-Pope is significantly closing the gap. He is not asked to do as much as Burke, who has immense responsibility in Utah’s offense, but Caldwell-Pope’s jumper has come around. His athleticism and energy have been much needed in Detroit’s often slow and lackadaisical lineup. And his perimeter defense has been incredible — it’s very easy to project him as an All-Defensive Team caliber guard within a few years.
Although finding pass-happy point guards who don’t turn the ball over is rare, the shooting guard position is not exactly boasting an abundance of talent in the NBA right now as stars like Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen age and near retirement. If Caldwell-Pope develops into a great defensive player who also has the ability to hit the three at a high percentage, he’d have one of the most desirable skill sets in the NBA.
Burke might still be the better prospect in the long run, but Caldwell-Pope has made the debate more interesting. His play has also made the Pistons’ assertions that they were definitely not prioritizing need over talent seem more plausible. Tonight’s game won’t solve anything, but a strong performance from Caldwell-Pope will help the constant Trey Burke footnote next to his name disappear more quickly.