ESPN is naming notable performers in the Orlando Summer League, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has made the list both days so far.
This version of KCP looked absolutely nothing like this past season’s tentative version. Caldwell-Pope scored a game-high 26 points on 8-for-19 shooting and was an impressive 8-for-9 from the free throw line. He was never hesitant looking for his shot, knocking down two jumpers from behind the arc, several from midrange, and a variety of swooping layups around the basket that also got him to the line. He also made a difference on the defensive end, coming away with six steals.
It’s amazing the difference a year makes. Last summer, KCP lacked any semblance of rhythm or comfort. He was tentative driving, content mostly to pull up or spot up and shoot. More often than not, he’d miss. This year, KCP looks to be completely reinvented, the player the Pistons thought and hoped they were getting when they drafted him. KCP continued his scorching start to Summer League, scoring 32 points — including 21 before halftime — and hauling in 12 rebounds. His confidence has returned, and with it, a playing style that’s smooth, less labored than it ever looked last season. Already Jodie Meeks‘ three-year, $19 million deal has looked questionable, and if Caldwell-Pope carries this momentum into the regular season, it’ll look like an even more puzzling move.
I’m so excited to see what Stan Van Gundy does for Caldwell-Pope. Under Maurice Cheeks and John Loyer, Caldwell-Pope usually looked too tentative. He never even seemed to know what was expected of him – probably because it wasn’t communicated clearly to him.
So, this aggression is nice progress.
However, there’s obviously a wide gap between summer league and the regular season. Caldwell-Pope, already a veteran relative to his Orlando competition, might have just outgrown the summer league. He also knows he’s the alpha dog on Detroit’s summer-league team.
What happens when he’s around the Pistons’ veterans?
This is a positive sign about Caldwell-Pope’s growth, but until he extends mindset into the regular season, it means only so much.