Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s contract situation murkier than ever

AUBURN HILLS, MI - JANUARY 23: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
AUBURN HILLS, MI - JANUARY 23: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope /

Entering the third day of free agency, Detroit Pistons’ restricted free agent guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has yet to be approached by offering teams.

Weeks ago, there seemed to be two likely paths for the Detroit Pistons as they planned to deal with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s pending restricted free agency. First (and most likely, considering the teams with cap space expected to be interested), the Pistons could take preemptive action and beat offering teams to the punch.

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The max that offering teams could present KCP is four years and $105 million, so the Pistons could compromise and offer him five years (with a player option in the final year) and something in the $110 to 120 million range. This is significantly below the nearly $150 million max the Pistons could offer, but it’s more than any other team could present. This would get them an annual discount in exchange for locking him in for up to five years.

The other is to let the market set KCP’s price. As of a couple months ago, the Brooklyn Nets had declared he was their top free agent target, and they had gobs of cap space. The Philadelphia 76ers had also no shortage of cap space and a voracious appetite for young players with upside. There were a couple other teams with sufficient cap space, like the Phoenix Suns, but none with a desperate need for a 3-and-D two guard like the Sixers and Nets.

Things changed drastically when the top three teams in the NBA draft shifted priorities in a series of trades. The Boston Celtics and Sixers (the first and third teams in the draft) swapped picks, and the Sixers got a stud point guard in Markelle Fultz with the first pick in the draft. This drove them to emphasize veterans on one-year deals rather than to back the truck up for KCP to lock themselves into the luxury tax in three or four years. J.J. Redick got a one-year deal worth $23 million, and the Sixers were out of the market for KCP.

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The Nets made the biggest move which drastically affected KCP’s market when they traded the 27th overall draft pick and Brook Lopez to the Los Angeles Lakers for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov. While Russell is a point guard by trade, the Lakers had been planning to play him off the ball alongside their first round draft pick Lonzo Ball. It appears the Nets had the same plans for Russell, likely playing him off the ball beside Jeremy Lin.

If the Nets have their back court of the future already intact, paying $24.75 million this year and $105 million over the next four years for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s services doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Especially for a team who is looking for cheap young talent and salary dumps in exchange for future assets, which is exactly what the Brooklyn Nets are right now.

KCP fits neither category, and he hinders their future flexibility significantly regardless of his on-court value.

As we know now, the Detroit Pistons opted to take option two, and it looks like that gamble may have paid off. As of Monday morning, July 3rd, no teams have contacted KCP with an offer sheet. This means that external influences may not elevate his price to nearly the degree virtually everybody expected.

With Paul Millsap leaving the Atlanta Hawks, another potential suitor looms. The Hawks have over $30 million to spend, and they don’t have a starting shooting guard under contract. The good news for the Pistons? The Hawks are likely to be more inclined to simply re-sign their own restricted free agent shooting guard, Tim Hardaway Jr., who would likely be available for a much small price tag.

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Nobody has contacted KCP’s camp (Klutch Sports, led by LeBron James‘ agent Rich Paul) yet with an offer, but the Detroit Pistons have been in touch. While it certainly appears the organization is prepared to let the market set the price and they’ll live with the consequences, the Pistons aren’t completely out of the woods yet. The Hawks and the Nets both have the capacity to shift focus quickly, and the financial wherewithal to be able to make the Pistons pay for their gamble.