Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signs with the Los Angeles Lakers

AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 6: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 6: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope /

After almost two weeks that did not go as planned, Detroit Pistons’ free agent guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Well, we can all say that almost nothing has gone according to plan for the Detroit Pistons when it comes to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in free agency. Once expected to command a salary up to the $24.75 million dollar max starting salary, things unraveled for the restricted free agent near the end of last week.

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The Pistons offered him a five-year deal worth $80 million, which KCP and his agency Klutch Sports (headed by Rich Paul) decided was far too low. Things changed quickly when the Boston Celtics needed to clear about $3 million in space to make room for Gordon Hayward. The Celtics are loathe to part with good young players, but in order to make the deal work, they sent Avery Bradley and a 2019 second round draft pick to the Pistons for Marcus Morris.

Bradley is essentially what the Pistons hoped KCP would one day become, an elite perimeter defender who could knock down threes reliably and could be comfortable with the ball in his hands. KCP is likely on his way to that level, but Bradley is already there, and significantly cheaper than what the Pistons anticipated having to pay Caldwell-Pope.

Given the opportunity, the Pistons pounced on the deal. This made KCP expendable, and in perhaps the only scenario most observers had agreed was a virtual impossibility, the Pistons let him walk for nothing, having plugged the hole he would leave behind with another transaction.

Caldwell-Pope languished for several days, hearing of interest from a few different teams, chief among them the Los Angeles Lakers. Almost immediately after the Pistons renounced his rights  and cap hold, rumors came from the Lakers that they would be interested in his services if he would be interested in a one-year balloon contract.

Over the course of the past couple days, the two sides came to an agreement.

KCP is opting to gamble on himself with this deal, expecting with a strong 2017-18 campaign that matches the first half of last season that he can hit next year’s market hard. It’s a risk, as with any gamble, because next year’s market looks to be even tighter than this market was, which was already significantly less player-friendly than last year’s.

NBA players will almost always gamble on themselves given the opportunity, and given KCP’s youth (just 24), the role he so ably fills as a 3-and-D player and the potential he has to take another big leap forward, it’s hard to fault his reasoning.

In less than a week, two starters from last season’s Detroit Pistons squad are with other teams. If Stanley Johnson starts the season at small forward and Tobias Harris at power forward, only Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond will remain from the Pistons’ most commonly used starting lineups.

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The Pistons were expected to bring the band back one more time this season, but they were opportunistic and pivoted. Life comes at you fast in the NBA, and KCP and the Detroit Pistons have just experienced that together.