Lakers Re-Sign Critical Starter to Hefty New Contract

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of the Lakers.

Getty Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of the Lakers.

The NBA’s free-agency season is well into its second day and already, the Lakers seemed to have wrapped up the bulk of their business. It was reported on Saturday evening that the Lakers had re-signed forward Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, arguably the team’s third-best player in the postseason this year, which, of course, resulted in the Lakers winning a championship.

The deal for KCP is said to be $40 million over three seasons, which is right around where most prognosticators pegged his value. He had opted out of the final year of his previous contract with the Lakers, which was set to pay him $8.5 million.

Caldwell-Pope had been getting interest from the Hawks, who have cap space and already signed one Laker—Rajon Rondo, who joined the Hawks on a two-year, $15 million deal. The Hawks are also the hometown team of Caldwell-Pope, who grew up in Georgia and went to college at the University of Georgia.

Caldwell-Pope was also central to sign-and-trade possibilities the Lakers had with the Kings for Bogdan Bogdanovic, and news of the Lakers keeping him could end the team’s pursuit on that front. Bogdanovic is a restricted free agent and is looking for a sign-and-trade deal that will send him elsewhere.

The Knicks, too, had entered the picture with late interest, but that never gained traction.

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Lakers Lost Three Big Free Agents Before Re-Signing Caldwell-Pope

The Lakers will be over the salary cap after having signed Wesley Matthews and Montrezl Harrell on Friday, while also trading for Dennis Schroder to start free agency week. The Lakers lost three big free agents—Rondo, Avery Bradley and Dwight Howard—but have still put together a team worthy of a defending champion. They are expected to re-sign Anthony Davis next week.

The Lakers were able to bring KCP back and pay him market value, even though they are over the salary cap, because they maintain his Bird Rights, an exception to the salary cap that allows teams to retain their own players.

Of interest as well–the Hawks had considered signing Caldwell-Pope even back in 2017.

Caldwell-Pope Was Always Happy in Los Angeles

Caldwell-Pope certainly has been happy with the Lakers and having a chance to win a ring in Los Angeles alongside LeBron James has bolstered his reputation around the league. He will be a big part of the team’s repeat effort next season, likely the starting small forward with James again handling point guard and Matthews at shooting guard.

KCP is represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, who also reps Davis and James.

While Caldwell-Pope was uneven over the course of the playoffs, but he showed up well for the Lakers in the final two rounds of the championship chase.

He is a willing role player who defends hard and was very good in the NBA Finals against the Heat, averaging 12.8 points, third on the team after James and Davis. He was also the No. 3 option against the Nuggets in the Western Conference finals when he averaged 11.2 points.

After a sloppy start to the season in which he shot 35.8% from the field and 22.7% from the 3-point line—he was the subject of fan ire and trade rumors because of that—KCP recovered and posted a solid season. He shot 46.7% from the field and 38.5% from the 3-point line, and remains a very solid two-way player.

Caldwell-Pope had to sacrifice overall shot attempts (he had averaged 10.3 field-goal attempts in his first six seasons but only 7.3 per game with James and Davis) but he responded by making them more frequently.

He will have an opportunity next season to show more consistency—and the Lakers will need it.

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