Key Lakers Vet Plans to Decline Player Option & Hit Free Agency: Report

Getty Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hugging Alex Caruso.

It hasn’t taken long for Los Angeles Lakers rumors to start swirling after winning their 17th championship. Fresh off the reports that Anthony Davis plans to re-sign with the team and Rajon Rondo’s plans to opt-out of his contract, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s contract situation has come front and center. He has a player option so he has the ability to opt-out and hit free agency.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, that’s exactly what the veteran plans to do:

After establishing himself as a key player heading into next season, Caldwell-Pope is expected to decline his $8.5 million player option, sources said. There’s significant mutual interest between Caldwell-Pope and the Lakers, but there will be some external suitors. A team such as Atlanta — searching for productive veterans around All-Star Trae Young — could emerge with interest.

Caldwell-Pope emerged as one of the Lakers’ most important roles players during the NBA Finals and averaged 16 points a game over the last three games. It’s clear that he’s an important member of the team and the Lakers should do what they can to keep him.

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KCP Could Still Stay in Los Angeles

Just because Caldwell-Pope is opting out doesn’t mean that he’s going anywhere. He’s been with the Lakers for three years now and stuck through a couple of the bad years. He’s one of the longest-tenured players on the roster right now.

One thing that might keep him from wanting to return is that he’s not likely to keep a starting job should he stay on the roster. He only started 26 regular-season games for the team last season and that was when Avery Bradley couldn’t play. His performance in the Finals could mean the Lakers plan for him to be a full-time starter next season but they might also want somebody who brings a bigger defensive presence on the roster.

The Lakers will likely want to keep him but he should have plenty of interested teams this offseason. While it would’ve been a nice gesture for him to opt-in to his player option, he’s probably going to make more money now.

Lakers Have More Likely Free Agents

Outside of Caldwell-Pope, Bradley and JaVale McGee also have player options. There hasn’t been word on what those two plan to do but it wouldn’t be surprising if they both opted out. McGee saw his role reduced significantly in the playoffs. He went from starting 68 games in the regular season to not even playing a game in the NBA Finals while Dwight Howard took his spot.

Speaking of Howard, he’s a free agent and it’s not a foregone conclusion he stays in Los Angeles. Charania reported that the Golden State Warriors could try to land him. If the Lakers lose both McGee and Howard, they’re going to have to find another center. DeMarcus Cousins would make the most sense. He was with the team last year and is currently a free agent.

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