Ex-Lakers Starter Traded to Contender: Report

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Getty Former Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is being traded to the Nuggets.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope played a critical role in the Los Angeles Lakers’ championship run during the 2019-20 season and the veteran is now headed back to the Western Conference. After spending last season with the Wizards, Caldwell-Pope along with Ish Smith is being traded to the Nuggets in exchange for Will Barton and Monte Morris. Caldwell-Pope moves back into playing a key role on a title contender in Denver.

“Washington is finalizing a trade to acquire Denver’s Will Barton and Monte Morris for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith, sources tell ESPN,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted on June 29, 2022.

Caldwell-Pope spent four seasons with the Lakers, including two years as a starter, averaging 11.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists and one steal while shooting 37.8% from the three-point line. The guard averaged 13.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals while shooting 39% from the three-point line during his 77 starts with Washington last season.

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Caldwell-Pope on Lakers Trade: ‘I Guess It Was Time for Me to Move On’

Last June, the Lakers traded Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and No. 22 pick in the 2021 NBA draft to the Wizards for Russell Westbrook. Los Angeles general manager Rob Pelinka may never admit it publicly, but the front office would probably sign off on a do-over for the blockbuster trade. Caldwell-Pope noted that he has “no hard feelings” about the Lakers trading him but now the guard will play for his third team in three seasons.

“I felt like it was a great opportunity that it was going to happen because of who they were getting,” Caldwell-Pope said on March 10, per NBA.com. “So, I figured it would happen. Then it did. I was right. I didn’t think too much of it. I guess it was time for me to move on.”

The Lakers Remain Committed to Keeping Westbrook for 2022-23

As expected, Westbrook exercised his player option for the final year of his current deal which cements his $47 million salary for the 2022-23 season. Westbrook’s long-term future with the Lakers remains uncertain as the point guard will be a free agent in 2023, but this offseason Los Angeles has reinforced their commitment to the veteran for another year. Despite plenty of trade chatter, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the Lakers would like to see how Westbrook performs under new head coach Darvin Ham.

“His future is in LA,” Charania explained during a June 28 appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show.” “The Lakers want to see this work this upcoming season from everything I’ve been told. There’ve been different trade scenarios that have been thrown out, I guess speculated on. But with the new coach Darvin Ham, I really believe this front office group, this management group, the coaching staff, Russell Westbrook, they all want this to work.”

Unless another team surprisingly makes a run at Westbrook, the Lakers appear poised to attempt to build around the guard along with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. According to The Athletic’s Jovan Buha, the Lakers are exploring ways to add more two-way wings in free agency.

“With free agency less than 48 hours away, the Lakers are focusing on two-way wings, according to league sources,” Buha wrote on June 28. “Most of the hypothetical scenarios for their taxpayer midlevel exception have been centered on signing a wing or two who could come in and start next to James and Davis. The Lakers believe a player with the right mix of 3-point shooting and multi-positional defense can help strengthen the James-Davis-Westbrook lineups, which opponents outscored by 3.0 points per 100 possessions last season, according to Cleaning the Glass.”