A few weeks ago, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was in line for a max, or close-to-max, offer sheet that the Pistons would surely match. But on Friday, the Pistons renounced Caldwell-Pope’s rights after a trade for Avery Bradley. He is coming off arguably the best season of his young career, but somehow he is still the Biggest NBA Offseason Loser.
The prospect of KCP taking a $20-million-per-year offer seemed inevitable. Just over a week ago, the Pistons were reportedly "bracing" for an offer sheet from the Nets. Sources told Marc Stein that Brooklyn had its eyes on Caldwell-Pope and Otto Porter Jr. Even with their financial issues — the Pistons momentarily hit the hard cap this offseason — they were expected to match any offer KCP might take. The only other players on their roster with experience playing shooting guard were recent draft pick Luke Kennard, Stanley Johnson, and the since-departed Darrun Hilliard. Matching any KCP offers made sense for the roster.
Then the Pistons made a series of moves that seemed curious if they planned to keep KCP. Last Saturday, they signed Langston Galloway to a three-year, $21 million contract. Then, Friday morning, the Pistons acquired Bradley in a deal that sent Marcus Morris to Boston, allowing the Celtics to clear cap space for their new star, Gordon Hayward. With Bradley, Detroit no longer felt forced to match KCP’s forthcoming offers, and renounced the 24-year-old’s rights.
Now, Caldwell-Pope faces an uncertain future. His most obvious suitors would have been the Nets, but they are locked in on Porter, and the other teams with cap space and a hole at the 2 have already made moves. Philadelphia signed J.J. Redick, Miami locked down Dion Waiters, and the Knicks offered Tim Hardaway Jr. $71 million over four years. Those deals should have set the market for Caldwell-Pope. Instead, they left him without options. As it stands, if the Wizards don’t match Brooklyn’s offer for Porter, KCP’s best-case scenario might be in Los Angeles, where ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting the Lakers might be willing to offer him a high-paying one-year deal.
The market for shooting guards isn’t what it used to be. On Thursday, Brad Stevens laid out the realities of the modern NBA. "I don’t have the five positions anymore," he said. "It may be as simple as three positions now … you’re either a ball handler, a wing, or a big." There are only a handful of 2s in the league who can command top dollar, and it seems like Caldwell-Pope isn’t one of them. At 6-foot-5, he’s too short to guard small forwards, and his ballhandling skills aren’t good enough for him to run the point. Bradley, his replacement, is versatile enough to lead an offense, even if he’ll likely face an offseason that mirrors KCP’s next year.
Last summer, Dion Waiters made a choice. He tested the waters in free agency, figuring he was due for a big pay day. As wings and ball handlers came off the board, the Thunder rescinded his $6.8 million qualifying offer, and Waiters took a two-year, $5.9 million deal from the Heat. Waiters took the deal, and it paid off. His performance this season led to a four-year, $52 million offer from Miami. KCP might be that lucky — he could sign for cheap and have a great year. But in the new NBA, even that might not be enough.