Season Recap/Notes: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

If you missed it, you can read Reggie Jackson's recap right here.

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If you want to follow along with any stats, here is the basketball reference page for KCP.Any stats that are not readily available there will be linked or otherwise stated within the post.

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The Good:

KCP came into the season a bit of a question, he had shown some flashes of hope for his potential in his second season, but they were mostly just flashes. But this season he changed some of them from being flashes to every night production. And I have to start with the defensive end. KCP took a really big step as a defender this season, regularly taking on opposing PGs and smothering them. The way he is able to move right in line with a ball handler is mesmerizing and just straight up fun. Anyone who is a good enough defender that it is legitimately fun to watch them on that end is pretty special. He is still not quite the cream of the crop, occasionally navigating screens poorly and the like, but they are things that will come with more experience. Everyone talked about his potential to be a force playing defense on the perimeter, and he should get a lot of credit for fulfilling that potential because far too many guys get hyped as such a player and never really get there. I have often been hard on KCP this season, and later in the post even I will be kind of hard on him. But make no mistake, this guy can play defense and he is an absolute joy to watch on that end. On offense the story is not as triumphant, however there is certainly some good. First off, he started taking the right steps of turning his awesome defense into easy offense for himself. He was, at times, almost frighteningly fast with his ability to get a steal and speed into transition for an easy layup or dunk. He could still stand to make a better decisions when guys actually get back to defend his fastbreaks, but that is not much of a worry. His relentless attempts to run was very important at times for the Pistons.

Last season his biggest weakness was his total inability to score the ball inside the arc, while he is not exactly effective inside, he did show improvements in that area. He had a few decent tricks to get himself good looks, but his favorite was to get a screen and then pull up for a midrange jumper. He showed some more ability in going to the hoop, but he still was not very eager to attack it. And while it is true that his best move (the screen for a jumper) was not exactly a deadly weapon, it was a fairly reliable one when the offense stalled or just needed something other than another Jackson/Drummond PnR.

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The Bad:

Pretty much anything having to do with half court offense. A lot of people have made the point that he has improved his offense every year in the NBA, and while his TS% went up this season courtesy of his uptick in inside scoring, almost all of his offensive numbers were actually worse this season. He averaged more points, shots, assists, and rebounds than before in his career, but that is actually just because he played an absurd amount of minutes. His per 36 numbers actually didn't hardly move at all, he actually averaged less points and shots per 36 than last season. And while his uptick in overall efficiency is good, a pretty fair amount of that can actually be attributed to his fast break scoring. A lot of his extra efficiency and scoring inside the arc is from that. And while that does mean something, it somewhat masks the fact that KCP made almost no real offensive improvement (the fastbreak points are really a product of his defense. And FWIW, I don't know exactly how to quantify that for his offensive value. I've thought about it a lot. Because creating fastbreak points is a skill, and a very valuable one. But because his best fastbreak production is on true breakaways, and he seemed to struggle a bit more when opposing defenses got back, I'm going to mostly put his fastbreak scoring as a defensive positive. But regardless, I am not ignoring the fastbreak stuff, its valuable.) this season, and by some measures he even went backwards. Most notably, his shooting fell off a cliff. He ended the season shooting just 30.9% from 3. That is actually really bad and was a real issue for the Pistons this season. Especially given that he shot almost 5 3s per game. He also made no improvements as a passer/facilitator either, which was not a very good sign.

It is also difficult to be too critical of KCP's defense, but he was proven to still have the issue of not being big enough to really hang with big wing scorers. I don't know if he could (or should even) bulk up enough to bang with the likes of LeBron, or even Jimmy Butler/DeMar DeRozan, and it was not a very big issue, but it was one at times. He can lock down most guys on the perimeter, but when it came to big, physical scorers he would struggle. And that is a drawback.

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Biggest Answer?

Defense. Defense. Defense. He had shown the potential for being a really good defensive player, but he still had too many faults to be too good. This season he cut out almost all of those faults and can be put among the best perimeter defenders in basketball. That is a big time accomplishment. Dude clearly put in the work.

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Biggest Question?

Half court offense. I have some hope for him here, because by every right he should be a decent shooter. (Whether just looking at his stroke, what he was billed as coming out of college, or what coach types say.) But as of now, he is pretty mediocre at everything on offense. And I say mediocre in the true sense of the word. Not horrible, but not good. (Other than his facilitating. That is straight up bad.) If he can manage to get even one of the things from mediocre to good, i.e. Shoot 35+% from 3, become a sniper on those pull up jumpers, learn to really attack the hoop and draw fouls, then he is a pretty killer two way role player. And given that he is well known as a stupid hard worker, I have faith that he can take one of the many things he is mediocre at, and make a decent improvement in. If he can manage to improve his offense then he is going to be somewhere between solid starter and outside all star. (depending on how much he improves. And outside all star is someone like Mike Conley, who is really good but not all star level good.) And FWIW, even if he makes no improvements to his offensive game, he is still a real solid role player.

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Verdict for this year and beyond?

It's awesome to know that the Pistons have (if they want to keep him at least, which all signs would point to happening) a truly awesome defensive player in their young core. And he had a brilliant defensive campaign. His offense was kind of worrying, just because I kept waiting for him to hit a hot stretch and pull himself up (ala Marcus Morris) but it never really happened. But I am not overly worried about his offense going forwards. Most every basketball mind that I respect says he will figure out his shooting, and he is still young enough to improve in other areas of his offense as well. If he can shoot into the mid 30s and make small improvements to the rest of his game then he is a awesome starting SG. Overall it was a nice year for KCP, not a breakout year by any stretch, but it was a very nice one.

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BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PLAYOFFS HE SHOT SO WELL?

He played 76 games in the regular season and could not quite even bust 31%. Also, given that the Cavs were choosing to give him wide open looks in order to double Reggie out of the PnR, he better have shot well. (Dito for Marcus Morris on the second point.)

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What do you think? What's the best thing you saw from KCP? What about the worst? Let me know! We all get smarter!

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Also, if you want to follow along with my travels in China, or donate to my gofundme. Those links are at the bottom of the Reggie Jackson post which is linked back at the beginning of this one