Saturday, August 4, 2012

Scouting Report: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Height: 6'6''
Weight: 185lbs
Wingspan: 6'5.5''
Bday: 2/18/1993

Team: Georgia
Class of 2015

Caldwell-Pope had high expectations on his shoulders being the first McDonald's All-American to head to Athens since Carlos Strong in 1992, and while he was unable to will them to a winning season, he did show enough to get him into the NBA draft discussion. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's freshman season overall was a successful one, as he met the expectations of a top 20 recruit. He was one of their best players and lead the team in minutes played and steals, while finishing second on the team in point and rebounding.

The first thing I want to touch on is his shooting since it is a large part of his offense. Caldwell-Pope shot less than 40% from the field which is definitely a concerning number. When you look closer, you can see that 56% of Caldwell-Pope's shots were 3 point attempts, which makes him more 3-pt centered than Kim English, Marcus Denmon, CJ Wilcox, Seth Curry, Ashton Gibbs, Bradley Beal, and Darius Miller just to name a few.

So his high 3-pt attempts are a big part of why his overall FG% is so low. The fact that he only made 30% of his threes offers an even better explanation. Caldwell-Pope never stopped firing threes all season long even though hi 3-pt% was never above 34%. To finish the season, Caldwell-Pope went on a 8-44 drought.

Caldwell-Pope has always been known as a shooter and looks the part. He does a great job of setting his feet and squaring up to the hoop. His quick release aids his chucking ways, allowing him to get shots off with even the slightest bit of space. Pope took a lot of early threes last year, pulling up in transition and whenever he had room. Despite him missing tons of them, Caldwell-Pope's confidence never wavered. While his unconscious shooting can be seen as a bad thing, he does have the ideal shooter's mentality. Caldwell-Pope is a good shooter - that part of his game will come around.

I did see a more than a couple of times where Caldwell-Pope offered up air balls from 3-pt range. Right now, he has plenty of range but he needs to adjust to the college 3-pt line. Inside the arc, Caldwell-Pope's jumper was just as pure and even more reliable. Caldwell-Pope struggles to create space for his own shot, but if you overplay him, he does have a good first step and the ability to shoot off the dribble. He doesn't get to the rim very often, but he does a great job of getting squared up on the fly and hitting mid-range jumpers. He can move laterally out of the defenses' way or drive to the foul line area and pull up with a slight fade to create enough room for his jumper. He isn't the kind of guy who is going to cross you up and dribble the ball excessively, but he can use the dribble to get to spots on the floor he feels comfortable at.

His 2-pt% is actually solid for a guy who rarely gets to the rim. He shot over 50% inside the arc, making him slightly above average for a shooting guard. Considering all the long 2s he took, it is a testament to his pure shooting ability. Pope isn't a trained 3-pt shooter, he is a guy who can hit from all over. 

One problem Caldwell-Pope will have to overcome is his short arms. His wingspan measured about equal length to his height at around 6'6'' this summer. With his quick release and good elevation, Caldwell-Pope has already eliminated his short arm problem when it comes to affecting his shooting. He also has shown a turnaround jumper when posting up and fades back on his mid-range jumpers. When he finishes, Caldwell-Pope is explosive and finishes strong, often with dunks. He also does a good job of gathering himself and staying under control. He does everything he can on offense to prevent his lack of length get in the way.

Defensively, his lack of length doesn't appear to bother him either but it does limit who he can guard. With only a 6'6'' wingspan, it makes him strictly a shooting guard at the next level. Thats unfortunate because he is a very good defender who could be used as a teams primary wing defender in the future. The fact that he doesn't have the length to cover a lot of small forwards is disappointing. He may be able to make up for it with his toughness and tenacity on defense. Caldwell-Pope guards his man like his life depends on it at all times. He plays physical, possesses great lateral quickness, and had excellent awareness and energy for a guy who was only 18 for much of the season. He also did a great job helping off his man to stop penetration and his rebounding was phenomenal for a guard. He was second on the team in rebounding and ranked 10th out of all shooting guards in rebounds per 40 minutes. The only freshman who ranked above him was Bradley Beal, who played in a four guard offense while Caldwell-Pope played on a more traditional team.

As a shooter, it is a great sign for Caldwell-Pope's stock that he is willing to contribute to the team in other areas. There are plenty of guys who can shoot so everything you can do to stick out helps your case. Shooters success often depends on the situation the are placed in and that is why they generally don't go in the lottery. Caldwell-Pope has an uphill battle to prove that he is more valuable than other shooters and warrants a top 20 selection in the draft.

I also observed some other little things about his game that the numbers don't show. He has low assists numbers (but does have a positive A/TO ratio) since he can't create shots for himself much less anyone else, but he is a good passer. He is able to thread passes in between defenders while rarely making mistakes. Off the ball, Caldwell-Pope works hard to get open off screens and as I said before, is very quick to square his shoulders to the basket. He also can use on-ball screens to move laterally around for cleaner looks on his jumper. He likely will never be a guy to split defenders on picks, but he is able to use them to his advantage. He also does a good job of cutting to the hoop when the opportunity presents itself. In transition, Caldwell-Poope does show that he has adequate handle and is actually very fast with the ball.

He seems like a good character guy and student. He has the right attitude to be a complimentary wing player either off the bench or next to a high volume scorer. Caldwell-Pope isn't a franchise changer at the NBA level or even really at the college level, as you saw with Georgia's record, but he can turn into an important role player down the line on a good team. He brings a lot of things besides his shooting to the table. It would be nice to see him shoot a higher % from 3 this season because two straight seasons of bad shooting numbers would force anyone to revisit their assumption that he is a good shooter. I, of course, expect that his 3-pt percentage will be improved. Some draft sites have his stock as high as the lottery, but I think a more realistic projection would be the late teens to the mid-20s. Caldwell-Pope will be an interesting player to follow this season and is always a fun player to watch.

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