According to an ESPN report by Brian Windhorst, the Los Angeles Lakers agreed to sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for $18 million on a one-year contract late Tuesday night.
For Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, Caldwell-Pope serves as the first major free agent acquisition of the newly formed Lakers' front office tandem. Previously, the team had only agreed terms with its rookies and signed an NBA Development League player to an NBA contract.
Most importantly, this contract falls within the parameters set forth by the front office with regards to the goal of not committing to contracts that would still be on the books in one year's time. The Lakers' plan is to go out and get two big free agents in the summer of 2017 with Paul George rumored to be coming to LA and whispers of LeBron James possibly leaving Cleveland growing louder with the Cavaliers' failing to fill front office vacancies and boost the Cavs' roster.
For the upcoming season though, Caldwell-Pope fills multiple needs. He is a 6-foot 5-inch shooting guard that is known for being a strong defender. Also, he has an improving three-point shot. The 24-year-old spent four years in Detroit and made 75 starts for the Pistons during the 2016-17 season.
In his final season in the "Motor City," Caldwell-Pope averaged 13.8 points, 2.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals to go along with 35 percent shooting from beyond the three-point line.
With Caldwell-Pope on the roster, the Lakers likely have a starting lineup in place for opening night of the season: Brook Lopez, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Caldwell-Pope and Lonzo Ball.
Of course, Jordan Clarkson will be in contention for a starting guard spot with Caldwell-Pope, but Clarkson was most often used as a scorer off the bench in Luke Walton's first season on the Lakers' sidelines. As such, Clarkson can likely continue to look for points off the bench with Caldwell-Pope assuming starting duties. Ball's rookie status would benefit from having a strong defensive backcourt mate, so Caldwell-Pope is probably a better fit than Clarkson at the position.
The signing of Caldwell-Pope initially seemed to suggest that the Lakers would no longer be interested in the services of Rajon Rondo, but a report from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski stated that the Lakers were still hopeful of using their $4.3 million exception to sign Rondo.
If the player and the team agree terms, Rondo would likely serve as the point guard of a second unit that features Clarkson, Luol Deng, Larry Nance Jr. and Ivica Zubac. Corey Brewer is also an able body at Walton's disposal off the bench, and add in rookies Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart to the mix, as both have guaranteed contracts.
David Nwaba, though, faces possible being waived in order to sign Caldwell-Pope depending on the exact dollar amount of the contract per NBA salary cap expert Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report and Basketball Insiders. However, even if the Lakers are forced to waive Nwaba, the team could potentially re-sign the defensive-minded shooting guard if he is not claimed by any other team.
Regardless of what happens with Nwaba and even if Rondo does not end up on the Lakers, the signing of Caldwell-Pope played well with the fan base when the news broke. In truth, one would have been hard pressed to find a better fit for the current Lakers' roster than Caldwell-Pope, and the terms fit the team's vision of the future.
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For Johnson and Pelinka, agreeing terms on a one year contract with a young player that can contribute on both ends of the court provides the best case scenario. Now, the question remains on whether Rondo is next.