On Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers made the signing of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope official, though the way the sports world works these days, the news had leaked and been reported a couple days earlier.
Still, Caldwell-Pope signed on the dotted line and featured in a no. 1 Lakers' jersey on social media on Thursday, as the 6-foot 5-inch guard takes over the number vacated by D'Angelo Russell, who was traded to Brooklyn ahead of the 2017 NBA Draft.
Caldwell-Pope's arrival is heralded as an astute signing for the franchise that is pinning its hopes on attracting two marquee free agents in the summer of 2018. Caldwell-Pope's one year contract reportedly worth $18 million allows the Lakers to add a piece that fits on the court and also fits in the organization's future financial plans.
As an added bonus, the defensive-minded shooting guard shares agent Rich Paul with LeBron James, and the Lakers have been rumored to be interested in bringing James to LA as one of those two premier free agents in the summer of 2018. Obviously, 29 other teams share that interest, but the Lakers appear to be legitimate contenders if James opts to leave Cleveland for a second time as a professional.
While Caldwell-Pope's signing may not be a direct indication of the Lakers' chances with James, the fact that Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson got a deal done with James' agent certainly is not a negative signal to potentially putting James in a purple and gold jersey. In a sense, the Lakers not have a not to subtle line into James' ear.
In the short term, though, Caldwell-Pope fits the needs of the team as a defensive-minded guard that is improving on his three-point shooting. With rookie sensation Lonzo Ball distributing, Caldwell-Pope should get a look at open shots that help his long range percent, and conversely, Caldwell-Pope should assist the rookie on the opposite end of the court, where rookies tend to struggle in the NBA.
Beyond Caldwell-Pope, the Lakers also announced the signing of Alex Caruso, who is one of the standouts of the Lakers' Summer League team in Las Vegas. Caruso signed a two-way contract, which stipulates that the 23-year-old Texan can not spend more than 45 days with the Lakers during the newly re-branded G-League season.
As such, Caruso will feature prominently on the also newly re-branded South Bay Lakers but will also be available to come up and experience life in the NBA without taking up any of the Lakers' 15 regular season roster spots. LA can hand out one more two-way contract, which is a new phenomenon in a league that is growing its minor league system by encouraging teams to utilize their G-League affiliates and earn two extra roster spots.
With Thursday's two signings, the Lakers' roster is now at 12 full time players and one two-way player, and rookie Thomas Bryant remains unsigned. The 19-year-old Bryant expects to end up as a two-way player, as his age and status in the draft suggest he was likely selected as an asset for the future rather than the present.
In order to make the required space to sign Caldwell-Pope, the Lakers had to waive guard David Nwaba, and if the guard clears waivers, LA would likely look to re-sign the 24-year-old and push the regular season roster up to 13 players. With point guard Tyler Ennis, who finished the previous season with the Lakers, unsigned and available, LA could quickly jump up to 14 players and all but complete its summer dealings.
As it stands, though, the Lakers now have hit the salary cap with 12 players signed to the regular season roster and one two-way player slot filled up.