By: Sam Ekstrom | KFAN.com
In a series of posts leading up to the NBA Draft, I’ll be analyzing several players who would fit well with the Wolves. In case you missed it, here is the first article on Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum.
Today’s Prospect: KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL-POPE
If the Wolves stay put with pick No. 9—emphasis on the ‘if’—then Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (“KCP”), a two-year player at the University of Georgia, should draw heavy consideration.
Caldwell-Pope took a huge leap offensively between his freshman and sophomore campaigns, which caused him to shoot up draft boards. Take a look:
2011-2012: 13.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.2 APG; 40/30/65 (FG/3P/FT)
2012-2013: 18.5 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.8 APG; 43/37/80 (FG/3P/FT)
Focus more on the percentage splits than the per-game averages. Because KCP was asked to singlehandedly carry the anemic Georgia offense, his usage was extremely high (13.4 field goal attempts per game). But unlike his freshman season, Caldwell-Pope sustained his quality jump-shooting throughout the conference season and earned SEC Player of the Year honors.
KCP has all the tools to be a great defender, which will be an added bonus for any team drafting him strictly for his offense. He stands at 6’6”, 200 pounds and has a wingspan of 6’8”. His length is a great asset when defending one-on-one, but he’ll need to work on sticking with offensive players as they move without the ball.
Caldwell-Pope struggles to finish at the rim, but did double his free-throw attempts during his sophomore season. Over 50% of KCP’s field-goal attempts were three-pointers as a sophomore, which is a concern if he struggles adjusting to the longer NBA three-point shot.
The 20-year-old will be forced to add a dribble-drive to his game if he wants to flourish at the professional level and earn respect from perimeter defenders. Caldwell-Pope’s height in college allowed him to settle for jumpers over smaller defenders—a strategy that won’t work nearly as much in the NBA. The first step will be to improve his ball-handling.
The consensus on Caldwell-Pope is that his ceiling is blurry, mostly due to the fact that he played on such a poor college team. His tendency to shoot lots of low-percentage outside shots looks bad on a scouting report, but is likely a side-effect of having to shoulder one-third of the scoring load on his team.
The per-game averages are obviously strong, but can they transfer from a bad team in a bad conference to the National Basketball Association? Also, can Caldwell-Pope accept a lesser scoring role, hone his shot selection, and be content as a swingman, at least in the beginning of his career? It’s hard to say.
If the Timberwolves have their heart set on filling their shooting-guard needs with No. 9, the choice is probably between McCollum, Caldwell-Pope, and Shabazz Muhammad. All offer plenty of promise, but McCollum, a four-year college player, seems like less of a project, while KCP may take significant time to find a comfort zone. We’ll evaluate Muhammad next time, but he appears to be in the same boat.
An aging Rick Adelman wants to win immediately. Does he really want to take the time to mold a raw talent like KCP when McCollum is already more well-rounded? Caldwell-Pope is intriguing, but the Wolves are likely playing for Kevin Love’s next contract. They want somebody who can make a more immediate impact.