Since Richard Hamilton packed his bags for Chicago, the Detroit Pistons haven’t had a solid shooting guard on their roster. The spot has been played by a cast of “combo” players who don’t have a skillset that fills a specific position and none of these players has done a particularly great job of filling the role. Some have shown they can be decent contributors at the spot, but nobody has taken the reigns as a starting-caliber shooting guard.
Rodney Stuckey has bounced back and forth, playing average ball in his minutes at both guard positions. Kyle Singler has shown he can score efficiently, but he’s more of a small forward and a role player. Brandon Knight played decently off the ball after Jose Calderon came aboard, but he’s a bit undersized for the position, and wasn’t entirely effective from game to game. Kim English and Corey Maggette hardly played at all. Ben Gordon doesn’t even play in Detroit anymore. Even though it’s been a few seasons, the Pistons are still looking for their replacement for Hamilton. So, when the Pistons drafted Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with the eighth pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, they were hoping they had taken just that.
He will be fighting for minutes with Stuckey and Chauncey Billups this season, but neither of these players appears to be a long-term option for Detroit. So what kind of player will KCP turn out to be? This could be a little bit of a stretch, but I think Joe Dumars is hoping he just drafted a newer model of Richard Hamilton.
It’s easy to project Caldwell-Pope as a “three-and-D” player, something I originally saw him as, but I have since come to realize his game provides much more potential than that. Much like Hamilton had before him, KCP possesses an excellent jump shot, good speed, smooth but not over-the-top athleticism, good size in terms of height, and a solid potential to be a good defender. In fact, while looking at some college statistics, you begin to notice a few similarities. Hamilton got off a few more shots per game than KCP, but they both posted good shooting numbers in the college ranks (Hamilton – 42.6% FG/37.8% 3P/82.6% FT; KCP – 41.5% FG/33.9% 3P/75.2% FT).
It’s apparent that Hamilton was a better shooter, but what the statistics don’t show is that both players could score in a variety of ways. They both shot respectably well from beyond the arc, and this seems to be one of the biggest reasons attributed to why the Pistons drafted Caldwell-Pope. However, it took Hamilton, who posted a better three-point percentage in college, a few years to really develop an effective shot beyond the NBA line. I figure the same will probably happen for KCP. However, Caldwell-Pope appears to be a much better rebounder than Hamilton was, averaging 7.1 RPG last season compared to Hamilton’s 4.5 RPG over the course of his college career, so this could open up avenues of offense that Hamilton typically didn’t see.
Much like Hamilton, KCP showed the ability to hit runners and knock down the mid-range jumper. It’s this part of his game that intrigues me the most. It’s a lost art in the NBA that drives opposing defenses bonkers if you can get these open looks and knock them down consistently. This is where Hamilton made his name – running through screens to find an open spot where he could nail mid-range jumper after mid-range jumper. He was used to controlling the ball at Georgia, but it took Hamilton a while to become the beastly off-the-ball player he was.
KCP could become an excellent defender as well. This was an often overlooked part of Hamilton’s game during his prime. While he wasn’t an elite defender, he was very, very good. It wasn’t just Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince playing defense during their championship run.
While I don’t think we’ll see Caldwell-Pope running around five screens this year, I think we could see a very similar role to the one Hamilton played while in a Pistons jersey. He could become a solid defender with an excellent mid-range game who is at least a respectable deep threat, capable of getting hot from the three-point line. I think it all depends on how he transitions to the NBA. If he can learn to play well off the ball and get used to having a point guard create spots to hit him with an open look, he could develop into Richard Hamilton 2.0.