If you watched Detroit Pistons shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope last season, you saw a guy that was hesitant and inconsistent in his first year as a pro.
When he was selected with the eighth pick in the 2013 draft, a collective moan erupted from Pistons fans because of the guy Detroit passed up (Trey Burke, former Michigan Wolverine and local favorite). Often criticized in his rookie season, Caldwell-Pope enters this upcoming season with a chip on his shoulder.
During the NBA summer league last month, the 21-year-old used those games in Orlando to showcase the multitude of areas he has improved on.
Caldwell-Pope not only scored a lot, but did it in a variety of ways. Spot up shots, driving to the lane, floaters, dunks, etc. to lead all summer scorers with a 24-point average. He defended well, which he usually does, and in general showed a breed of confidence that he often lacked in the past.
In the last game of the regular season against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he finally had his breakout game of the year scoring 30 points and did it in ways we didn’t see from him during the year. It was a new Caldwell-Pope that showed no fear and a flash of why he was the eighth overall pick. Some dismissed the game as “meaningless,” since it was the season finale, but it wasn’t meaningless at all considering OKC played their starters and had the No. 2 seed in the Western conference at stake.
It was important for Caldwell-Pope to end the regular season on a high note. And it looks like he carried that over into the summer league. Suddenly, heading into the 2014-15 season, there are legitimate expectations for him to take a huge step in his sophomore year.
He’ll have competition for a starting job though, with the recent free agent signing of SG Jodie Meeks, who the Pistons inked to a three-year, $19 million contract.
But if he continues his progression, it’ll be hard for anyone on the Pistons roster to bump him out of a starting gig.