According to recent rumors, the Houston Rockets are very interested in trading for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Here are three ways he could help the team.
The Washington Wizards quickly scooped up Trevor Ariza after the Suns made him available on the trade market, so he won’t make a reunion with the Houston Rockets this season. Kelly Oubre Jr., a potential target for the Rockets, was dealt to the Suns, so he’s likely out of the discussion too.
However, the Lakers are looking for a home for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the Rockets are interested in acquiring his services. According to The New York Times’ Marc Stein, Caldwell-Pope is currently Houston’s “top target” for help on the wing.
Caldwell-Pope actually has the ability to veto any trade, but he is expected to agree to a trade to Houston if the two teams can work out a deal.
Caldwell-Pope has averaged 9.1 points per game this year, the lowest scoring output since his rookie season. However, he has received more playing time recently and is averaging 12.0 points on 37 percent shooting from 3-point range in his last 10 games. When Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo return to the Lakers’ back court, there won’t be many minutes left for KCP. Los Angeles would be smart to trade him now while his value is possibly at its peak for the season, assuming the Lakers remain relatively healthy.
Caldwell-Pope certainly won’t fix all of Houston’s problems, but he brings a skill set that could certainly help make the Rockets a deeper and more well-rounded team. Here are three reasons to trade for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Next: No. 3
3. Kentavious Caldwell Pope gets most of his points from behind the 3-point line
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been a reliable scorer for most of his career. LeBron James‘ arrival in LA and increased depth has cut into Caldwell-Pope’s production this season, but the 25-year-old has averaged 13.9 points per game over his previous three seasons.
Caldwell Pope’s game naturally lends itself to Houston’s system, because he scores the majority of his points from behind the 3-point line. Last season, KCP averaged 6.3 points per game from downtown and 5 points per game from two-pointers. This season, he’s averaging 4.5 points from 3-point range and 2.8 points on buckets scored inside the arc, with the rest of his points coming from the free throw line.
Assuming KCP gets heavy minutes in Houston, he will be on the receiving end of a lot of passes from James Harden and Chris Paul. All he has to do is knock down his open 3-pointers and drive to the basket and finish when the opportunity presents itself and he’ll fit in fine with Houston’s system.
Next: No. 2
2. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a solid defender
When it comes to defense, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope won’t be an exact replacement for someone like Luc Mbah a Moute, but KCP definitely gets after it on defense.
At 6-foot-5, Caldwell-Pope has the size to defend any two guard and the agility to stay with quicker point guards. Caldwell-Pope is definitely versatile enough to adopt to Houston’s switch defense without being taken advantage of.
Houston’s defense has improved over this four game winning streak, but the Rockets still rank just 27th in the NBA in defensive rating after finishing seventh last season. Parting ways with Carmelo Anthony and re-hiring Jeff Bzdelik has helped a bit, but this team just doesn’t have the personnel to defend at a high level. KCP could be one of the first steps towards building a roster around more defensive minded players.
Even if Caldwell-Pope doesn’t average double-digit points if he’s traded to the Rockets, he can still contribute on the defensive end. Even with all of the injuries and the players Houston has lost, the Rockets are still ranked fifth in offensive rating. The Rockets primarily need additional defenders, not more scorers.
Next: No. 1
1. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is an upgrade over Houston’s current backup guards
Perhaps Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be most helpful to the Rockets as simply a bench player the team can rely on. Houston’s bench has struggled mightily this season and Mike D’Antoni‘s decision to make Eric Gordon a permanent starter has obviously exacerbated the problem.
In fact, Houston’s bench is by far the worst in the NBA. The Rockets’ bench is dead last in points, field goal percentage, rebounds, assists (they average just more than half the assists of the second worst bench) and steals. The Rockets also have the fourth worst 3-point shooting bench in the league. To say Houston’s bench unit has struggled this season would be an understatement.
Again, Caldwell-Pope has proven for most of his career that he can average double-digit scoring. He’s the perfect 3-and-D player for a team like the Rockets. As a young veteran, he’ll also add a lot of depth to a team that has either depended on bench players that are too young and inexperienced or over the hill.
Gerald Green has struggled all season long. Brandon Knight is working his way back into the NBA after not playing for more than a year. Gary Clark contributed earlier in the season, but he currently can’t even crack the rotation on the league’s worst bench. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would be the most well-rounded player on Houston’s second unit and he would be a dependable player night in and night out.