A Comprehensive Look at Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's Contract situation

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Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

The Pistons are looking to extend the contract of KCP before the late October deadline. This is my attempt to try and look at it from all sides and give a good view of it. Keep in mind that this is almost totally in theory as I obviously have no sources in the situation.

Where are they at right now?

They are in talks, but those talks have not gone anywhere substantial as far as we know. KCP is looking for an offer in the $20 million per year range, and the Pistons are currently looking for something in the range of $15 million per year, and they are both negotiating from there. One thing to keep in mind is that given the Pistons salary situation, for the first 2 years of the extension, the only person who it really matters to is the Pistons owner Tom Gores. KCP only needs about 9 million per year to put the Pistons over the projected cap, so they will be over anyways for the first 2 years of any extension, it is beyond that where his salary could potentially cause issues.

From KCP's perspective?

For KCP, he is absolutely right to stand pat at $20 million per year, and there is not a whole lot of reason to go below that. Even though Kent Bazemore took less money to stay with the Hawks, he had a $20 million per year offer and Bazemore is a fairly comparable player to KCP. Bazemore is more complete and had a better season last year, but KCP figures to improve more into a rock solid two-way wing and there is a decent chance that KCP can end up being better than Bazemore, he certainly has a higher ceiling. Throw in the deals Allen Crabbe, and Tyler Johnson, both of whom are even less proven than KCP and the market was set pretty effectively this past offseason.

The counter is that this offseason was unique with the sudden cap jump, most everyone would admit that many of the deals given out were at least slight overpays but they had the money so whatever. The Cap will make another jump next year, but not as much, and with the contracts given out this offseason there will be less teams with space, fortunately for KCP, the crop of wings that will be on the market is thinner next year. Even better news for KCP is that the Nets didn't get any of their offer sheets to land, and the Sixers still look to be in need of more wing players. KCP can hold the possibility of Brooklyn making an absurd offer sheet over the Pistons heads for the next couple of months.

In the end, I don't see much reason for him to go much below $20 million per year, with the only reason being if he wanted to give a hometown discount (similar to Kent Bazemore) because for him to get less than $15 million per year on the open market it would require an absolute disaster season. As in he gets hurt and misses a lot of time early in the season, and when he returns he looks seriously bad, and KCP has been an absolute tank so far in his career so that doesn't seem to be very likely.

From the Pistons perspective?

Just like KCP, the Pistons would be foolish to move much from their current stance of a $15 million per year offer. More than anything else they can stand pat knowing that there is very little risk to the team. The reality is that KCP in his current form is a very flawed player, he has not proven he can shoot with any reliability and his half court offense, in general, is mediocre in every area. Simply put, he is not a good offensive player, not a bad one, but not much good.

Obviously, KCP makes his living primarily on the defensive end of the court, but even under the new cap, you don't pay $20 million per year for a guy who is essentially a 1-way player. Even though he is not terribly likely to make no improvements on offense, it should not be assumed that he will figure out his shooting. The Pistons are very likely to stand firm, and if KCP stands just as firm at his spot the Pistons can simply say “Ok, if you think you are worth $20 million per year, go and earn it this season.” And if he does, then they can pay him his money and all is well.

The only threat for them is Brooklyn (or someone else) giving an insane offer sheet that is a clear overpay leaving the Pistons in a poor situation where they way overpay for KCP, or end up with an inferior player. If another team were to give a huge offer it would be an interesting situation for the Pistons and I would guess they would be likely to match it since they are in a similar situation to the Cavs with Tristan Thompson last offseason where they may be overpaying for him (even if that doesn't look like an overpay with the new cap) but because they are capped out, they can only afford to replace him with an inferior player to KCP, even if it is a better value deal.

Combine that with that the Pistons have their roster locked in for the next 3 seasons other than KCP, including all the other starters and their (theoretical) top 4 bench guys already under contract for that time, it would not hurt them to overpay him for the first 2 years of the deal. The problem comes with after the first 2 years, where most of the Pistons roster will become free agents, and having less space will be a problem.

In the end, the Pistons don't seem to have much reason to offer him the bigger contract he is looking for, even the worst case scenario won't hurt them hugely, and there is a good chance they can save some money.

Is there another option here?

Yes. And this is one that I have to believe the camps are discussing because it just makes too much sense. Once again, it matters to no one but Tom Gores how much KCP makes over his first 2 years on the new deal (and Gores has said he is willing to dig deep into his pockets) and the Pistons really want to keep him. So there is a good chance that KCP signs a 2 year deal with some absurd amount going up towards $50 million. It theoretically works for both sides, KCP gets to be paid as though he made the leap to become Jimmy Butler, while getting 2 more years to try and actually become Jimmy Butler. The Pistons then get to keep this group together for the next 3 years and see what they can do, and they keep tons of flexibility to make the hard decisions when all of their other guys become free agents.

The only downside for KCP is that there is a bit less security with the shorter deal, and for the Pistons is that if KCP does become Jimmy Butler, they will regret not locking him down for longer.

If both sides would like a longer deal, they could potentially get KCP his big payday, while maintaining cap flexibility for the future. When someone is signed to a 5-year deal worth $100 million, that does not actually mean that he makes $20 million per year. The Pistons could front-load the deal heavily and bring his salary way down when they need the cap space, so, for instance, they could sign him to a 4 year, $80 million deal, and pay him ~$25 million the first two years, and ~$15 million the second two. KCP gets his payday, while the Pistons have him on a more cap friendly deal when they need to pay all of the other guys.

And FWIW, I don't know which one of these the camps would prefer. I would guess the team would prefer a longer contract purely based on the other moves they have made, but for KCP, I have no idea what he would prefer, just something to keep in mind.

Lets say the Pistons let him walk, what would the backup plan be?

The best argument for being really hardline with KCP is Stanley Johnson, who may well end up being better than KCP, and also could be very good as a SG. The problem with Stanley Johnson is that he has similar issues with not being proven as a shooter or generally on the offensive side of the ball. His potential is sky high, but there is no guarantee that he reaches it. For every LeBron James there is a Jeff Green, it is entirely possible that Stanley Johnson never really puts it together (and ditto for KCP). If the Pistons want to bet on Stanley Johnson though, the question basically becomes one of Marcus Morris vs. KCP, given that Johnson is likely to take the starting spot of one of those 2 at some point.

Beyond Johnson, Reggie Bullock is a bit of a wild card in the whole situation. For the majority of his 3 years in the NBA he has been pretty poor, but over a 20 game stretch to close the season last year he was absolute fire from deep and was damn near the only thing keeping the Pistons bench above water while Stanley Johnson struggled to come back from a shoulder injury. If he were to come out and shoot over 40% from 3 next year and do all of the other goodies he showed, then KCP potentially becomes much more expendable, especially if KCP continues to struggle to shoot the ball. But the Pistons should certainly not be counting on him to fill a big hole until he proves that he can play well over a larger sample size.

So what is the verdict?

Unless they find a goofy 2 year or front-loaded deal I don't see them finding a deal before next offseason, it just makes more sense for both sides. If they do come to an agreement, even if it is an overpay, it would not be too bad because KCP is a solid young player and it is never a bad thing to keep those around for an extended period even if it isn't at great value. If Reggie Bullock and/or Stanley Johnson balls out this season then the situation would change drastically, but if KCP plays well and neither Bullock or Johnson shows marked improvement, then the situation swings in favor of KCP in a huge way. A lot will depend on the next season, and that is really one of the biggest reasons that it just makes more sense for both sides to wait.

What do you think? What would you pay KCP? Will someone else step up? Let me know! We all get smarter!