The uncommon financial journey of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Denver Nuggets recent acquisition, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) controls the ball against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half at Arena on 9 Mar. 2022. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
Denver Nuggets recent acquisition, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) controls the ball against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half at Arena on 9 Mar. 2022. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports) /

After trading for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope this offseason, the Denver Nuggets doubled down on their commitment, signing the wing to a two-year, $30 million extension. Following years of taking short-term deals, this final extension proves that he made the right choice all those seasons ago.

In 2017, KCP was coming off his fourth-and-final season of the rookie-scale deal he signed with the Detroit Pistons. In 76 appearances, the wing averaged 13.8 points per game while shooting 35 percent from the 3-point line on 5.8 attempts a night. He was a solid role player for a rebuilding Detroit team.

Entering free agency, the Pistons offered Caldwell-Pope a five-year, $80 million deal per Jake Fischer, Bleacher Report, a deal he scoffed at, looking for a max contract elsewhere. KCP lost the standoff and after drafting Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway and trading for Avery Bradley, Detroit didn’t want to play hardball with their young wing and they just let him walk in free agency.

Whether a max was a reasonable expectation for Pope (his max at the time was worth $106.5 million over four seasons), he couldn’t find one in free agency and decided to sign with the LA Lakers on a one-year, $18 million deal.

KCP and his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, thought they’d sign a one-year deal and see if a long-term max offer was out there the following offseason. Regardless of Caldwell-Pope’s situation, he was the first free agent signing between this iteration of the Lakers front office and Klutch, opening up a dialogue for future signings.

The following offseason, after KCP averaged similar counting stats on slightly better efficiency, the LA Lakers brought him back on another one-year deal, this one worth $12 million. The news of the re-signing was announced shortly after another Klutch client, LeBron James, decided he was going to play in LA.

In the 2018-19 season, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s first alongside LeBron, his stats took a dip but he remained one of the consistent presences alongside a core of young, unproven players. KCP wasn’t the co-star James needed with the Lakers but he played his role efficiently.

The following offseason, the Lakers pushed all their chips in, trading for Anthony Davis while re-signing several role players. One of those players returning was KCP, signing a two-year, $16 million contract with a player option on the second season worth $8.5 million.

For those playing along at home, let’s take a check on where his wallet sat. If he had signed the initial deal from Detroit, he would have roughly $48 million with two seasons remaining on the deal. That’s assuming it was a straight-up offer with no raises (highly unlikely, but it works for this exercise).

At this point, three seasons removed from turning down that offer, KCP has made $37.8 million. Making less money plus having the added stress of entering free agency every offseason, hoping the Lakers bring him back.

It became slightly laughable at this point, were the Lakers only keeping KCP because of the Klutch Sports connection? He told Kyle Goon, The OC Register that it’s just the way it’s going to be looked at and there’s nothing he could do:

"“I wanted to be back, but with my agent, went through the process of free agency. Pros and cons, where I wanna be. It was all about what I wanted, and we just took it from there. … But this decision was mine to make, and we just landed together.”"

The following season, the 2019-20 season, was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the defensive backcourt combination of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, and Danny Green played excellent alongside LeBron and Anthony Davis. In the bubble, the LA Lakers won the title and KCP was one of the players tasked with slowing down Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was third on the team in scoring during the bubble playoffs with10.7 points per game and he shot 41.8 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from 3-point range. An AD-LeBron pick-and-roll surrounded by 3-and-D role players was virtually unstoppable.

Following the goodwill from an NBA title, KCP finally secured a long-term deal, re-signing with the Lakers on a three-year, $40 million deal according to The LA Times. Alongside this, the Lakers brought in Wesley Matthews, Montrezl Harrell, and Dennis Schroder among others.

We know how that went… No fault of KCP’s, but the team didn’t reach the heights they wanted and the following offseason, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was traded to the Washington Wizards as a part of the Russell Westbrook trade.

In hindsight, it was a terrible move for the LA Lakers and the cramped spacing, lack of 3-point shooting, and minimal financial flexibility cramped them too much and they missed the play-in tournament. KCP’s single season in Washington saw him average double digits again and he was back to being a dependable perimeter defender.

By recouping his value on the wing, he was seen as a positive on his current contract. So much so that Calvin Booth parted ways with Monte Morris, one of the better backup point guards in the league, to bring Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the Denver Nuggets.

To make the trade, KCP had the final season of his contract guaranteed (there was a partial guarantee in the final season), locking in roughly $14.9 million he’s owed next season before tacking on the two-year extension he recently signed with the Nuggets.

Assuming he picks up his player option in the second year of that extension, due before the 2023-24 season, KCP will have earned approximately $120 million across his career.

It was a long, winding journey since being offered less than the maximum from the Pistons but Caldwell-Pope eventually found the career earnings he believed he could get. And instead of toiling away on a Detroit team that couldn’t break out of the first round, KCP played next to some great players in LeBron, AD, Bradley Beal, and now Nikola Jokic as he looks to win another NBA championship in his new home.

Next. 3 takeaways from the Denver Nuggets at Summer League. dark