How will Kentavious Caldwell-Pope fit with the Denver Nuggets?

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope #1 of the Washington Wizards and Aaron Gordon #50 of the Denver Nuggets vie for the ball during the second half at Capital One Arena on 16 Mar. 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope #1 of the Washington Wizards and Aaron Gordon #50 of the Denver Nuggets vie for the ball during the second half at Capital One Arena on 16 Mar. 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit
Prev
2 of 3
Next
How can Kentavious Caldwell-Pope help the Denver Nuggets? DeMar DeRozan #11 of the Chicago Bulls tries to get by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope #1 of the Washington Wizards during a NBA basketball game at Capital One Arena on 29 Mar. 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
How can Kentavious Caldwell-Pope help the Denver Nuggets? DeMar DeRozan #11 of the Chicago Bulls tries to get by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope #1 of the Washington Wizards during a NBA basketball game at Capital One Arena on 29 Mar. 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

How can Kentavious Caldwell-Pope help the Denver Nuggets on defense?

The 3-and-D specialist has become a very important part of many a team around the NBA, not least because of the sky-rocketing importance of three-point shooting in today’s game. KCP is still not even 30 years old, and he just had his best season since 2016 with the Wizards last year, putting up 13.2 points per game on a 44/39/89 shooting line to go with 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.

There’s no doubting that at 29 years old, KCP still has a lot of gas left in the tank, and when he’s on his game, he can be something of a very poor man’s Klay Thompson. And that’s not an insult at the guy, because Thompson is all-world at what he’s asked to do: drain triples and D up on the other end. KCP can definitely do those two things for the Nuggets this season.

It was just last year that KCP’s then-coach with the Lakers, Frank Vogel, was singing his praises for his active defensive work, even suggesting that he should get some love for the All-Defensive teams. He didn’t, but he was fourth in defensive real plus-minus among shooting guards that season at +2.80.

Speaking about KCP and his backcourt mate, Alex Caruso, Vogel had this to say about their defensive chops back in May of 2021:

"“They’re great with containment, they can defend one-on-one, they’re great with deflections and steals, competing with bigs, negotiating through screens and reconnecting with their man, the pursuit aspect. “All those things aren’t really measured in numbers, but all of the coaches out there, anybody that knows the game can see that they’re major contributors on the defensive end with what they bring to the table.”"

This highlight compilation is from a few years ago, but Speed Demon Dynamo still applies to the way KCP buzzes around on the defensive end, staying active, hustling, and always showing a ton of energy and tenacity while locking up opponents.

Caldwell-Pope is not a good defender by accident either, he was actually interviewed by NBC Sports last season and the main subject of conversation was how to defend on the perimeter. The Georgia native clearly takes pride in his craft as a defender, and he had some interesting things to say about his strategy and preparation:

"“I just try to contain and stay in front. If I can just stay in front of my guy, I can get a great contest. So, that’s my go-to and what I look for is just his jersey number. It’s in the middle of his chest, it’s not going to move, so if I’m watching that it helps me out a little bit.”"

The Denver Nuggets have not been a top defensive team with Jokic as the focal point, though the Big Cevapi did make some strides on that end last year, as Nugg Love outlined last November. Aaron Gordon is a plus-defender, but Porter Jr. has never been even an average defender and could actually be called a liability at times. Murray has never been a real negative on that end, but never a real positive either. With KCP and Gordon patrolling the wings together in the starting five, the Nuggets should be a lot tougher for perimeter players to take advantage of this year.