Here was the All-Defensive First Team for the 2016-17 NBA season: Patrick Beverley, Chris Paul, Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green, and Rudy Gobert. Of those players, one (Leonard) has yet to even play this year, another (Beverley) is done for the season, a third (Paul) just returned after missing nearly a month with a knee injury, and a fourth (Gobert) is in the middle of a four-to-six-week absence thanks to a knee injury of his own. What that means is [puts talisman around neck to ward off the evil Madden cover curse spirits] that the Defensive Player of the Year race is wide freaking open.
Here are seven guys who have put together particularly strong cases for the award so far.
*Stats courtesy of NBA.com, ESPN, and Basketball Reference*
Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers
Forget about who our beloved Process potentate is for a second. Picture a seven-footer who has appeared in all but two of his team’s games playing over 29 minutes a night and who ranks fourth in defensive real plus-minus and seventh in blocked shots while also anchoring a top-ten defense overall. That is some serious and valuable production on that end of the floor, and that is the kind of campaign that the 23-year-old Embiid has been having so far. Shockingly, the Defensive Player of the Year Award has not gone to a true seven-footer in nearly five years, but this lion of a human being manning the middle for the Sixers has a pretty good chance of changing that this season.
Draymond Green, SF/PF, Golden State Warriors
The Los Angeles Lakers possibly had something of an ulterior motive for bringing in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope this summer.
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported on Friday that the Lakers may have been motivated to sign Caldwell-Pope since he shares an agent with LeBron James.
More from McMenamin:
Multiple league sources suggested to ESPN that a major motivating factor in the Lakers’ signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year, $18 million deal this offseason was because Caldwell-Pope is repped by Rich Paul, the same agent as James.
Now the Lakers can spend a year communicating with Paul, showing him how they run their organization, sharing meals, etc., and it will all be protected under the Caldwell-Pope prism, even if it could prove influential as to what James ultimately decides to do.
Lakers GM Rob Pelinka is himself a former agent, so he understands the value of establishing an open channel of communication beforehand. Signing Caldwell-Pope to a one-year deal serves to benefit the team on the court in the short-term, put them in touch with the camp of a top free agent target (in a much more permissible way than they apparently have been doing), and keep the books clear for a run at James when he can become a free agent in 2018.
The Los Angeles Lakers are looking for guards, and reportedly spent Tuesday meeting with one of the better young ones available.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Lakers met with free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on Tuesday, with the shooting guard drawing quite a bit of interest.
The Lakers’ interest has been previously reported, albeit on very specific terms. Perhaps Caldwell-Pope is willing to do what Los Angeles is seeking. The 24-year-old averaged 13.8 points per game with the Detroit Pistons last season, shooting 35 percent from three-point range.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is suddenly an unrestricted free agent, and one somewhat surprising suitor has emerged.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports Friday that the Lakers have “significant interest” in a one-year “balloon” deal with Caldwell-Pope, whose rights were renounced by the Detroit Pistons after their trade for Avery Bradley.
Caldwell-Pope, 24, averaged 13.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists a game in 2016-17. Perhaps his biggest strength is his perimeter defense, an area where the Lakers are badly lacking. But the former No. 8 overall pick will have other wooers, and a one-year deal may not be particularly attractive to him.
Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been suspended two games by the NBA for a recent traffic stop that ended with Caldwell-Pope arrested for driving while under the influence.
The NBA cited “pleading guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, in violation of the law of the State of Michigan,” as the reason for suspending the Pistons shooter, per ProBasketball Talk. This is the standard punishment for DUI offense by an NBA player or coach.
This particular offense is especially noteworthy given Caldwell-Pope’s current status as a restricted free agent. The 24-year-old shooting guard is expected to receive a lot of attention in free agency, possibly receiving maximum level offers from teams. Detroit, of course, would have the chance to match any offer sheet Caldwell-Pope would sign, retaining him on the Pistons roster.
Caldwell-Pope averaged 13.8 points per game last season, which was his fourth year in the NBA. His two-game suspension is unlikely to scare teams away given the way he shoots the ball from outside and defends opposing guards.
Shane McNichol covers college basketball and the NBA for Larry Brown Sports. He also blogs about basketball at Palestra Back and has contributed to Rush The Court, ESPN.com, and USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain.
The Detroit Pistons are intent on keeping guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from leaving this summer.
Caldwell-Pope is set to be a restricted free agent, but according to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, the team is ready to match any offer sheet that comes in for him. That includes potential max contract offers.
The Pistons know that, with a tight salary cap situation, they would not be able to make up for the loss of Caldwell-Pope if they allowed him to walk.
“We can’t lose him,” one source said.
The 24-year-old Caldwell-Pope averaged 13.8 points per game last season, shooting 35 percent from three. The Pistons feel he still has room to grow, and he’s clearly viewed as an important part of the franchise’s future. There will almost certainly be interest in him, so the team’s resolve will likely be tested.
What was arguably the worst loss of the season for the Detroit Pistons appears to have taken its toll on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
The Pistons guard was arrested for a DUI early Wednesday morning, hours after the team blew a lead and lost to the Miami Heat, according to reports.
Caldwell-Pope was pulled over for driving 45 mph in a 25 mph zone, and an officer smelled alcohol. Caldwell-Pope submitted to a blood test at the police station, which registered 0.08.
On the surface, it seems as if Caldwell-Pope went out drinking after a depressing loss. The Pistons’ loss to Miami made it extremely difficult for them to make the postseason. They currently are 2.5 games behind the Heat and Pacers, who are tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Detroit won on Thursday but only has six games remaining to try making up that ground.
The Brooklyn Nets have had to give the majority of their two-guard minutes to some combination of Randy Foye, Sean Kilpatrick, and Joe Harris this season, but help could be on the way as soon as the summer.
According to a report by Brian Lewis of the New York Post on Wednesday, the Nets are expected to make Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope “a top priority” this offseason.
Caldwell-Pope, 24, is averaging 14.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game in 2016-17 and is known as one of the NBA’s top young wing defenders. He will become a restricted free agent after the season, having failed to reach an extension with the Pistons before the October 31 deadline last year.
Lewis adds that the Nets have roughly $33 million to spend this summer and could offer Caldwell-Pope a four-year deal worth up to $103 million. But the former No. 8 overall pick’s desire for a big payday appeared to be a major reason why he was unable to land a in-season extension, and the Pistons can still offer him the most money (plus an extra fifth year) and match any offer sheet he signs. As such, hopefully the talent-barren Nets aren’t doomed to go down the same path they went last offseason with their failed RFA pursuits of fellow guards Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson.
Image Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Just six days remain before the deadline for 2013 first-round draft picks to sign a contract extension with their respective teams, and Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope still has yet to do so. Now we may know why.
According to a report by Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press on Tuesday, Caldwell-Pope is rumored to be looking for deal worth over $20 million annually to re-up with the Pistons. The problem is that a deal of that magnitude is likely to take Detroit over the luxury tax threshold.
The 23-year-old Caldwell-Pope makes for an interesting case. He’s developed into a borderline-elite one-on-one defender, but he’s never reached the 15-point-per-game mark in his three years in the league so far, nor has he shot 35 percent or better from three in a single season.
The potential for a Caldwell-Pope breakout in 2016-17 is enormous, particularly with Reggie Jackson on the shelf because of a knee injury. But the Pistons for the most part must base their decision on what the University of Georgia product has already showed them.
It’s worth noting that Caldwell-Pope is represented by Rich “The Money Whisperer” Paul and that the market for middle-tier shooting guards is booming (Evan Fournier got a five-year, $85 million extension from the Magic this offseason, while Evan Turner landed four years, $70 million from the Blazers, to name a couple). But it just seems unlikely that Detroit is willing to tie up their entire cap on this core of players, meaning that we may have to prepare for Caldwell-Pope to hit restricted free agency this summer.
Image Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
There are some times when NBA players hit the jackpot and find the rare nexus where talent, opportunity, and circumstance all intersect. You can have all the talent in the Western Hemisphere, but with no opportunity and poor circumstantial luck, you’re basically rookie-year D’Angelo Russell: imprisoned in a cell built entirely out of parting Kobe Bryant bricks and guarded by Byron Scott’s folded arms.
With ample opportunity but questionable talent and equally questionable circumstance, you’ll faceplant and find yourself in The Anthony Bennett Zone, forever haunted by The Ghost of No. 1 Overall Picks Past. Talent and circumstance without opportunity turns you into pre-Enes-Kanter-trade Rudy Gobert or worse, Darko Milicic: selected No. 2 overall by a championship-caliber Detroit Pistons team but perpetually thumb-tacked to the end of their bench and finding himself cursing the mothers of European referees just four years later.
Even talent and opportunity sans circumstance guarantees you nothing if, say, you’re drafted onto a Washington Wizards team run by a competitive maniac named Michael Jordan, who shatters your psyche and your confidence in yourself from the moment you enter the league (sorry, Kwame).
But for these five players, the stars will align in 2016-17, and they’ll find themselves in prime position to achieve what so many before them for whatever reason couldn’t: a full-fledged breakout year.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks