The Los Angeles Lakers may be getting ready to make their first mistake of the new Magic Johnson era. There are reports that the Lakers may have SG Jordan Clarkson on the trade block after acquiring SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope after the Detroit Piston released him. While fans are torn with the possibility, Johnson and Co. must look at the bigger picture.
Caldwell-Pope is a good player, well, an average player at best. His time with the Pistons was either hot or cold. His averages since entering the NBA in 2013 is 12 points, three rebounds on 41 percent shooting. Whereas, Clarkson entered the league in 2013 as well with a career average 14 points, four rebounds on 44 percent shooting. It may sound like similar numbers but that couldn’t be far from the truth.
While in Detroit, Caldwell-Pope had better opportunities with a good PG in Reggie Jackson and a big man in Andre Drummond, yet he still couldn’t produce on a regular basis. Pope is more of a perimeter threat. He likes to come off screens and take the shot that will make a defense pay. This is an area where the Lakers must improve on but trading a player who may be your best at attacking the rim and great at perimeter defense is taking a step backward.
The Lakers signed Pope to a one-year deal worth $18M and this could end up like the Timofey Mozgov, and Luol Deng mishap of 2016.
With that type of money, the Lakers must have plans for Pope to be the starter ahead of Clarkson. Pope will space the floor, and with the addition of Brook Lopez and the power game of Julius Randle in the post, Pope will see plenty of kickbacks for open shots. But what happens if he struggles like he did in Detroit? I get that the Lakers are looking to shed some salary as they get ready to explore the possibility of signing two max players in 2018 but if that’s the case then why give Caldwell-Pope $18M for one year? Why give him more than Clarkson is already making?
Another reason why the Lakers may be willing to move on from Clarkson is due to his close bond with ex-Laker– D’Angelo Russell. No matter the reason for such a rumor, it makes no sense for the Lakers as Clarkson is the better all-around player. With Lonzo Ball now running the offense, it will give the Lakers a true PG who can help make Clarkson into that wannabe Kobe-clone many envisioned for Clarkson. Sorry to say but Caldwell-Pope is just not that player. When the Pistons needed a big shot to be made, it wasn’t Pope they turned to. The Lakers often looked for Clarkson at the end of games to save them. Clarkson has better handles, better defensive stance, and passing ability. His perimeter game may not be there yet but give him a season to work with a facilitator like Ball and inside presence like Lopez and see how he handles that.
Look at it this way. If Pope was as solid as some fans are making him out to be then the Pistons would have tried harder to trade or resign him instead of letting him go. There is a reason for everything and the Lakers must be careful they do not mess up their future for a pipe dream. The Lakers, in general, were awful last year as the team had to adjust entirely too much for a young team on the fly. There were bad signings, trades, and no real chemistry on the floor. Let’s see what Clarkson can do, whether it be off the bench or as the starter before making such a bold move.
The move was made and there’s nothing fans can do about it but trading away a player with Clarkson’s ceiling is nonsense. Has he struggled? Yes, but so has Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and other young players in the league. Pope is not the answer but the Lakers must save face after overpaying this offseason.