NUGGETS

Does KCP’s new sneaker deal hint at his free agency decision?

Feb 9, 2024, 1:30 PM | Updated: 1:36 pm

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s steal to seal Game 5 of the NBA Finals will forever be one of the best moments in Denver Nuggets history. Now, the two-way guard has signed a new sneaker deal and it could hint at where the 30-year-old’s next contract could come from.

KCP signed a shoe deal with 361 Degrees, announced on Friday. He joins Nuggets teammates Aaron Gordon and Nikola Jokic as brand ambassadors for the Chinese brand. Gordon is currently on the fourth edition of his signature shoes with 361 and it’s widely expected some signature Jokers are coming soon since he just left Nike on Christmas.

Considering the top players in the NBA like LeBron James and Kevin Durant actually earn more money from their sneakers than they do from their basketball skills—it’s sometimes helpful to look at baseball players as shoe salesmen. Through that scope, it’s fairly evident why the shoe companies would have so much power in the NBA—and 361 outfitting most of Denver’s lineup is a big score for the brand. Keeping the crew as Nuggets would obviously behoove 361, who have been in business for 20 years and have almost 6,000 stores in their homeland and another 3,000 elsewhere globally.

The only other NBA player regulating wearing 361 is Colorado Buffaloes alumnus Spencer Dinwiddie, who also has a signature shoe with the brand. Why 361 is targeting the Centennial State’s market is unknown. Their approach to Serbia makes sense in the context of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has built infrastructure in the area and now they’re going to influence the culture of the Balkans.

Caldwell-Pope signed a two-year contract extension the moment Denver traded for him in 2022. Now in his second season with the Nuggets, KCP has a player option for next season at $15.4 million. Already having made $103 million in his career and a winner of two titles, it’s unknown what KCP, who is represented by Klutch Sports, will be looking for in his next contract talk. Will KCP look for one last big payday? Will he chase championships? Does he want to leave roots in Denver, and solidify his connection to the Nuggets since his strong career hasn’t been spent with any one team for more than a few seasons?

The Nuggets will be able to offer KCP a good chunk of change—possibly above market value—should be chasing another ring and he has raised his off-court profile in becoming the defensive glue of the Nuggets star-powered best-starting-five in basketball. Caldwell-Pope has proven to be the Nuggets best point-of-attack defender and one of the team’s best shooters. He’s scoring 10.2 points a game this season and adding two rebounds and two assists a game all the while his goal is to score a First-Team All-Defense nod.

KCP’s new sneaker deal doesn’t tell you what’s next for the shooting guard but it does hint that he seems to be enjoying Denver and his Nuggets teammates just as much as it looks like from the outside. A positive sign for those who want to see him stay in Colorado, especially considering other contenders made cap-space-saving moves ahead of Thursday’s Trade Deadline with the specific intent to get KCP this summer.

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Does KCP’s new sneaker deal hint at his free agency decision?