NUGGETS

Rumor: Jokic’s rival’s team could sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

May 28, 2024, 1:56 PM | Updated: May 29, 2024, 4:45 pm

The Denver Nuggets are at risk of losing one of their starters to free agency, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope having a player option to extend his contract in Colorado.

The two-way shooting guard could decline that option and re-sign in Denver for more money or hit the market in search of a new town and contract. If KCP declines the option and comes back, even a raise from his $15 million player option to a $21 million a year deal, could see the Nuggets payroll increase exponentially due to the heavy tax Denver will face. Ownership says they’re willing to spend but there’s still a real chance KCP could be headed out of town.

A couple of clear suitors have already emerged for the 31-year-old two-time NBA champion. Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports connected NBA stars Klay Thompson and Zach LaVine as well as Caldwell-Pope as possible pick ups for the 76ers. Philly hasn’t made it out of the second round since 2001 and are expected to have a bunch of cap space this summer. That means a new player to pair alongside an MVP-caliber big and a flashy Kentucky guard, something KCP is pretty familiar with.

It is expected that Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey will be playing without Tobias Harris in the future which will open up salary for the 76ers to remake their core around the center and guard. Embiid thrived with a more serious point-of-attack defender in Ben Simmons and also with a great shooter like Buddy Hield. But Philly has lacked a player in Embiid’s team who can do both things simultaneously like KCP.

This would also add another chapter to the tensions between Nikola Jokic and Embiid. Though it may be unlikely KCP goes to the dark side since he’s now a fellow ambassador to 361 shoes like Jokic.

The Nuggets offseason will seemingly hinge on what Caldwell-Pope decides and then how the Nuggets respond. Having a strong defender who can shoot to that level is huge for the Nuggets. And it would be huge for the 76ers too, who were 18th in three-point shooting this past season. Caldwell-Pope played 76 games, averaging 10.1 points, 2.4 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 0.6 blocks on 41% shooting from deep in 2024. Denver’s defensive rating of 111.0 when KCP was on the floor was 36th-best among players who played at least 65 games and 20 minutes a night. Christian Braun was actually the best defensive on Denver according to that metric at 109.3 points for the other team scored per 100 possessions. Similarly, KCP’s 0.114 defensive win shares were 26th-best in the NBA among players who hit those qualifiers. The 1.3 steals a game, were tied for 14th-most in the NBA this season.

Braun, Justin Holiday, Julian Strawther and the limited players within the Nuggets budget on the market would be tasked with replacing KCP if he walked away.

KCP will have other interesting suitors like the San Antonio Spurs and Orlando Magic. Going to the Spurs would be a different chapter for the constantly contending guard, as they were one of the worst teams in the NBA this past season. But with Rookie of the Year freak Victor Wembanyama, the team had some strong showings late in the season. Meanwhile, the Magic are a young team in bad need of shooting. Still, Orlando had a strong showing with their core’s first playoff run this season ending in seven games on their home floor.

The re-signing of KCP is likely the biggest splash the Nuggets could make this offseason but he’ll obviously be a target for a few other serious teams.

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Rumor: Jokic’s rival’s team could sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope