First and foremost, it’s not very wise to jump to conclusions based off of a couple of Summer League games. The games can lack any real coherence, appearing to be a collection of poorly judged decisions and forced shots, while of course, the competition level also need to be considered.
Saying that, the format itself makes it really easy to pick out the players who look to be superior, and case in point of that is the recent play of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in Orlando.
Caldwell-Pope has been widely recognized as the best player on show in the opening days of the Summer League season. As the eighth overall pick in the 2013 draft, it’s almost an expectation that Caldwell-Pope should stand out at this level, but he has shown glimpses of skill and character that hint at an even greater upcoming leap forward in development.
With the Pistons having already invested significant free agent money in Jodie Meeks and Cartier Martin, while also drafting Spencer Dinwiddie, Caldwell-Pope has seen competition for the 2 and 3 spots increase dramatically in Detroit. This makes it no surprise that the 21-year-old seems to have come to Summer League ready to prove that he’s worthy of his place in the team.
In the Pistons’ Summer League squad’s first outing against the Houston Rockets on Saturday, Caldwell-Pope had 26 points and six steals in a narrow Detroit victory. The following night, Caldwell-Pope came back even stronger again.
As impressive as these numbers are, there’s something much more significant behind the nature of Caldwell-Pope’s recent performances. If the Georgia native wants to kick on and build a long career for himself in the NBA, there’s perhaps nothing more important than his attitude.
In his commentary on the Pistons game against the Grizzlies for NBA TV, Detroit legend and Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas revealed some interesting information about Caldwell-Pope. According to Thomas, Caldwell-Pope has made a conscious decision to use Summer League to return to his fundamentals, and hone the most basic aspects of his game.
Caldwell-Pope is an explosive athlete capable of finishing thunderously around the rim, yet Thomas revealed that the sophomore player has decided not to dunk in Summer League. Although KCP shouldn’t eliminate his explosive finishing ability from his game entirely, as an exercise, doing so for a short period of time should help to improve his discipline.
This sort of attitude and commitment to improve, should be music to the ears of the new Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy. Caldwell-Pope’s strong defensive instincts and three-point shooting make him a player who should fit right in with Van Gundy’s basketball philosophies.
His displays of not only talent, but also his intelligence and willingness to improve at this year’s Summer League, will help Caldwell-Pope’s chances of a significant role in the rotation next season. At only 21, he is still really young, with plenty of time to develop, but the past few days already show promising signs of growth and maturity for Caldwell-Pope.