It has been said multiple times since Milwaukee’s elimination from the playoffs: it appears that the Bucks will be going into a new direction with both Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings testing their value in free agency. The absence of those two players will leave a huge gaping void at both guard spots that will have to be filled either through free agency or next month’s NBA Draft. While there’s a solid number of solid point guard prospects that are projected to go in the middle/later portion of the first round, the crop of shooting guards is lacking. Despite that, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from Georgia appears like he could be a diamond of the group.
Standing at 6’6″, Caldwell-Pope should immediately make Bucks fans intrigued because of his rather large height advantage over Monta Ellis, who stands at 6’3″. With that said, comparing the two players is completely ridiculous because their playing styles couldn’t be any more different. For example, Monta Ellis worked best when he was penetrating his way to the rim while Kentavious is more of a perimeter threat. Could the differences between the two players help the Bucks move past the Ellis/Jennings era? Well, let’s take a look.
Out of all the NCAA players who are projected to be a top-20 pick in next month’s draft, Caldwell-Pope probably played on the weakest team — the Georgia Bulldogs. They finished the season with a 15-16 record that put them near the bottom of the SEC but those issues shouldn’t rest fully on the shoulders of Kentavious. The reason for that is because of the huge progression that he made between his freshman and sophomore seasons. Compared to the 2011-12 season, Kentavious increased his PPG (13.2 in ’11-’12 compared to 18.5 in ’12-’13), RPG (5.2 to 7.1), FG% (39% to 43%), 3p% (30% to 37%) and FT% (65% to 80%). Those numbers and percentages are definitely promising because it shows the progression he’s made through his first two years but also the fact that he can continue improving as he grows as a player.
The above statement begs the question of what Kentavious needs to improve on as he makes his transition to the NBA. While he’s an extremely solid perimeter player, there are noticeable issues when it comes to his ball-handling ability. Caldwell-Pope is a very athletic but he fails to use that ability while penetrating to the basket because he struggles to pull together the moves capable of getting past a defender. He’s going to need to develop that skillset to make him into a better all-around player because he seems like a one-dimensional player at the moment. Of course, that could change if he does progress as a player or finds a complementary point guard who works well with his skill set.
Kentavious could work well in a pick-and-roll system with the likes of Sanders, Henson and Ilyasova because of his ability to shoot off the dribble. While that skill-set could work to perfection when paired with a multitude of front-court players, he’s shown that he can rely on that trait a little bit too much, ultimately resulting in some very questionable shot attempts. Now that could change when he surrounds himself with a more talented group of players or if he just matures as a player.
Defensively, Kentavious is a an above-average defender who uses his athleticism very well. He’s actually extremely aggressive as a man-to-man defender which is could be good or bad depending on your point of view. While he’s a solid on-ball defender, he does struggle working through screens but he should improve as he grows as a player.
Overall, I think Kentavious is an extremely solid prospect that could do well in the Bucks system. However he does need a good distributing point guard by his side so he can work more off the ball — something he rarely did while he was a member of the Bulldogs. With that said, he’s probably going to have a good NBA career ahead of him because of his skills around the perimeter and his ability to crash the defensive boards (8.7 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes).