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Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: The Doppelgänger Machine Finds a Fit

Washington Wizards Introduce New Player Shoot
Wizards G/F Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Photo by Avi Gerver/NBAE via Getty Images

Does the acquisition of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope fix the Wizards’ issues at wing? Well, it kinda depends on how much offseason cockeyed optimism we want to apply.

KCP is a classic “just a guy” player. Good enough to have value if surrounded by other good players. Not good enough to change his team’s trajectory.

At 28 years old and entering his ninth NBA season, KCP is probably going to be about what he’s been. Which isn’t bad — he’s been around average for the past 5-6 seasons. That’s a colossal upgrade on the wing for the Wizards, whose SFs were collectively replacement level last season.

Here’s KCP’s career PPA progression (PPA is my overall production metric. In PPA, 100 is average, higher is better, and 45 is replacement level.):

  • 2013-14 — Detroit Pistons — 57
  • 2014-15 — Detroit Pistons — 72
  • 2015-16 — Detroit Pistons — 84
  • 2016-17 — Detroit Pistons — 93
  • 2017-18 — Los Angeles Lakers — 110
  • 2018-19 — Los Angeles Lakers — 88
  • 2019-20 — Los Angeles Lakers — 79
  • 2020-21 — Los Angeles Lakers — 95

It’s worth mention that he was a key part of the Lakers’ run through the bubble playoffs in 2020 that ended with a championship. So while his overall performance has been about average, he has some upstepping in big moments on his resume.

Today, he goes through the Statistical Doppelgänger Machine, which works by comparing a player’s performance across 14 different categories that include age, playing time, pace-neutral box score stats and scores from my PPA metric. All that’s rolled up into a single score that (in theory) provides a list of NBA players since 1977-78 with similar production at a similar age.

What kind of results should the machine produce for KCP? I’d anticipate lower-usage SG/SF types who shoot well from three-point range, play some defense and aren’t good playmakers. Let’s get to the list:

  1. Jerryd Bayless, Milwaukee Bucks, 2015-16 — Bayless was one of those guys teams thought could play PG but he never really figured out how to do it. He hung around the league a long time, peaking with a 109 PPA at age 23. This was his age 27 season and it’s highly similar to what KCP did last season (which was a pretty normal year for him). Big differences: more playmaking from Bayless and better defense from KCP.
  2. Rodney Hood, Portland Trail Blazers, 2014-15 — Hood was well into the “oft-injured” phase of his career at this point. He managed just 21 games and 619 minutes, and it was the highest PPA score of his career. He very much fits the profile I expected — low-usage and efficient with little rebounding or playmaking. Hood also doesn’t play defense as well as KCP.
  3. Martell Webster, Washington Wizards, 2013-14 — This was the season after the career-best contract year Webster had in 2012-13 (PPA: 114). Limited by a back injury, his production plummeted. He played just 32 games the following season before the team waived him and he retired.
  4. Danuel House, Houston Rockets, 2019-20 — Best season of House’s career (PPA: 101). Good shooter? Check. Low usage? Check. Little rebounding? No playmaking? Check and check.
  5. Matt Maloney, Houston Rockets, 1997-98 — Maloney entered the NBA as a 25-year old rookie with a 114 PPA. This was year two, and he suffered the sophomore slump. His career kept on sliding. He’s listed as a PG, but he was a guy who’d bring the ball up, start the play and then stand around for catch-and-shoot threes.
  6. Keith Bogans, Orlando Magic, 2007-08 — Never cracked average in PPA, but he was somewhat productive until he peaked with an 89 PPA at 30 years old. This was his age 27 season and it was the second best of his career.
  7. Courtney Lee, Memphis Grizzlies, 2014-15 — Low-usage, jump-shooting guard who didn’t do much else. He got to average twice and carved out a niche making shots and otherwise staying out of the way.
  8. Courtney Lee, Memphis Grizzlies, 2015-16 — See above.
  9. Tony Snell, Detroit Pistons, 2019-20 — He’s hovered close to average without quite reaching it throughout his career. This was his best year (PPA: 90). He always gave effort on defense, but by this season he’d made himself into a willing and accurate three-point shooter.
  10. Richard Jefferson, San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors, 2011-12 — Jefferson topped out as an All-Star caliber player (though he never was selected). I have his peak at a PPA 162 at age 25 with a couple other seasons at 135 or better. This was his age 31 season and had declined to about average.

A note, KCP’s similarity scores are high, which indicates he fills a familiar role in the NBA. Other players outside the top 10 but still with high similarity scores include names like Gary Harris, Carlos Delfino, George Hill, Wesley Johnson, Arron Afflalo and Danny Green. Solid players who can be a piece of the puzzle and contribute in the right role.