During the Summer of 2010 an unheralded wing prospect from Fresno State used pre-draft workouts to boost, or perhaps skyrocket, his NBA draft stock. The player was Paul George, and his game went largely unnoticed by the masses throughout a sophomore season on a mediocre Mountain West team that finished 15-18. George used the pre-draft process to firmly cement himself on lottery radar screens across the association. But he also left many front offices, draft analysts, and fans alike, scratching their heads and curiously slanting their eyebrows. A common inquiry existed: who is Paul George? Today, such a question would likely be met with hostility.

[Hostility] Are you seriously kidding me, you don’t know who Paul George is? Do you watch the NBA? He’s the next Max player; a true Superstar. A rare and exotic wing player, undefinable due to the breadth of his game. You’re a joke, man.

Which leads me to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a sophomore shooting guard out of the University of Georgia who is walking the same path as George. For the sake of carpal tunnel syndrome, I’ll keep it to ‘KCP’ from here on out.

According to Chad Ford of ESPN.com, KCP is taking a page out of George’s pre-draft secrets memoir, experiencing a meteoric rise on draft boards while leaving many onlookers questioning the hype surrounding a player with little exposure during his sophomore campaign:

Caldwell-Pope is flying up draft boards, and the combine could easily become his coming-out party. He’s a terrific shooter and an explosive athlete — those two traits typically look great together in the combine setting. The stat guys already love him. If he shows well at the combine, he could secure his place as a lottery pick in this year’s draft.

KCP is a 20 year old prospect from Greenville, GA. that stands 6’6 and has one, if not thee, smoothest jumpers in this years draft. He also happens to be a true shooting guard, a position that has drawn harsh criticism from our fan base long before Kevin McHale traded Brandon Roy for Randy Foye. The Wolves have never had a franchise two-guard and even worse, they habitually ignore the position altogether; the ignorance must stop under Flip’s guidance. Last season was so awfully putrid from behind the arc (30.5% as a team – good for last in the NBA) that the Timberwolves have no choice but to reorganize the roster and add a long-range marksman, probably two, at the wing position. [Side note: a full season from Chase Budinger and Kevin Love would have alleviated some of the, "we can't make a dam three!" pain]

Perhaps no prospect outside of Ben McLemore is a better fit to start that reformation project than KCP. Three-pointers represented over half of the shots he took this past season (52%) and he knocked them down at a 37.7% clip (2.7-7.0 per game). That’s not bad for a guy who was the sole focus of every defense Georgia faced. To some folks that 52% may be a red flag, indicating a one-dimensional player, but due to his low-level supporting cast and the nature of how defenses played him, KCP had to settle for three-pointers, often times NBA three-pointers, just to score for a team that relied exclusively on him to do so.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Here is a list of KCP’s strengths according to ESPN.com’s Chad Ford:

  • Deadly shooter
  • Deep range
  • Quick release on jump shot
  • Good athlete
  • Good passer
  • Excellent defender

And his weaknesses:

  • Needs to improve his ball handling
  • Needs to develop a midrange game

KCP’s strengths fit the Wolves needs like the glove fit OJ, and his weaknesses can be circumvented by playing next to Rubio. Yes, he’ll need to develop his scoring off the dribble, hit midrange jumpers, and be less reliant on the three-ball to maximize his value but his pro potential isn’t merely on the offensive side of the ball. Pairing him in the back court with Rubio would mean two things (1) even better perimeter defense and (2) perhaps the best rebounding back court in basketball. Drafting KCP will undoubtedly improve our three-point shooting but it may also push us into the top 10 of defensive efficiency (we finished at 102.9/14th overall). Last season 9 of the top 10 teams in Defensive Efficiency made the playoffs – the Wizards being the lone exception.

The first reason his weaknesses are only mildly concerning to me is the vast improvement he displayed from freshman to sophomore year; he’s far from a finished product. The second reason is the core we currently have in place. With Rubio, Love, and hopefully Pekovic, KCP would almost be an afterthought of opposing defenses to begin with. With more space on the perimeter and less defensive attention, KCP could quickly explode in a complementary role with the Timberwolves.

College Career

Below you can see his highly impressive statistical improvement in only one year, with just a minuscule increase in playing time.

SEASON

MIN

FG%

3P%

FT%

REB

AST

BLK

STL

TO

PTS

’12-13

33.9

.433

.373

.799

7.1

1.8

0.5

2.0

2.0

18.5

’11- 12

32.1

.396

.304

.654

5.2

1.2

0.3

1.8

1.1

13.2

It doesn’t take too much basketball knowledge to assess the table above, but if you know a thing or two about statistics than you should be impressed with the development across the board in only one year. There isn’t even a positive correlation between minutes and production either. KCP only played an additional 1.8 minutes this season, which is so unique because statistical improvements across the board are often attributed to a major swing in minutes played. With KCP this illustrates, at least in my eyes, a tangible sign of growth and progress as a prospect; especially given his situation on a bad team.

KCP’s impressive play was noticed too, even if it came on a Georgia squad that struggled throughout the collegiate season; finishing ninth in the SEC (Overall: 15-17, vs SEC: 9-9). I would argue that 15 wins from this roster is somewhat mind-boggling. He had literally no help yet he still lead his team to mediocrity and was named SEC Player of the Year for a reason; he was simply too good to ignore. You can read more about that honor HERE.

Below is a great video by Draft Express that highlights the strengths and weaknesses of KCP. In my eyes, he’s the perfect pick for the Timberwolves but watch the video, do your own research, and decide for yourself; is KCP the name we should call on draft day?

(Photo credit: AP Photo/The Athens Banner-Herald, AJ Reynolds)

photo credit: TIRODI via photopin cc

Minnesota guy through and through. The NBA was my first crush. I'm a sucker for stats and fantasy sports. Coffee makes the world go round.

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