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Analysts weigh in on future of Pistons’ Caldwell-Pope

The Detroit News

Now that the draft is in the books, it’s nearly shopping season for the NBA.

Free agency begins Saturday, and that means there’s plenty of lists to pore over as far as the top talent available, and plenty of speculation about who might fit best where, and who is best served simply staying put.

As far as the Pistons are concerned, it likely starts with guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who’s a restricted free agent, meaning the Pistons have the option to match anyone’s offer for the 24-year-old sharpshooter.

Caldwell-Pope is on several top free-agent lists, including No. 17 on CBS Sports’ list, and No. 18 on rankings compiled by ESPN (pay site) and Sports Illustrated. Yahoo's The Vertical has Caldwell-Pope 11th on its list.

What happens with KCP obviously is anyone’s guess, and an example of the speculation that swirls this time of year. Matt Moore of CBS Sports calls Caldwell-Pope a “near-lock” to re-sign with the Pistons, though he speculates the Pistons might have to match a max offer from the Brooklyn Nets. Kevin Pelton of ESPN says that max offer might come from the Philadelphia 76ers, who are in need of a “youthful 3-and-D contributor.”

Michael Shapiro of Sports Illustrated says it might be best for the Pistons to let Caldwell-Pope simply find a new home, calling him one of five “pricey free agents to avoid” Tuesday.

Caldwell-Pope averaged 13.8 points per game last season, and has averaged 11.7 in his first four seasons in the league.

“The Georgia product is a strong role player, capable of canning the corner three and effectively driving to the tin,” Shapiro writes. “But don’t break the bank and expect him to lead an offense. Pope found himself lost in the shuffle last year as Detroit struggled to cement its backcourt rotation, ending the season No. 10 on the team in usage rate and seventh in true shooting percentage. A young team with cap space may take a swing at swiping Caldwell-Pope from the Pistons — Brooklyn is an organization to watch — and if they do, it may be Detroit’s best long-term interest to let him walk.

“The Pistons have signaled in past seasons that they wants to compete for a playoff spot, but now, they may be best suited to tear things down. The backcourt was a mess last year, and there weren't enough offensive weapons in the lineup to compete on a nightly basis. Although Caldwell-Pope is a young talent with some upside, throwing a lucrative deal his way may hinder progress down the line.”

So, who might fit in the Pistons’ plans? CBS Sports takes a stab at that in its top free-agent list. Pacers point guard George Hill is the highest-ranked player (No. 12) CBS Sports links to the Pistons (along with Utah, San Antonio, Dallas and Milwaukee).

Pistons possibilities, according to CBS Sports, also include Celtics center Kelly Olynyk (No. 21), Kings forward Rudy Gay (No. 24), Knicks guard Justin Holiday (No. 39), and Celtics forward and former Piston Jonas Jerebko (No. 49).