Could Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have his eyes set on Philadelphia?

KCP, caldwell-pope
Denver Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, right, reacts after making a 3-poiunt basket against the Miami Heat during the second half of Game 1 of basketball’s NBA Finals, Thursday, June 1, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Free agency is on the horizon, and the Sixers have plans to build out their roster around Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. To end the season, there were signs pointing to a connection between Philly and Paul George, but as we get closer to the start of free agency, reports have cooled on a possible partnership.

Another player who has been quietly connected to the Sixers is current Denver Nuggets guard/wing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the whispers are getting louder.

Caldwell-Pope is currently under contract in Denver but is expected to use his player option to opt out of his current deal. NBA Insiders expect him to command a pay raise starting at $20 million dollars per year as one of the top free agents on the market. With the Sixers trying to go star hunting this offseason and a possibility of striking out, there have been rumors that they could go after veterans with balloon payments to maintain flexibility to make future moves.

Yahoo Sports Insider Jake Fischer mentioned him as a possible target for Philly, “in addition to Philadelphia viewing the veteran wing as a backup option.” Insider Marc Stein also recently stated that Philadelphia and Orlando are “weighing runs” at the two-time champion. There seems like there is mutual interest between both parties and the Denver Nuggets appear to expect they might lose Caldwell-Pope.

*Update: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is now set to decline his player option, becoming an unrestricted free agent, according to Shams Charania.

How does he fit?

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) is defended by Denver Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, left, during the first half of Game 1 of basketball’s NBA Finals, Thursday, June 1, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

If the Sixers strike out on a “third star” and approach free agency looking to find the best fit around their two stars, KCP will slide into the starting lineup perfectly. He is a prototypical three-&-D wing whose toughness, defense, and capable shooting have helped the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets win recent titles.

Last season, he shot just above 40 percent from three and just over four attempts per game, providing spacing for Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray to go to work. His fit would be almost identical in Philadelphia on the offense end, and he could be tasked to increase his three-point volume depending on how the roster fills out.

Defensively, KCP is still one of the better perimeter defenders in the league and could still guard an opponent’s first or second-best perimeter threat. He would assume that role and Philly for a team that lacked many really good defenders.

The Sixers had to count on Kelly Oubre Jr. and elder statesman Nico Batum to guard the Knicks’ best perimeter players during the 2024 playoffs and could have used some more wing defenders on the court. Adding him to a team with an excellent rim protector like Embiid could help propel the Sixers to becoming one of the best defensive teams in the league.

Is the price right?

Nuggets vs heat
Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) looks to pass while defended by Denver Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) during the second half of Game 2 of basketball’s NBA Finals, Sunday, June 4, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Currently, Cadwell-Pope has a $15.4 million player option for next season and is widely expected to opt-out. He would only opt out of his contract if he expects to make more than what he is currently scheduled to make. Most believe he is looking for at least $20 million a year in his next deal, and it could take up to $25 million to secure his services.

A perfect fit for the Sixers as a high-level role player, Caldwell-Pope’s three-&-D ability would be a huge help for Philadelphia. However, his offensive game is mostly catch-and-shoot, and he doesn’t have much shot-creation ability at this stage of his career. Can he attack some closeouts? Yes, but is he explosive enough to make defenses pay when driving on a nightly basis? No.

So, is $20-25 million per season worth it for a role player? For a high-quality role player and a seamless fit for the Sixers, they would likely have to pony up. He’s durable, playing at least 76 games in his last two seasons; he doesn’t need the ball or plays run for him, and he has championship DNA.

The New York Knicks have already preliminarily agreed to pay OG Anunoby an average of more than $42 million dollars a year for the next five years to play a similar role in the Garden. Anunoby is younger than KCP but much more injury prone and getting a similar type of player for $20 million left is justifiable.

With free agency starting on June 30th at 6 p.m. and more smoke coming out about KCP potentially departing in Denver, it looks like he could be headed east to Philly.