Sixth Pick Tournament Round One: CJ McCollum vs. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Published: May 30, 2013

In another first round matchup, Lehigh guard CJ McCollum goes head-to-head with Georgia’s swingman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the Bourbon Street Shots Sixth Pick Tournament.

The Case for CJ McCollum (McNamara)

22.9 points per game on 44.9% shooting from two and 45.3% shooting from three isn’t too shabby is it? Well actually, for CJ McCollum, it would have been last year. Those stats above are Stephen Curry’s final year stats at Davidson, but last year McCollum obliterated those numbers for Lehigh, scoring 23.9 points per game while shooting 48.5% from two and an unbelievable 51.6% from three. He also averaged more rebounds (5.0) and steals (2.1) than Curry (4.0 and 1.6) and turned the ball over less than Curry did. Curry had a slight advantage at the free throw line (90% to 85%), though McCollum got there nearly twice as often as Curry did. Throw in the fact that McCollum measured and tested better at the combine, and there are arguments to be made that CJ McCollum can be the same kind of player, but with some added length and bulk.

The one area where Curry clearly trumps McCollum at this stage is in the playmaking department. Davidson gave Curry more playmaking duties in his final season while Lehigh depended more on McCollum’s scoring prior to his injury, and who can blame them when you have a guy that efficient? And while his assist numbers don’t leap out at you, he actually has a very similar assist percentage as Damian Lillard did in his final two seasons at Weber State. Like Lillard, McCollum was asked to be more of a scorer but you see the potential there for McCollum to play the role of a scoring point guard who can also distribute if he is surrounded with more talent.

Last season at Lehigh, McCollum didn’t have much help, which makes his efficiency even that much more remarkable. 34% of the shots he took where two-point jumpers and he hit 49% of them despite only being assisted on 6% of those shots according to Hoop Math. That means he created 94% of his own mid-range jumpers, usually in the pick and roll, and hit them at an elite rate for a guy who takes that many jump shots off the dribble. 41% of his three’s were also unassisted, an almost unheard of number for practically anybody, let alone a guy who drained over 50% of his shots from deep. That ability to create his own shot and hit it at such a high clip is a skill that will translate to the NBA, as we saw last month when Stephen Curry went off on the league’s biggest stage. Again, McCollum is capable of similar things.

If the fantastic shooting in the half court wasn’t enough, he is also a beast in transition, as he is capable of taking it all the way to the rim or pulling up at any time and draining the jumper. He scored 1.26 points per possession in transition and showed the ability to finish with either hand. Quite frankly, in the open court he is close to impossible to defend because you have to respect his ability to pull up, but once you do that, he can blow by you and finish with strength or with a variety of floaters. Perhaps most importantly, he almost always makes the right decision and he has perfected a hesitation dribble that makes the defense think he is pulling up and when they come up to contest, he blows right by them for a layup.

Defensively, he is an average on ball defender but he really shines off the ball. In his last two full seasons he led the Patriot League in steals, averaging more than two and a half per game. Perhaps more impressively, he has been a terrific defensive rebounder in college, averaging over six per game over his four years, including nearly eight per game his sophomore year. While he won’t ever be accused of being a lockdown defender, he definitely is not a liability and he seems to have a fantastic understanding of schemes and rotations, which is huge for any player who wants to play for Monty. You also might be able to argue that without such a heavy burden on the offensively end, McCollum could give more attention and energy to the defensive end.

The question with McCollum to the Pelicans is simple: Where does he fit? Well, if you know me by now, you know that my personal strategy is that you always draft best player available unless it is an extreme circumstance. While it looks like the Pelicans already have a plethora of guards, I will ask you to look closer. What do they really have? Greivis Vasquez was a nice stop gap that Monty called out more than once this season for his “fake stats” and poor defense. Eric Gordon seems more likely to be on another roster sometime in the next two years than on this one. Austin Rivers had a horrible rookie season and is still a work in progress, and Brian Roberts is a nice 4th or 5th guard on a playoff caliber team. What is really here that would make you shy away from taking a guard if he was clearly the best player on your board?

McCollum is probably the most NBA ready prospect in this draft, and that would be a welcome addition to a roster that includes so many young guys who are either new to the league or trying to pick up Monty’s system. The last thing that the Pelicans need right now is another raw 19 or 20 year old with tons of upside, but no skill set that they can rely on to help the team win now. I anticipate that my opponent will bring up the only two arguments you could make with McCollum. The most popular is that he played against lower level competition and the second one being that he is coming off a broken foot. First and foremost, unlike others who are coming off of surgeries in this draft, McCollum is ready to go right now and won’t miss any action, be it Summer League or training camp, so that is a non-issue.

As for the argument that he played against lower level competition, that is true, but when he did play against top tier competition, McCollum had some of his best games. Who can forget his scintillating 30 point first round performance in the 2012 NCAA tournament against Duke? And then he opened up this season by dropping 36 against an ultra-talented Baylor squad, thoroughly outplaying their star senior point guard Pierre Jackson. You can only play who is in front of you, and whoever McCollum played against, whether it was a big school or a small one, he thrived against them.

As for his competition in this matchup, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, I actually don’t have many negative things to say about him. It’s not a case where one guy is amazing and the other is garbage. They are both high quality players, but McCollum is superior in nearly every category. KCP is too dependent on his outside shot at this stage of his career, and that outside shot just isn’t in the same class as CJ’s. Caldwell-Pope shot a respectable 37.7% from deep this year, but again, CJ was over 51%. McCollum was better from mid-range, got to the line more, and perhaps most importantly, he is ready to play in the NBA right now while Caldwell-Pope is a bit of a work in progress. Some will argue that Caldwell-Pope took bad shots because he was playing with bad players and that forced him to be inefficient. What was McCollum playing with; future All-Stars? Look, you are either an efficient scorer or you’re not. CJ McCollum is about as efficient as it gets, and when you couple that with the fact that he can come in and help this team win from day one, CJ McCollum has to be the pick.

DraftExpress Video                         Scouting Report                          Combine Interview         Standard and Advanced Stats       Full Profile w/ Combine Measurements    CBS Feature on CJ

The Case for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Grayson)

One of the fastest risers in this year’s draft is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Aside from his awesome name, Kentavious is a hell of a basketball player. He has a strong body, is extremely quick and agile and has a pretty awesome jump-shot.

For all the right reasons the New Orleans Pelicans need to draft the swingman from Georgia.

The Prospect

Caldwell-Pope played his sophomore season on a Georgia team devoid of talent. It was up to him to be the offensive weapon. Some scouts said heading into the season that there was no way he could be the go to guy. They were disappointed with his freshman season which saw him shoot just 30 per cent from beyond the arc.

However, Kentavious significantly improved his offensive game. He shot 37.7 per cent from three and scored a pretty impressive 18.5 points-per-game.

Now it’s likely that Mr. McNamara is going to discuss how he was inefficient and took more shots than he needed to. But look at it from Caldwell-Pope’s perspective. He was on a team that didn’t have a primary ball-handler, yet relied on him to be that guy. Kent improved that area of his game as he was lethal off the pull-up from the pick and roll.

Defensively is where he shines. In a combine press-conference, asked what he feels most confident about Caldwell-Pope replied, “Defending. I love to defend, that really just keeps me patient and that lets my game come to me offensively.”

This is a very accurate statement. Caldwell-Pope is a pretty good defender. He possesses excellent lateral quickness (10.6 in Agility drill, 5th fastest at combine) and decent wing-span for a wing-defender (6’8” on 6’6” body). As a primarily on ball-defender CP had 2.03 steals per-game. This helped him get out in transition where he finished extremely well at the rim (1.11 PPP).

Some will try to attack his game in the half-court sets. However it’s likely that Georgia didn’t utilize his skill-set. Kentavious is an excellent jump-shooter. He works well off of ball-screens and squares his hips very well. In the pick-and-roll game his can pull-up with range for a jump-shot.

A coach needs to see his strengths and work towards them. For my view Kentavious is a Rip Hamilton type player with better defensive ability.

The System

You might be wondering why the Pelicans would want to draft a shooting-guard. There is a simplicity in my madness so stay with me.

If New Orleans finds an option to trade Eric Gordon they’ll take it. They will have to find one that’s good, but we’ve discussed that at length here on the site. So, saying they do trade him then what next?

It’s likely the Pelicans will need to fill this position if they view Austin Rivers as a point-guard, which we’ve been told he is. This would then make it seem a very reasonable selection from a roster point-of-view.

The thing that keeps bugging me though, is that what if they just draft a shooting-guard regardless? I’m of the belief you draft the best player available. Kentavious has an extraordinary amount of talent and despite the tight fit it’d give Head-Coach Monty Williams with a versatile wing-defender that can stay healthy.

The Pelicans can run off-ball sets for Caldwell-Pope, can push the ball and improve his ability as a slasher which he’s shown potential to be.

Next to Austin Rivers it makes even more sense because Kentavious can be the off-guard. Rivers thrives when he has the ball in his hands, particularly in isolation situations. KCP can be the spacer on the floor.

His Ceiling

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a rich man’s Rip Hamilton. If he can improve his ability to attack the hoop in the half-court he could be a very versatile and talented player. He’s extremely athletic and possesses very proficient defensive skills.

He has similarities to Paul George in a way who flew up draft boards in 2010. The similarities are there and if KCP can work on his ability to attack the basket then it wouldn’t be an unfair comparison.

The Pelicans need guys with upside and Caldwell-Pope has it. Sure he has his deficiencies but he has translatable skills to the league that can be utilized right away. Monty Williams has a history of turning swingmen into useful players and helped Nicolas Batum work on his aggressiveness towards the basket. If Williams gets his hands on a player like this we could be seeing a reincarnation in front of our very eyes.

Why You Should Want Him

  • Can produce highlight reel dunks
  • Has a Cool Name
  • Quick and Athletic on defense
  • Possibility to Convert a Falcons fan into a Saints fan


Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Pre-Draft Interview             SB Nation: Caldwell-Pope Rising Up the Boards            DraftExpress Pre-Draft Scouting Video                   Caldwell-Pope SEC Player of the Year                 The Daily Wolf: Prospect Preview — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
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For all Sixth Pick Tournament Matchups and the Bracket, click here.


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