The following post was contributed to FanSided.com by Richard Gnann, basketball writer for our very own Georgia Bulldogs sports site, Dawn of the Dawg. For more news and updates on all things Duke, be sure to visit DawnoftheDawg.com.
Overview of college performance: Kenneth Caldwell-Pope was a two-year offensive star in the Southeastern Conference, consistently carrying the Georgia basketball team on the offensive end of the court.
Pope is the 2013 Player of the Year in the Southeastern Conference and the only unanimous selection to the five man AP All-SEC first team. This past year Poperanked second in the SEC in scoring at 18.5 points per game, and led Georgia in scoring in 29 of 32 regular-season games. He also led in rebounding from his shooting guard position in 16 games. He ranks among the SEC leaders in nine of the 13 individual statistic categories. Pope scored in double figures in each of his team’s games (one of only nine nationwide in the NCAA), a testament to his consistent offensive production.
Biggest strength: jump shot and speed
Pope will live or die as a perimeter scorer in the NBA. His greatest strength is his jump shot. Pope has been effective over his entire two-year college career catching and shooting and works effectively off screens to create shooting opportunities. During his second year, he demonstrated against the best defenders in the SEC the ability to create shooting opportunities on his own by employing outstanding quickness, outstanding speed and adequate ball handling. Regarding Pope’s jump shot, he elevates well, releases the ball high, and shoots consistently. Combine Pope’s 6’5” frame, 6’8” wingspan, and athleticism (finished top 5 in sprints and in lane agility drills at the NBA draft combine) with his offensive skills, and Pope’s outside shooting will translate well to the NBA game.
Biggest weakness: short term – strength
Offensively, Pope has not yet demonstrated the strength and the toughness to score inside. Strength and toughness are a concern defensively as well. However, Pope is an excellent rebounder, can crash the offensive boards for points, and finish consistently on the fast break.
Defensively, Pope does not yet appear to have the strength to defend against screens, picks and rolls. This could certainly change as Pope matures physically and as a player. Pope does have the basketball IQ to read offenses and the athleticism to make plays on the ball as a defender. These plays often result in easy – and spectacular – baskets. Pope does have the lateral quickness and size to defend in the NBA backcourt. There is no doubt Pope has the athletic ability and size to eventually be a very good defender if he becomes stronger
Biggest weakness: long term – ball handling.
Pope’s ball handling is a developing skill. With his current ball handling and strength deficit, Pope will not be driving to the rim for points early in his professional career. Pope’s fundamentals are sound and his ball handling has improved markedly. Additionally, Pope has proven to be a hard worker and improvement should continue. However, ball handling – along with lack of strength - will limit his playing time at the outset.
Is Pope an immediate contributor? Yes.
Pope is talented shooter and a gifted athlete. The team that lands Pope will find a way to use him effectively over the course of the long NBA season. He will be one dimensional at the outset, but this one dimension is the most important – he can toss the ball in the basket. Pope is also a great competitor and eager learner – he loves to both practice and play. His year over year improvement in ball handling and in creating his own shot on the perimeter suggest an ability to grow as an NBA player.
Pope’s best fit is a team with a dependable backcourt that can occasionally risk less defense in order to put an outside scoring threat and a speed player on the floor. A team looking for a starting shooting guard will find Pope a risk. A team willing to invest a season in Pope’s strength and skill will find a willing worker and cheerful warrior that could be a heavy contributor for a decade.
Skill that best translates to the pro game: jump shooting
Pope is a quick, enthusiastic competitor that can run, change directions, and shoot – but the greatest of these is shoot. If he adds adequate strength and continues to be smart as a player, look forward to watching Kenny Caldwell-Pope for many years.