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Trey Burke is still the better prospect, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is closing the gap some

This week’s column for the Detroit Free Press:

Burke’s strong start to the season, compared with a slow start for Caldwell-Pope, only made those complaints louder. But a funny thing has happened over the past eight weeks or so … Caldwell-Pope is significantly closing the gap. He is not asked to do as much as Burke, who has immense responsibility in Utah’s offense, but Caldwell-Pope’s jumper has come around. His athleticism and energy have been much needed in Detroit’s often slow and lackadaisical lineup. And his perimeter defense has been incredible — it’s very easy to project him as an All-Defensive Team caliber guard within a few years.

Although finding pass-happy point guards who don’t turn the ball over is rare, the shooting guard position is not exactly boasting an abundance of talent in the NBA right now as stars like Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen age and near retirement. If Caldwell-Pope develops into a great defensive player who also has the ability to hit the three at a high percentage, he’d have one of the most desirable skill sets in the NBA.

Burke might still be the better prospect in the long run, but Caldwell-Pope has made the debate more interesting. His play has also made the Pistons’ assertions that they were definitely not prioritizing need over talent seem more plausible. Tonight’s game won’t solve anything, but a strong performance from Caldwell-Pope will help the constant Trey Burke footnote next to his name disappear more quickly.

40 Comments

  • Jan 17, 20143:29 pm
    by Brandon Knight

    Reply

    Pistons fans need to get over it. Just because he is from U of M, doesn’t mean would should have drafted him. It is not like he is having a great season. He is having sub par numbers on a bad team while playing heavy minutes. If there is one thing we should regret it is that we traded Brandon Knight. I am not saying that I hate Jennings…but we still could have got him while keeping Knight. Brandon is having a good season in Milwaukee (not great) but.. Still I see a lot of potential in him, he has a lot of room to Improve. I serisouly see him averaging 20+ points 4.5 rebounds 4.5 assists in two years playing as a combo guard. 

    • Jan 17, 20143:39 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Hahahahahaha … Knight is literally doing the same thing in Milwaukee that he always did in Detroit. In fact, he’s possibly a little worse with the Bucks because his 3-pt shooting has dropped to 32 percent (he is getting to the line a bit more though). So in 2.5 seasons as a pro, playing a TON of minutes, he’s done exactly nothing to show that he knows how to competently play either guard spot. He’s inconsistent, an inefficient scorer, not a great passer and really turnover prone. Those same issues have not gone anywhere for three years.

      So he’s put up below league average numbers for a starter for almost three years and you’re projecting him as Dwyane Wade, based on those stats you tossed out. That’s amazing.

    • Jan 17, 20143:56 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Also, just for fun, Burk’s assist percentage this season is more than 10 percent better than Knight’s was as a rookie (and four percent better than Knight’s is this year as an experienced third-year PG). His turnover percentage is five percent lower than Knight’s was a rookie (and three percent lower than Knight’s is this year as an experienced, third-year PG).

      Brandon Knight is only a marginal NBA player. He works hard, which is nice. But he’s lacking at both guard spots. There is nearly three years of evidence supporting this now. It’s time to give up the fight.

  • Jan 17, 20143:36 pm
    by ITS OFFICIAL I HATE CHEEKS

    Reply

    I’m saying Pope right now is more value than Burke would be on this current team… rankings and stuff is great and they are fun to compare ad rookies …in the last several years there have been only A few can’t miss rookies…. only time will tell

    • Jan 17, 20143:42 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      I don’t care about value to this current team. I care about value, period. Right now, Burke is the more valuable player, period. That means he’s a better asset to have than KCP. I don’t know that Burke is going to be a star, but I do know that his assist/turnover percentages are very good for a rookie point guard. When the players around him get better and he doesn’t have to shoot as much, it’s pretty easy to see his efficiency going way up.

  • Jan 17, 20144:11 pm
    by ITS OFFICIAL I HATE CHEEKS

    Reply

    Patrick your love affair with Burke is well documented…him on the Pistons with this team is what I care about…assume we drafted him and assuming we still trades Knight for Jennings…he’d be getting will bynum minutes…and we’d be starting stuckey….

    • Jan 17, 20144:20 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      So you start Jennings, let Burke be your backup PG/guy who pushes Jennings to fix his bad habits, don’t sign Bynum or Billups and spend that money on an inexpensive wing (Bellinelli? Foye? Morrow?). Problems solved.

      It’s not a “love affair” with Burke. I’m not a Michigan fan. It’s a love affair with taking the best prospect available regardless of position. It’s what smart teams do. The point isn’t that I think Burke will or won’t be great. The point is he offers the most value for their pick. So you are either set at PG for 8-10 years or you have a valuable trade asset (as evidenced by the fact that Utah was willing to give up an extra first round pick to get him).

      The bottom line is dumb teams prioritize need over value, and until Caldwell-Pope shows he’s better than Burke (and he hasn’t been better than him, or close to better than him, to this point), the pick was a mistake.

      • Jan 17, 20144:39 pm
        by frankie d

        Reply

        Agreed.  Pretty simple.  Taking burke was the smart thing to have done.  We shall see how it turns out over the next decade but it is hard to imagine burke suddenly forgetting how to do all the things he has done for years.
         

      • Jan 17, 20146:01 pm
        by oats

        Reply

        If I was still doing the Jennings trade then I would have offered to take on Courtney Lee and asked for draft considerations. I bet I could have gotten a second round pick or 2 from them. Lee’s a bit overpaid, but he’s a good enough shooter to still have some value and the draft picks would have been a bonus. I bet Boston would have been all over that kind of move back in the summer since they had no way of knowing that Memphis would get desperate enough to just hand them an expiring deal for Lee.

      • Jan 17, 20146:02 pm
        by David

        Reply

        Sure. But so was picking Greg Monroe ahead of Paul George in 2010, Knight ahead of Kemba, Klay, or Kawhi (what’s with all the K’s in that draft?) in 2011.
        Dumars has not always picked the guy who has retrospectively turned out to be the Best Player Available… which is a legit complaint.
        But it’s one that applies to most GMs, and especially GMs who pick at the top of the draft where the difference between, for example, Brandon Knight and Klay Thompson is so high. 
        At least Dumars and the Pistons’ FO has done a better job drafting than the Cavs, Kings, Wizards, Bobcats, or Raptors (5 teams who have been picking right around Detroit since the rebuild began in 2009/10). 
        Your point is well taken, but get over it. If Burke turns out to be CP3 2.0 and KCP turns into Stuckey 2.0 than we can come back to this. But its way too early to say who’s the better player. The most likely scenario from watching these two guys play is that they both end up being solid starters at their position, (but not all-star level good). And in this league a solid starting 2 guard is harder to find.
        And right now it looks like the real potential superstar PG we missed out on isn’t Burke, but MCW.
         

        • Jan 17, 20146:46 pm
          by oats

          Reply

          Everyone rated Monroe higher than George. Pretty much everyone rated Knight higher than those guys in that draft. When evaluating whether or not someone is making good decisions you should do it on whether or not it was a smart decision at the time the decision was made. That’s the most likely way to ensure good decisions going forward. Basing it solely on what we learn in hindsight rewards luck, and luck is likely to change. On draft day all of those picks made sense. That’s the problem with Pope over Burke, it didn’t make much sense with what we knew at the time.

        • Jan 17, 201410:48 pm
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          I have no issue with missing on guys that essentially everyone missed on. I don’t care about the Darko pick, for example, because every team in the league and every scout in that draft had him rated as the second best prospect. Sometimes you miss on prospects. Sucks, but it happens.

          My issue with Burke is that he was CLEARLY the best prospect on the board to everyone evaluating the draft. I believe the Pistons favored filling a need by taking KCP over taking the best prospect on the board, and that’s a terrible strategy.

          It’s not about the player for me. It’s about the strategy.

          • Jan 18, 201410:52 am
            by Jon

            what makes it even worse is that at the time pg was actually a need as well as sg.  so drafting on need or talent should have yielded the same player

    • Jan 17, 20145:47 pm
      by oats

      Reply

      Why should we assume they still do the Jennings trade though? That trade is unnecessary if the team drafted Burke, and it likely doesn’t happen because the team’s needs change. With KCP as the pick the team was desperately in need of a PG to run the offense both now and down the road. With Burke as the pick the team would desperately need a SG for both now and down the road. The obvious way to handle that is to not do the Jennings trade and hope that one of Knight or Middleton could fill the SG role. Have you seen Middleton by the way? Are you really telling me the team would be that much worse off with Burke and Middleton as the starting guards, and Knight as an added bench piece than with Jennings and KCP? I think that’s more or less a wash for this season. And the best prospect of any of those guys going forward is Burke, so it’s also better for the Pistons long term.

  • Jan 17, 20146:20 pm
    by Ronaldo Williams

    Reply

    This live affair is baffling with Trey Burke. First, he isn’t the best rookie point guard, so MCW is a better complaint about a point guard, not Trey Trey. Second, how is drafting a guard whose 3 years younger going to solve the problems the Pistons are having? So this team would consist of point guards and power fowards? Silliness, this whole conversation. Just let someone actually develop before we say.who can’t be or cant do. 

    • Jan 17, 20146:55 pm
      by oats

      Reply

      But MCW wasn’t regarded as a top prospect on draft day, at least by most accounts. He’s since outperformed his expectations by being better as a rookie than he was a college player, but it’s unrealistic to ask Detroit to have made that call. Burke was the obvious pick at the time, and he’s still one of the 2 best rookies from this draft.
       
      It’s also not about solving the problems for this team this year. It’s about setting the team up with the best chances of being successful from here on out. Burke is still the better prospect of the two, so the odds are that he represents the better option for the team in the long haul. It’s not even really about if Pope ends up being the better prospect of the two in the long term. It’s more about the decision making process. More often than not, passing on the better prospect for a guy that is perceived as a better fit is going to be a mistake.

  • Jan 17, 20146:43 pm
    by JYD for Life

    Reply

    One could argue that Michael Carter-Williams would have been the best value at that pick.  
    Funny how nobody in Detroit mentions him.  
    KCP will be solid, but probably never an All-Star.  Much like Burke.  
    That being said, Burke does have the better numbers.  I would like to see him on this team though.  Pretty sure he wouldn’t have the ball in his hands as often. KCP rarely touches the ball.  

    • Jan 17, 20147:01 pm
      by oats

      Reply

      MCW comes up fairly often here at least. Pretty much any time someone brings up Burke someone else responds by bringing up MCW. Just look at the post by Ronaldo Williams if you want proof. Burke comes up more often because of draft day projections though. The general consensus was that MCW and KCP were pretty closely rated, and rated a notch below Burke. So passing on Burke seemed like a mistake on draft night and still does. That seems like a far more logical complaint than wondering how the team didn’t realize that MCW would be better as a rookie than he ever was in college.

      • Jan 18, 201410:56 am
        by Jon

        Reply

        the only thing that could be said for picking MCW over Burke based on the pre draft ratings would be his potential to play both guard positions. 

  • Jan 17, 20147:12 pm
    by Ronaldo D. Williams

    Reply

    What draft rankings are you referring to, or is this just your opinion oats? Marcus Smart was the top point guard prispect then dropped out. The knock on MCW was that he couldn’t shoot, I personally didn’t want MCW, I didn’t want any point guards. You don’t win titles in the NBA with point guards.

    • Jan 17, 20147:45 pm
      by oats

      Reply

      I’m referring to a general consensus from various experts and not any one specific ranking. Smart definitely was the top rated PG prospect well in advance of the draft, but after he dropped out it was down to MCW and Burke. Burke had the edge in most rankings, although notable guys like Chad Ford did say he would take MCW over Burke. Ford did say that he felt that Burke was generally preferred by NBA front office guys though.
       
      I don’t know why I’m taking seriously the take of a guy that thinks that PG’s don’t win titles. What kind of Pistons fan would ever make that claim? Thomas was clearly the best player on the Bad Boys and Billups has a legitimate argument to be the best player on the Goin To Work era team. It’s pretty rare to win it all without a good PG, and the few teams that have done it had several superstars. Even then their PGs were usually competent, which is better than what the Pistons had on draft day. Not taking PGs even if they are the higher rated prospect is a really dumb strategy.

    • Jan 17, 201410:49 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Chad Ford and Draftexpress, the two most respected draft reporters out there, both had Burke ahead of Carter-Williams pre-draft.

  • Jan 17, 20147:16 pm
    by Ronaldo D. Williams

    Reply

    What proof is there anyways that Trey Burke is better prospect anyway? He shoots worse than KCP and is .020 better in 3p field goal percentage. 

    • Jan 17, 20147:53 pm
      by oats

      Reply

      3s are worth more than 2s, so they are pretty much equal in terms of points per shot attempt (although Burke is very slightly higher).
       
      That aside, the answer would be everything written in the article. Short version, Burke is a great passer that protects the ball. It is really hard to find someone that can efficiently run an offense and get the entire team playing better. It is much easier to find someone to hit an open jump shot and play some defense. That makes Burke the more valuable prospect. I guess you are going to automatically disagree with that since you have this inane idea that PGs don’t win championships, so I’m probably just wasting my time. Still, I figured I’d answer the question.

    • Jan 17, 20148:47 pm
      by AYC

      Reply

      Trey Burke= Brandon Jennings’ First Half Passing+Brandon Jennings’ Shooting+Brandon Jennings at His Laziest Defending.
      Oh and people go on and on about BJ’s upside, so don’t give me the whole “But Burke is younger”. Both have upside. 

      • Jan 17, 201410:55 pm
        by Patrick Hayes

        Reply

        Haha … I’m not sure I understand the advanced stat you just created with that formula.

        I am intrigued about your discussion of the upside of BJs though.

    • Jan 17, 201410:59 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      “What proof is there anyways that Trey Burke is better prospect anyway? He shoots worse than KCP and is .020 better in 3p field goal percentage.”

      Great passer, takes care of the ball as well as almost any PG in the league, plays a more demanding position, he’s being asked to play a bigger role immediately, hence more pressure/responsibility to contribute every game, etc. He was a far, far, far better college player, and so far as pros, he’s been a much better pro player too.

      This is really not that hard. Trey Burke is just a better basketball player than Caldwell-Pope right now. Doesn’t mean it will always be that way necessarily, but so far, Burke is just better.

  • Jan 17, 20147:45 pm
    by Mythx

    Reply

    Patrick,  It totally agree would should have taken Burke. And had we its doubtful we would have traded for Jennings. All things considered I would much rather have a Burke/Knight back court than a Jennings/KCP back court. Primarily for 3 reasons.  1) I think overall Burke will be the best player of that group in 2 years. He might be less talented than Jennings but I think he will be a better defender/A/T ratio player. 2) Team chemistry would be better as both Knight and Burke are better than Jennings in that area. 3) ALso MONEY.  you would be spending FAR less on Burke/Knight back court than a Jennings/KCP one. And I think there would be little difference overall even this year between their effectiveness.
     
     
     
     

    • Jan 17, 201410:54 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Jennings is far better than Knight and his contract isn’t bad. I’d still definitely make that Knight/Jennings trade, although it would be nice to have Middleton back.

      • Jan 18, 201412:48 am
        by oats

        Reply

        I can’t see Jennings and Burke coexisting. You’d be doing that trade as a stop gap while waiting for Burke to get ready to take over, but then you’d be in a position where you’d have to try to dump Jennings for a better fitting piece. Nothing screws up trade value like everyone thinking a guy needs to be moved. I’d rather have a clearer path for Burke to take over, Middleton, Knight, and some extra financial flexibility to potentially getting forced to dump Jennings for 50 cents on the dollar.

      • Jan 18, 201411:02 am
        by Jon

        Reply

        i’d still trade knight for a pick maybe but not BJ. he’s fun to watch but he doesn’t do anything in second halves to win games

  • Jan 17, 20149:11 pm
    by AYC

    Reply

    I don’t think people are recalling the 2013 Draft quite accurately.  First thing we must remember, is that 2013 was seen as an exceptionally bad year talent wise.  The number one prospect was a human toothpick who had almost no offensive skill.  The number two was a “not-quite Dwayne Wade” (as opposed to other drafts with actual Dwayne Wades) and the number 3 a puffball.  If ever there was a year to do a reach or value athleticism over skill and gamble, this was it.
    When it came to talent evaluation, Trey Burke and MCW were seen as deeply flawed   Burke was knocked for his size, athleticism, and defense. No one doubted his ability to run an offense, but people questioned whether or not he could get to the rim as much and in some way stop the opposing PG.  So far, he is who we thought he was.  MCW was seen as athletic and long, but people questioned his shot. However he has shown himself to be a better distributor and better at getting to the rim and volume scoring than was projected.  KCP was rated as one of the best athletes in the draft.  I think he was top-3 in the sprint and 3 cone if I recall.  Also, advanced metrics loved him, in spite of him playing with 11 guys from the Y every game(and taking them to an almost .500 season single-handedly).  However, his playing in Georgia  led to him being somewhat overlooked.  The buzz didn’t take off on him until after his workout numbers came out. 
    Burke the better prospect?  Maybe using 1980s scouting techniques. But for those who emphasize athleticism and advanced metrics, KCP was arguably the better of the two.  There was a reason Burke fell so far despite having no character issues.  As for upside, as we’ve seen with Brandon Jennings, one of the hardest things for a PG to improve is their ability to up their FG% at the rim.  Being already a good distributor, there isn’t much upside barring some explosion into John Stockton territory, which is unlikely.  Burke’s defense will never be elite, he simply lacks the athleticism and size to make that happen, no upside there.  The only way he can significantly improve is if he becomes Curry-esqe from beyond the arc.  Possibly possible, but he doesn’t quite have that elite shooting touch.  Where is this great upside?  How is he a great prospect?  KCP?  Shooting appears to be trending up.  Defense already good, can get better with experience as he has the length, drive, competitiveness, and athleticism to make continued improvement.  He might never become an All-Star PG as his poor dribble will be difficult to overcome and likely can never be “good”.  That said, he has good upside and decent prospects.  
    In the end, there is nothing that screams Burke over KCP or Burke period.  
    Also, KCP just looks good in a Pistons uniform.  I don’t think Burke would.  Burke needs some  yellow in his jersey.  
     

    • Jan 17, 201410:52 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      “But for those who emphasize athleticism and advanced metrics, KCP was arguably the better of the two.”

      Um … you realize that if we went by advanced stats, Burke was arguably the most productive of any top prospect in the draft, right? No one had KCP ahead of Burke prior to this draft. No one.

    • Jan 18, 201412:35 am
      by oats

      Reply

      Yeah, the 2013 draft was really weak. I saw 6 prospects that looked decent, and that was pretty close to the general consensus. Burke was one of those 6 and Caldwell-Pope wasn’t.

      • Jan 18, 20145:25 am
        by AYC

        Reply

        But as I said, what was the basis for that?  Based on his combine numbers, as well as his production and stats in Georgia, there was every justification for putting him in that group. 
        Put it on paper, no names.  There is plenty of reason to at least make KCP a reasonable alternative in that Draft class and plenty of reason to rate him above Burke.

  • Jan 17, 201411:40 pm
    by Sergio's Fried Chicken

    Reply

    Dude Kcp will be the next Dumars period good defense good shooter smart player . Trey Burke is not better than Jennings at this point so having him here would not made this a better team anyways. Now if we had a stud at the Sg before the draft i would be ok with burke. Kcp is what we needed just wait. However Burke is a better Pg than Knight so Dumars knew if he did not draft Burke he had to find a better Pg than Knight and draft a solid Sg.

    • Jan 18, 201412:24 am
      by oats

      Reply

      Is Burke better than Jennings right this second? Maybe not, but these two are pretty close. Is KCP better than Knight? Yep. Is KCP better than Middleton? Umm, maybe I guess. He’s a better defender, but Middleton is a much better shooter so far. So, is Jennings and KCP better than Burke, Middleton, and Knight? I honestly have no idea. I seriously doubt it would make a big difference. That’s just looking at this year though. Going forward it’s Burke that is likely to be the best player in this discussion, and that’s why you take Burke and just deal with the weak SG position.

  • Jan 18, 20142:16 am
    by mythx

    Reply

    Patrick,
    I think you missed my point regarding Knight. If the Pistons drafted Burke there would have been zero need to trade for Jennings. The two could never co-exist on the team as neither could shift to SG. 
    I assume that Knight would have shifted to starting SG like he did last year had we not signed a better player.  Is he the answer there? Nope. But for the money The Pistons would have spent on that backcourt. I would rather have them simply maintained the status quo and started both of them. Than this disaster we have now. 
    Teams have two assets they must protect. They picks and their cap room. Joe managed to screw them both up at the same time. He blew the draft pick. And then compounded the problem by using up cap space to try to fix the problem.
    That has been a regular feature of his. He picked Daye when I thought he should have picked Lawson. Then went out and spent a ton of cash filling in holes on the roster when smart draftiing would have fixed the problem. Like not using all 4 of your picks on SF’s in the same year.
     

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