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Lakers emerge as main competition for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With the free agency market winding down, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is perhaps the biggest prize left. Other than Nerlens Noel who's expected to stay with the Mavericks on a big contract, KCP will likely command the most money.

Once the Wizards permit the Nets to free up the money they bid on Otto Porter, which could be tomorrow or Thursday, they're expected to move quickly to trade for DeMarre Carroll (and two picks).

At that point, Sean Marks can be expected to make decisions on Caldwell-Pope and any other free agents the Nets like. Or, he can hold onto the team's cap space through the season, emerging on the other side with the NBA's biggest cache.

Of course, other teams are expressing interest in the 6'6" swingmen. On Tuesday, there was word that KCP was, along with Rajan Rondo, being courted by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka in L.A. Brian Windhorst of ESPN and Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times reported Caldwell-Pope and Rajon Rondo were both in LA to meet with Johnson and Pelinka.

Windhorst also reported that teams may try to clear cap space to make their offers more lucrative.

The Nets and Lakers both have about $17 million to offer KCP but both could get (marginally) more with small deals or other moves.

The rest of the league has smaller caches as Bobby Marks notes...

"Through the first 11 days of free agency, only 8 teams have significant cap space: Atlanta ($13.4M), Brooklyn ($16.5M), Denver ($5.3M), Indiana ($5.5M), LA Lakers ($17M), Orlando ($8.8M), Philadelphia ($15.1M) and Sacramento ($5.9M). Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix and Utah are operating as a team over the cap."

Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News suggests the Lakers may be more interested in Rondo. It would be virtually impossible to sign both.

The question is which one are the Lakers more interested in and will they stray from their plan to only offer one-year balloon payouts so they can conserve cap space for next July, when LeBron James, Paul George and Russell Westbrook, the later two native Angelenos, could be free agents.

Rondo might be more willing to take that kind of offer. He’s already banked big bucks in his 11-year career and is coming off a one-year deal with the Bulls. This will be Caldwell-Pope’s first big contract opportunity. He’s not likely to be as big as the 24-year-old had hoped. And the Pistons, who offered him $80 million over five last season, are out of the bidding. They renounced his rights last week.

Still, Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press hears KCP likes the idea of playing in Los Angeles.

Ellis of course knows Caldwell-Pope the best since he covered him the last three years in Detroit.

Should KCP go elsewhere, the Nets could still sign another player or trade for need. We should know a lot more by the weekend.