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Willie Cauley-Stein: Inks deal with Warriors

Willie Cauley-Stein

Willie Cauley-Stein

25-Year-Old CenterC

Golden State Warriors

$Signed a one-year contract with the Warriors in July of 2019.

Inks deal with Warriors

July 2, 2019

ANALYSIS
Cauley-Stein started 81 games for the Kings last season, but the organization decided to move on from the soon-to-be 26-year-old with youngsters Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley already in the fold in the frontcourt. The 2015 lottery pick had essentially been a full-time starter across the past two seasons, averaging 12.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals in 27.6 minutes over that span. His role with Golden State remains more muddled, as there’s a strong possibility that Cauley-Stein and the newly re-signed Kevon Looney split minutes at center.

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Cauley-Stein emerged last season after the Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins, creating a vacuum at the center slot. After the All-Star break, Cauley-Stein garnered 30.9 minutes, posting 12.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 50.4 percent from the field. While he isn’t a great scorer, the 7-foot 24-year-old has demonstrated solid upside as a rebounder and defender. He’s also a willing passer, racking up five games last season with at least five assists, all of which occurred in the 25 games he appeared in after the All-Star break. Though the Kings added veteran Zach Randolph to the mix heading into the 2017-18 season, Cauley-Stein still projects to be the starting center over him, Kosta Koufos and Georgios Papagiannis. Due to Sacramento’s center depth, it’s somewhat difficult to peg what Cauley-Stein’s exact role will be next season. Though, his heavy workload last season indicates that coaching and management believes in his potential as a long-term starting option. There are likely safer options from a workload perspective in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, but he still has legitimate sleeper potential.

Cauley-Stein might not have received the accolades some of his fellow lottery picks did as rookies, but he validated the Kings’ belief that he’d add some stability to the frontcourt, particularly for his work on the defensive end. While his averages of 5.3 boards and 1.0 block in 21.4 minutes per game didn’t stand out, Cauley-Stein’s seven-foot, 240-pound frame served as a constant deterrent for the opposition to attack the rim. Cauley-Stein’s game remains less developed on the offensive end, but he did well to convert on most of his limited opportunities, averaging 7.0 points per game on 56.3 percent shooting from the floor. It seems unlikely that Cauley-Stein will develop enough of a perimeter game to raise his offensive floor much higher, but even as a Tyson Chandler-esque type who can protect the rim and excel at finishing near the basket, the 23-year-old would provide fantasy appeal through his rebounding, shot blocking and field-goal percentage. With DeMarcus Cousins expanding his offensive repertoire to the three-point line in 2015-16, he and Cauley-Stein are able to share the floor together, which was something of a concern heading into last season. Look for Cauley-Stein to see his minutes rise during his sophomore season, which should benefit his numbers across the board.

In an effort to improve upon their 27th ranked defense, the Sacramento Kings made the junior center out of Kentucky their selection with the sixth pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. The 2015 1st team All-American averaged 26 minutes, 8.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks while shooting 57 percent from the field last season. Cauley-Stein’s best asset is his ability to defend in the paint as well as on the perimeter, drawing comparisons to athletic NBA centers like Tyson Chandler. His biggest weakness is a lack of development on the offensive end. Cauley-Stein has limited range as a shooter and needs to refine his repertoire with his back to the basket. He has shown promise as a free-throw shooter, having improved his free throw shooting from 37 percent as a freshman to 62 percent during his junior year. His role in the Kings rotation is still to be determined this season. There is a natural void in the frontcourt with Jason Thompson being jettisoned to Philadelphia, but head coach George Karl has mentioned that he would like to see more of Rudy Gay as a stretch four. Regardless, there should be ample opportunity for playing time, as Sacramento lacks appropriate depth behind Demarcus Cousins and will need Cauley-Stein on the court in order to improve their defense. After drafting WCS, the Kings also signed center Kosta Koufos in free agency, a player coach George Karl started at center back in Denver, so it’s likely WCS will be coming off the bench behind Koufos to start the season.