Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein is heading into the most important summer of his young life, and it’s beginning to feel like his future won’t continue in northern California.
According to Cauley-Stein’s agent via The Sacramento Bee, the former Kentucky big “needs a fresh start”.
“I really think Willie needs a fresh start,” said Roger Montgomery, a representative of Roc Nation Sports. “Based on how things have gone for him there in Sacramento, I just think it’s time for Willie to move on and we’d really like him to move on.”
Cauley-Stein appeared in 81 games for the Kings – who were the surprise team in the NBA last season – starting all of them while averaging career-highs in steals and rebounds. He also shot the ball at 55.6 percent from the field overall, a five-percent improvement from his 50.2 shooting percentage the season prior.
Following the comments made by Cauley-Stein’s agent, the Kings issued this statement in response:
“Willie is a great player who has shown he can fit our style of play,” the team said. “Beyond that, we can’t comment further.”
Cauley-Stein is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer if the Kings do not extend him a qualifying offer in the final year of his rookie contract. With the remarks made by Cauley-Stein’s agent and the organization, it doesn’t sound too likely that they will extend him that offer. His qualifying offer (QO) from Sacramento would be $6.2 million for the upcoming season, however, he could earn at least twice that on the open market.
If the Kings offer Cauley-Stein the QO, then he’ll be a restricted free agent this summer and the Kings will have the ability to match any offer sheet another team gives him. But in any case, it makes the most sense for the Kings to extend the QO and then rescind it if they don’t want to tie him up in the organization’s cap space. Sacramento is in full control of this situation right now.
If we quickly take a look at the Kings roster, they already have the two frontcourt pieces that they would like to build around in the future with former Duke players, Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley. Bagley showed elite promise in his rookie season and a healthy Giles was just as promising. Cauley-Stein already saw a slight drop in his minutes last season compared to the previous year and that could continue with the development of the other two bigs.
“It’s a tough question,” Kings general manager Vlade Divac said in regards to bringing back Cauley-Stein. “We would like to keep Willie in terms of his talent potential, but he still needs to show us the consistency that we are looking for. We are talking.”
Consistency has always been the biggest gripe with Cauley-Stein, mainly on the defensive end. For a rangy, uber-athletic seven-footer, he’s never been a premier shot-blocker/paint protector. If anything, he’s been below average in that area since he arrived in the NBA.
If Sacramento wants to keep Cauley-Stein around for the long term, it will cost them upwards of $10 million per season and at least four-years in contract length. With the talented young core still improving, he might be closer to his ceiling than most. At that point, it’s up to the Kings to decide if he’s worth the investment. Although, he’s already made it clear to the press that he wouldn’t be. Time for a fresh start.
I’ll have more on Cauley-Stein and his possible free agency this summer including which teams might be in need of his services.