Kings season in review: Willie Cauley-Stein improved, but was it enough?


Kings season in review: Willie Cauley-Stein improved, but was it enough?

Consistently inconsistent. It’s a tag that Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein can’t shake after four seasons in the NBA.

Incredibly athletic and mobile, the 7-footer should be perfect for the Kings’ uptempo style. He had plenty of moments where he fit in well on both ends of the court. He also had plenty of moments where he looks disengaged.

Cauley-Stein opened training camp saying he wanted to get paid. He made improvements in most areas of his game this year, but did he do enough to entice the Kings or any other NBA team into inking him to a long term deal?

Here is a long look at his 2018-19 campaign in Sacramento.


Stats: 11.9 points, 2.4 assists, 8.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 55.6% FG, 27.3 min

Cauley-Stein saw a slight downturn in his offensive output this season, though he improved his efficiency. The former Kentucky star improved his true shooting percentage from 52.9 percent last season to 55.6 percent.

The main reason for his spike in true shooting percentage came with the abandonment of the mid-range game. Cauley-Stein shot just 101 shots outside of 10 feet this season, down from the 184 he attempted last season.  

An aerial artist around the rim, Cauley-Stein shot 71.4 percent at the basket this season and 87.9 percent on dunk attempts. He finished the season with 182 dunks this year, 168 of which were assisted on.

The lob is Cauley-Stein’s friend, but he lacks a defined post move and he doesn’t have a counter attack when his initial move is stymied. In addition, he shot just 31 percent on 200 shot attempts from 3-10 feet away from the basket.

Cauley-Stein also stumbled at the free throw line for long stretches during the season, finishing with a career-worst 55.1 percent from the charity stripe.

While he’s steadily improved as a passer in his four seasons in Sacramento, he’s not a player you can run the ball through in the high post. He grabbed a career-best 2.2 offensive rebounds per game, but for a player with his length and athleticism, that is still below what you would expect.


Touted as a player that could defend positions 1-5 coming into of the 2015 NBA Draft, Cauley-Stein has been a bit of a disappointment on this side of the ball.

He’s long and athletic, which helped him post a career-best 1.2 steals per game. But he refuses to use that same length and athleticism as a shot-blocker around the rim. Cauley-Stein averaged just 0.6 blocks per game on the season and posted the lowest block percentage of his career.

Cauley-Stein failed to register a single blocked shot in 50 of his 81 games played this season.

Overall, the Kings’ starting center allowed a plus 1.6 field goal percentage against this season. He held his opponent to a negative 1.0 field goal percentage against inside of 10 feet, but that number jumped to a plus 2.9 percent on shots inside of six feet. He also allowed a plus 2.9 percent field goal percentage on 3-point attempts.

Coming into the season, one of the biggest knocks on Cauley-Stein was his lack of rebounding. He improved across board, posting 6.2 defensive rebounds per game and a career-best 15.8 percent total rebound percentage.


Four years in and there are still questions. Cauley-Stein has plenty of talent and he may not have come close to his ceiling. He also is very limited in what he produces on the court.

He’s not a great rebounder or rim protector, which is a major issue. He is a really good rim runner and finisher. He gets steals. He doesn’t get blocks. He improved as a passer, but not a major cog in the offense.

All of these pluses and minuses are confusing. Cauley-Stein finished the season with an offensive rating of 118 and a defensive rating of 108. He posted a PER of 18.0, which is well above league average. The numbers say one thing and the eye often says something completely different.

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The Kings have a huge decision facing them when it comes to the 25-year-old big. They’ve spent years developing him and his qualifying offer is only $6 million this season. On the downside, a QO puts a $14 million cap hold on the Kings entering free agency, which could come back to hurt the club.

Will they let him walk for nothing, or will they make him a restricted free agent and wait to see how the market develops for the athletic big? This is one of the larger decisions facing Vlade Divac and the Kings this summer.

What does Harrison Barnes' choice to become free agent mean for Kings?


What does Harrison Barnes' choice to become free agent mean for Kings?

SACRAMENTO -- Harrison Barnes - unrestricted free agent.

The news certainly came as a surprise Tuesday morning when the Kings’ forward chose to walk away from the final year of his contract that would have paid him $25.1 million next season.

While it may have been slightly unexpected, it wasn’t for Vlade Divac and his team. It may have even been the plan all along.

At 27-years-old, Barnes has plenty of basketball in his future and the Kings would like him to remain a part of that. According to multiple sources, the Kings are confident they can lock up their starting small forward to a long-term deal.

There is always a risk that Barnes will find the open market enticing and leave without compensation for Sacramento. That would be bad news for the Kings’ offseason plans, but would also open up a massive amount of salary space for the team to aggressively pursue other options.

Don’t be shocked if Barnes and the Kings move quickly on a four-year deal once free agency opens June 30. Barnes fits the age arc of most of the roster and he instantly fit in as a veteran leader with deep playoff experience.

Barnes had the option of accepting his player option and then working on an extension with the Kings later in the offseason. By opting out, there is a possibility that he is willing to forgo some of the $25.1 million this season for a long-term stability.

Is Barnes with a 4-year, $72-80 million contract? To the Kings, the answer is yes. And a contract like that would immediately impact Sacramento’s bottom line.

With Barnes, the Kings have approximately $67 million in guaranteed contracts for the upcoming season. That doesn’t include a $6.3 million qualifying offer for Willie Cauley-Stein, $1.6 million in non-guaranteed money for Frank Mason or a team option on Yogi Ferrell at $3.1 million

Without Barnes’ $25.1 million, Sacramento has $41.9 million in guaranteed deals and $67.1 million in available space. The Kings have another $6.3 million in minimum salary cap holds, giving them roughly $60.8 million in available cap space, again, without Ferrell, Cauley-Stein or Mason.

There are further cap implications, like massive cap holds for Barnes and Cauley-Stein, but those are complicated and require far more explanation. The short answer is that the Kings can eliminate those holds by renouncing their rights to either player.

While nothing is locked up with Barnes as of June 18, this might be a perfect world scenario for the Kings. If he takes a longer-term deal, but with a reduced salary in Year 1, it gives the team additional resources up front, while retaining an important part of their core.

A starting salary or $18-20 million would open an extra $5-7 million in cap space for this summer, giving Divac and his staff the ammunition necessary to chase a major free agent and still have enough to make one or two major additional improvements.

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This is likely the Kings’ road map for this summer, although there are no guarantees that they can pull it all off. Step one now is to retain Barnes. Step two is to swing for the fences and fill the voids in the rotation.

Source: Kings' Harrison Barnes declines $25M option, now free agent

Source: Kings' Harrison Barnes declines $25M option, now free agent

Harrison Barnes had until June 29 to mull over a $25 million player option for next season, and it appears the veteran forward made his decision.

NBC Sports California has confirmed that Barnes, 27, informed the Kings of his decision to walk away from the final year of his deal and become an unrestricted free agent.

According to a league source, Sacramento is confident they can keep Barnes in the fold with a new long-term contract, although the former Maverick and Warrior has the ability to sign with any team in the league once free agency begins on June 30. 

With Barnes opting out, the Kings' salary cap figure just shifted dramatically. Sacramento has just under $42 million in guaranteed contracts for this season, leaving them with close to $67 million in available cash to spend. 

Barnes spent plenty of time in Sacramento early this summer working out with his current teammates. He also made a trip to India with the NBA where the Kings will play two games during the upcoming preseason.

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ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski was first to report the news.