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.
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.