Willie wants out. The feeling with the Sacramento Kings likely is mutual, but it's complicated.
In case you missed the news, Cauley-Stein, the Kings’ starting center over the last few seasons, went public Saturday, via his agent, with his wishes to leave the team this summer.
“I really think Willie needs a fresh start,” Roger Montgomery of Roc Nation told The Sacramento Bee on Saturday. “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.”
Montgomery went to say that he hopes the Kings don’t extend a qualifying offer to their No. 6 overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Vlade Divac and his team aren’t going to respond to the report with anything of substance, nor should they. They have until June 29 to make a decision on the 25-year-old big and his $6.3 million qualifying offer, and according to a league source, they're still mulling their options.
Cauley-Stein, like every other first-round pick to come into the league, is under team control for his first four seasons and can become a restricted free agent in Year 5. By failing to extend a qualifying offer, Divac would walk away from an asset without any hope of compensation.
This is par for the course with Cauley-Stein. He’s often out over his skis, be it comparing himself to Kristaps Porzingis, raving about Karl-Anthony Towns after being destroyed by his former college teammate, or talking about being “ready to get paid.”
The 7-footer often has waxed about what could be, instead of focusing on consistency and developing the skills that fit his incredible talent.
After four seasons in the league, Cauley-Stein still believes he can be a star. Judging by the statements from his representation, they do as well.
There is nothing wrong with being a star role player at the NBA level. If Cauley-Stein could embrace this idea, he likely would have excelled and grown into a player like Clint Capela.
Playing alongside superstars, Capela’s numbers jump off the page. He averaged 16.6 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game this season for the Houston Rockets. It’s numbers like this that earned the 25th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft a five-year, $90 million contract.
Cauley-Stein isn’t going to receive that type of offer this summer or next, whether the Kings extend a qualifying offer or not. If he somehow does, the Kings would turn down the offer sheet so fast that someone might get a paper cut.
Sacramento’s focus coming into the offseason was to improve the center position, and for good reason. The Kings can’t walk into another year with a starter who ranks in the bottom half of the league in rebounding for bigs and refuses to protect the rim.
Cauley-Stein registered 22 double-doubles this season, which ranked just ahead of rookie Marvin Bagley for the team lead. Bagley finished with 19, although he missed 20 games because of knee injuries.
As a starter for 81 games, Cauley-Stein averaged just 0.6 blocks per game, including 50 games during the 2018-19 season in which he failed to swat a single shot.
There are plenty of things that Cauley-Stein does well. He’s versatile as a defender, and posted 1.2 steals per game. He also runs the floor and finishes well on the lob.
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He has positives, and the Kings haven’t given up hope completely on him. But there's also room for growth at the position, and the Kings are right to look at other options.
It appears a divorce is inevitable, but the Kings need to do what is right for their franchise. If that means extending the qualifying offer and playing the wait-and-see game with Cauley-Stein, so be it.