SACRAMENTO -- The Willie Cauley-Stein saga took an interesting turn Tuesday afternoon when the unrestricted free agent center agreed to a reported small, one-year contract to join the Golden State Warriors, sources confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole.
After four years in Sacramento, the 25-year-old center is getting a fresh start. That might be just what everyone involved needed.
Taken with the No. 6 overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft, the 7-footer out of Kentucky never lived up to his potential with Sacramento. Some of that was due to the franchise’s instability when he was drafted, but there is plenty of blame to go around.
After declaring that he was “ready to get paid” during media day last September, Cauley-Stein got off to a quick start in Sacramento. But by Christmas, his play had regressed back to the mean.
Cauley-Stein showed improvement in some areas during his fourth NBA season, posting 11.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. The rebound number was a career-high and the assist total matched his best season as a professional.
But the wild inconsistency and his reluctance to act as a rim protector hurt his value in Sacramento and apparently around the league.
Versatile enough to guard multiple positions and athletic enough to be an elite rebounder, Cauley-Stein has the tools to be a successful modern NBA center. His talent has never been in question.
He’s coming off a season where he started 81 games for the Kings and now, he instantly helps fill a void in the Warriors roster that is severely depleted after the loss of Kevin Durant free agency, a long term injury to Klay Thompson and a trade that sent veteran Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies.
With Cauley-Stein in the fold, the Warriors likely are moving away from another former King in DeMarcus Cousins. The former All-Star is an unrestricted free agent after playing 30 games for Golden State last season.
Meanwhile, to fill the Kings' void at the center position, Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac pivoted in a new direction during the opening hours of free agency. He added former Hawks big man Dewayne Dedmon on a 3-year, $41 million contract and then backed that up with a super-athlete in Richaun Holmes.
Dedmon, 29, played a similar style to Cauley-Stein last season in the Hawks uptempo offense, although he averaged nearly twice as many blocks and can stretch the defense with his perimeter shooting.
Holmes plays hard and like Dedmon, he acts as a rim protector and energy big.
The new additions will fight for time with second-year big man Harry Giles at the center position. It’s a deep group that should give head coach Luke Walton versatility and plenty of energy.
For Cauley-Stein, he gets a fresh start with a team in flux. Whether he can fulfill his enormous potential is a question the Kings were no longer willing to ponder after four seasons of investment.