Willie Cauley-Stein: The One True King Come Draft Day


Excitement is building in Sacramento (and around the entire NBA) for the upcoming NBA Draft that will take place on Thursday, June 25th. And for good reason–the draft is the first big event of the NBA Offseason, and will ultimately play a huge role in deciding the future of all 30 NBA franchises.

More from Kings News

But although of course the draft is important for every NBA team, it’s even more crucial to the bad teams. Teams in the lottery probably really need some extra help to be able to compete and drag themselves out of that position, because besides Sam Hinkie nobody likes being a perennial lottery team.

I’m positive that George Karl, Vlade Divac and Vivek Ranadive don’t–the Sacramento Kings’ brain trust surely wants this to be the last time for a long time the Kings’ pick falls in the lottery. For that to happen and Sacramento to really make waves in the Western Conference, the Kings must select the perfect draft prospect for their team with their sixth pick.

In my opinion, there’s one prospect that stands out as the perfect pick for Sacramento to make should be remain on the board for the Kings’ sixth overall selection–Willie Cauley-Stein.

George Karl claims Sacramento is targeting a defensive player first and foremost in the draft, and Cauley-Stein just-so-happens to be able to “guard anyone on earth“. He’s known for being versatile enough to cover all five positions, meaning he can defend away from the basket in addition to being an elite rim protector.

He’s not only a great defensive player however, he’s also got the athleticism and offensive skills to contribute on both ends of the floor. A Kentucky Wildcats assistant coach called Cauley-Stein “John Wall-ish at 7-1”, meaning his speed and quickness are akin to Washington’s speedy point guard than a typical NBA big man.

Although he’s tried to keep as quiet as possible with his intentions with the Kings’ draft pick, Divac did sort of tip his hat when asked in an interview with the Sacramento Bee what kind of player he would like to draft.

I’m not sure if there’s a better description of Cauley-Stein in Sacramento than “preferably…a long, athletic shot blocker and rim protector to complement DeMarcus Cousins”, considering the top two centers (Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor) will almost certainly both be drafted by the time the Kings get to pick.

Speaking of Boogie Cousins, there’s yet another reason why Willie Cauley-Stein is likely to end up wearing the purple and white this upcoming season. Boogie reportedly would like the Kings to draft WCS so he wouldn’t have to play center and have to worry about rim protection anymore.

So that makes the head coach, the GM, and the star player of the Sacramento Kings all at least hinting (or in Boogie’s case declaring) they would like to draft Cauley-Stein. I’d like to throw my vote in for Willie as well.

The only prospect outside of my top three (D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns) that would make me hesitate to draft the uber-athletic Cauley-Stein would be Emmanuel Mudiay. At one point the gifted point guard was a potential number one selection, although he has since dropped as European prospects Mario Hezonja and Kristaps Porzingis have shot up the draft boards.

I like Mudiay’s potential a lot, but I just feel like big men are more scarce and thus more valuable. Drafting Cauley-Stein would give Sacramento a great–and I mean great–backcourt for the foreseeable future. Not many teams can say that.

If you need another reason to like Willie Cauley-Stein, just look at the neighboring Golden State Warriors. They too have a center who can cover all five positions and move in transition, and they just became NBA Champions based off of that style of play.

The difference between the Warriors’ Draymond Green and Cauley-Stein? Draymond is 6’6″, and Willie is 7’1″. Imagine a bigger, badder, and quite possibly faster Draymond Green who’s proven lately he can indeed shoot–that’s Willie Cauley-Stein.

How can you pass on that at sixth overall? I don’t think you can, and I don’t think the Kings will, despite a recent rumor about Cauley-Stein’s supposedly troubling injury history. I don’t really buy into that particular rumor–Cauley-Stein’s sickle-cell trait has been known about for two years, so why would it only now affect his draft stock?

Even if there is some risk that Cauley-Stein occasionally has to play slightly restricted minutes due to that trait, his upside makes him worth the risk. If Joel Embiid was worth the third overall selection last year despite him missing his entire would-be rookie season, Willie Cauley-Stein is definitely worth the sixth pick this year.

More from A Royal Pain

Next: Has Jamaal Charles Lost a Step?