Willie Cauley-Stein Could Have A Great Rookie Year


The saying around most Sacramento Kings writers, media heads, and others, is that head coach George Karl has a problem with playing rookies for big minutes. This saying or statement has been drawing concern among Kings fans that rookie Willie Cauley-Stein could have a disappointing season. Hell, many expect that.

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I am here to tell you that I am now of the belief that Cauley-Stein has the potential to be a double-double guy, while still bringing in the normal blocking attributes that everyone is exciting to see. Now what makes me believe that Willie “Trill” is on the verge of having a great season?

Well let’s begin with the statement that everyone is saying, that Karl does not like to play rookies. Looking back on the time Karl spent with the Denver Nuggets (from 2005-2013). In that time with the Nuggets, Karl really only found himself with one solid draft pick and a second year player. That second year player happened to be point guard Jameer Nelson and the rookie Kenneth Faried.

The picks prior to the Nuggets selecting Faried were a bunch of players that the team never kept or needed to actually play because the team had a winning team that had a set rotation they were using.

Here is the list of the players the Denver Nuggets selected during the time George Karl was the team’s head coach (basketball-reference.com):

2005- Jarrett Jack (1st round, 22nd overall)

2006- Leon Powe (2nd round, 49th overall)

2009- Sergio Llull (2nd round, 34th overall)

2011- Kenneth Faried (1st round, 22nd overall)

2012- Evan Fournier (1st round, 20th overall)

2012- Quincy Miller (2nd round, 38th overall)

Karl did not spend one game with Nelson during his rookie season, yet going into Jameer’s second year, Karl named Nelson as the starter and the point guard averaged 28.6 minutes per game as a sophomore. The same story could be said for rookie Kenneth Faried. The “manimal” had a good rookie year average near double-double, with 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds, in 22.5 minutes per game.

Look at a guy like Evan Fournier, a wing player that came in with a roster that was already filled with good wing players. Yet he still averaged 11.3 minutes a game, which does not seem like a lot, but on a team that was filled with guys like Andre Iguodala, Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and a few others. Karl still found a way to play his rookie, so he could gather experience.

I know that there is probably more history behind that statement of “Karl doesn’t play rookies,” but if you are looking at his last coaching stint, to me that doesn’t seem to be the case.

In no way am I suggesting that Cauley-Stein is going to come in and become a huge contributor averaging 10 points, 15 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. In no way am I claiming that he deserves minutes or even needs to be a starter on opening night.

What I am saying however, is that he has a ton of potential and what he does deserve is an opportunity. Many believe that he won’t get the minutes to show what he can do and I feel that is just ridiculous. If he keeps working as hard as reports have suggested, then there is no reason why he can not be great this upcoming season.

Predicted averages for his great rookie season: 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks, in 23 minutes per game.

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