Post-Preseason Roster Battles

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Cauley-Stein or Koufos?

As in, who will start next to DeMarcus Cousins? Willie Cauley-Stein or Kosta Koufos?

Because it won’t be Gay. He’ll undoubtedly log minutes at the four — Karl has voiced his belief in playing him there — but he’s held off starting Rudy as a power forward, and didn’t do so once this preseason.

So, between the Kentucky rookie and the eight-year veteran, who gets the starting nod? After Sacramento’s October 8 win over San Antonio, Karl offered his at-the-moment thoughts, via Sactown Royalty’s Blake Ellington: “Right now, my feeling is Kosta probably fits the bench better than Willie does and Willie probably fits Cuz a little better too,” Karl said. “I’m not sure that’s where I’ll go but that’s probably where I’m tilted right now.”

In the Kings’s three remaining preseason games against, in order, Portland, the Lakers and New Orleans, Cauley-Stein started versus Portland and New Orleans, and Koufos got the call against the Lakers in Las Vegas.

Across those contests, Koufos recorded eight blocks to Cauley-Stein’s two, 18 rebounds to Willie’s 20, two more assists (two to zero) and one more steal (two to one).

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That being said, Kosta’s superior stats probably make him a better candidate for the backup job than Willie. Considering the bench-specific need for a veteran presence inside, Koufos could (and should) fill that vacancy.

Cauley-Stein cannot, necessarily, and wouldn’t need to if the majority of his minutes come alongside Cousins. Willie is less likely to be burned by his inexperience if he’s playing with someone that can make definitely make up for that gap, as Cousins can.

And Cauley-Stein can help DeMarcus, too. Defensive versatility aside, Willie’s jump shot opens up space inside for Cousins, something Koufos cannot offer. Granted, we don’t know Cauley-Stein can hit midrange jumpers more consistently than, say, Jason Thompson.

This belief in Willie’s jumper relies almost entirely on pre-draft workout videos and snapchats of Kings shootarounds, because his in-game sample size is, well, sparse: This preseason, he attempted one shot from 16+ feet, and made it, per

Let Koufos anchor the bench’s defense, something he’s proven himself capable of doing, and put Cauley-Stein in the position of least pressure — in this unique case, in the starting five — to ease his transition into the NBA.

Next: Acy or Moreland?