Willie Cauley-Stein Set to Start for the Sacramento Kings


In a surprising but not completely unforeseen turn of events, Willie Cauley-Stein seems set to start alongside DeMarcus Cousins in the Sacramento Kings’ first game against the Clippers. According to CSN Kings Insider James Ham, Willie Trill is going to start over Kosta Koufos against Los Angeles.

George Karl has been leaning towards Cauley-Stein for a while now, but this is the first time he’s more than merely hinted towards having a Boogie Cousins/Willie Trill frontcourt in his starting five.

Of course Karl’s smart wording means there’s still a bit of uncertainty–it’s still possible Koufos is going to get the nod, but as long as Cauley-Stein is good to go injury wise he should now have the chance to start his first NBA game.

Now that he’s impressed his head coach, Trill should just need to get to 100 percent health and the starting role will be his to lose. Cauley-Stein missed the Kings’ last practice with a sprained ankle, but all reports make it sound like this is nothing more than a very minor ailment that shouldn’t limit Willie in game one.

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There has been much debate within the Sacramento fanbase as to who will and who should get the start next to Cousins, and although Cauley-Stein is well-liked by most of the Kings’ faithful there is a sizable amount of fans who believed he shouldn’t be starting right off of the bat.

Koufos is an experienced veteran who has been Karl’s starting center back in their time with the Denver Nuggets, so it seemed logical that he would re-assume that role while Willie learns more about NBA basketball.

Oct 17, 2015; Lexington, KY, USA; Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein (00) passes the ball against New Orleans Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham (44) in the second half at Rupp Arena. Sacramento Kings defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 107-98. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

A smaller but very vocal minority of fans also wanted to see Rudy Gay starting at the four so the Kings could run with a small-ball lineup, but with the makeup of Sacramento’s roster that seemed unlikely. Gay will probably see time at the four, but unless the injury bug is biting he won’t start there.

So that really left Koufos and Cauley-Stein as the main candidates. Both of those players are good defenders, but Cauley-Stein has the potential to be a game-changing defender in time and Karl going with him shows a commitment to defense.

Cousins is a great defender in his own right–pairing these two together is going to ensure the Kings are a very good defense, at the worst. That might’ve been the biggest factor in Karl’s decision–offense is important, but we all know that defense wins championships.

For an example of that, look no further than the reigning champion Golden State Warriors. The Dubs famously we’re a prolific offense, and indeed did end up second in the NBA in offensive efficiency. Their real strength was defense, though–Golden State was the most defensively efficient team in the Association last season.

Lastly, as our Stephen Rubalcaba so smartly claimed earlier this week, it’s the final five that really matters. Cauley-Stein may be the starter at the power forward spot, but if Koufos is consistently better than the rook he will be the one seeing minutes at the end of games.

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