Willie Cauley-Stein is in the last year of his rookie contract.
I have always liked Willie. I met him in his rookie year and found him to be a good kid ready to dedicate himself to his profession. Since his rookie season, he has always come to training camp with an improved game, and his numbers prove it.
Willie’s career scoring is 9.4 points per game. Last season his points per game went up to 12.8. His career rebounds is at 5.6 per game. Last season he grabbed seven a night.
Cauley-Stein’s numbers have improved across the board with the exception of field goal percentage which dropped to 50.2% last season from 56.3% in his first year. But that is common because when a player gets more playing time, he will take more shots. Willie also weathered the drama of a coaching carousel without making much noise or causing any problems. He just worked hard and acted like a mature professional.
Is Willie just worried about the money?
Willie is about proving he can play at the next level in the NBA. He was drafted by Vlade Divac with the sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft for his defensive potential. Cauley-Stein has since gone out of his way to prove he is not a just defensive player and can be efficient on both ends of the floor. When I met Willie in public, I welcomed him to Sacramento told him I liked his hustle. That is when he stated he is more than just defense and that he will surprise a lot of people.
This year on media day, Willie was talking about this upcoming season as he stated it is time for him to get paid. I knew with Willie it is more about proving he can earn his next contract as a two-way player and not that he already deserves the big contract now. Willie clarified what he meant when he said “Ready to get paid” as meaning he wants to put up the numbers and be a core player for the Kings.
It would be a guess on my part, but I think Willie wants to show us he will have earned a new contract due to his performance this season.
How much should Cauley-Stein get paid in next contract?
This is where Willie gets to put his money where his mouth is. By midseason, everyone will have a sense of how Willie and the team are executing their rebuild. If Willie can put up 10 points and 10 rebounds a game, that would be enough to get paid with a new contract. If Willie can do 20 points and 15 rebounds, he can tell Vlade to back up the Brink’s truck as our former player Isaiah Thomas said a couple of years ago.
Let us see how Willie and the Kings play first.
With a glut of big men on the Kings’ roster, it has made them all work their tails off over the summer. Knowing how much competition there is going to be to get minutes on the court could be a blessing in disguise. Joerger can see if Willie works with the starting lineup or if he is a bench player. All Willie has to do is improve his consistency from game to game. That will secure his future with the Kings and a contract. How much he gets paid will be determined by his numbers. I know WCS numbers will go up, just how high is the unknown.
Willie was drafted on defensive skill alone. He was never projected to be the next great center either. All of this is ok, though. Jason Thompson played many years giving Sacramento decent serviceable numbers. Willie needs to open the throttle and play this year to show us how good he might be someday.
Willie is still young enough to give us plenty of years of solid play. He is a team-first player that improves every year. What is there not to like? Give the team a minimum of 10 points and 10 rebounds or better, and everything will fall into place.