April 22, 2018, 7:32 pm
2017-18 averages: 73 G | 58 GS | 28.0 MP | 12.8 PTS | 7.0 REB | 2.4 AST | 1.1 STL | 0.9 BLK | 1.5 TOV | 50.2 FG% | 25.0 3P% | 61.9 FT% |
Willie Cauley-Stein came into the 2017-18 campaign full of confidence, touting his improved offensive game through interviews and videos on social media. At one point during the season he went as far as comparing his game to that of Knicks All-Star Kristaps Porzingis.
“Offensively, I gotta get to the point that I’m just going at dudes like him. Guarding him, and then watching his game, you take away, oh, this is what he’s doing. I have the same body size, the same skill-level, just transfer it over to a game now. But being behind in the race, he’s been doing it for a while,” Cauley-Stein told Howie Kussoy of the New York Post.
Throughout the season Cauley-Stein remained motivated in his quest to become the top option on offense, telling Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee he needed to be more of a “dog.”
“I think I definitely want to be in that role,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’m trying to work for that role, I work every day for that role. I manifest that role and eventually that’s going to be my role.”
Having confidence is essential for a player to be successful in the NBA and Cauley-Stein didn’t shy away whenever he was asked about his offensive game. It’s an area of his game that he was criticized for coming out of Kentucky, and many draft experts and analysts pegged him as a defensive player with limited upside offensively.
It makes sense why he’s motivated to become a more complete player on offense, and he certainly made strides to becoming that this season.
Cauley-Stein’s gone from averaging 7.0 points per game in his rookie season to 12.8 points per game in his third year with the Kings; a significant and impressive improvement considering that seemingly limited offensive upside.
The speed and agility he possess for a 7-footer enables him to maneuver around bigger centers with ease. He’s developed a nifty spin move that proved incredibly effective when rolling to the rim – a move that other big men around the league would struggle to pull off – and a respectable mid-range jumper.
One of Willie’s most impressive games of the season came against the San Antonio Spurs. He showcased the strides he’s made on offense and a level of confidence that you wouldn’t have seen from him through his first two seasons in the NBA.
Cauley-Stein probably doesn’t possess the tools to be the No. 1 offensive option for an NBA team, but there’s no reason why he can’t be a reliable second or third guy. The Kings are still trying to establish a hierarchy on offense and they’ve got a number of players who are in the mix to be contributors on a nightly basis.
Developing his game on offense will be crucial, but it can’t be at the expense of his defense. He has the upside to effectively guard four positions if he’s locked in and motivated to do so. This season he took a back seat in that department, and was often burned by opposing big men on the block. This wasn’t happening every night, but it happened more often that it has in previous years.
Cauley-Stein’s primary focus on a nightly basis needs to be defense. That’s what he was drafted for and what he has more upside in. He needs to continue to work hard at increasing his lateral quickness to stay in front of more agile forwards, while also adding muscle to contain bigger centers.
Inconsistency was a common theme for Cauley-Stein throughout the season, and it’s a big reason why fans are hesitant to commit to him long-term. It’s hard to gauge exactly where the Kings front office are in regards to their third-year center, but they’ll likely weigh up prospects in the draft and pending free agents and then see where they stand with Cauley-Stein.
He’s got one more year left on his deal before he’s due to become a restricted free agent in 2019. With the way the market is trending, Cauley-Stein could be looking at around $14 million per season come 2019 and it’ll be interesting to see whether the Kings commit that kind of money to the former Kentucky product.
The Kings have time to make a call on him, and it would be foolish to jump the gun before fully unpacking the potential Cauley-Stein has. He turned in a career-year and that’s impressive in itself, but it seemingly wasn’t enough to shake the questions surrounding his future.
Cauley-Stein showed promise, though. He showed that he can be a valuable player in the league and that he can help the Kings moving forward. Fans should be happy with his overall performance this season, and they should be happy with him as the team’s starting center for the foreseeable future.
December 13, 2019, 1:13 amNikola JokicC, Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets to a 114-99 win on Thursday with 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting with 11 rebounds, six assists and two 3-pointers.
Jokic hasn't gone into full Joker mode yet, but tonight is about what you'd expect and want from him. There might still be some impatient owners looking for those juicy triple-doubles and high scoring numbers so a buy-low may be in the cards still.
December 13, 2019, 1:09 amJamal MurrayPG, Denver Nuggets
Jamal Murray logged 28 minutes on Thursday, scoring 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting while adding six rebounds, three assists, a steal and two 3-pointers.
Murray was dealing with the funnily named "trunk contusion" but came back and delivered against the Blazers tonight. Deploy him in all of your lineups. Will Barton logged 35 minutes, scoring 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting while adding 11 rebounds, four assists, a steal and two 3-pointers and continues to be one of the most consistent scorers on the Nuggets.
December 13, 2019, 1:07 amPaul MillsapPF, Denver Nuggets
Paul Millsap scored six points 3-of-7 shooting while adding five rebounds and a block on Thursday.
Millsap was dealing with a foot injury and Jerami Grant (20 points, five rebounds, two steals and five triples in 31 minutes) was having a great game so Millsap took extra rest.
December 13, 2019, 1:03 amGary HarrisSG, Denver Nuggets
Gary Harris scored 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting with one rebound, two assists and three triples on Thursday.
Harris is starting to heat up, but we've seen this before this year so there's some skepticism about his season-long value. Feel free to ride him out while he's hot though.
December 13, 2019, 1:02 amHassan WhitesideC, Portland Trail Blazers
Hassan Whiteside hosted another block party, swatting four shots to go with his 33 points on 15-of-21 shooting with 11 boards, two assists and a triple on Thursday.
Whiteside continues to throw up some huge numbers and the situation is just perfect for him. He'll continue to post huge numbers as long as he's healthy and his 12.5 boards and 2.4 blocks a game are propelling him inside the top-10 on the year.
December 13, 2019, 1:00 amDamian LillardPG, Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard struggled shooting in Thursday's outing vs. the Nuggets, scoring 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting while adding two rebounds, 11 assists, one steal and two triples.
Lillard only scored five points in the first half, but had a game-high in assists. Teams continue to send doubles and play over on screens against Lillard as he's one of the few threats on offense for the Blazers. He's still a first-round value play.
December 13, 2019, 12:57 amKent BazemoreSG, Portland Trail Blazers
Kent Bazemore scored nine points on 3-of-7 shooting with three boards, two assists and a 3-pointer on Thursday.
Bazemore won't be the sexiest play, but the Blazers are really hurting and they need him to play big minutes. Anfernee Simons (22 minutes, nine points, one assist and one steal) will also get some extended run with Rodney Hood out for the rest of the season with a torn Achilles.
December 13, 2019, 12:57 amCJ McCollumSG, Portland Trail Blazers
C.J. McCollum scored 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting with two rebounds, two assists and three 3-pointers on Thursday.
McCollum had an off night, but ran into a tough opponent on the road. He'll be better in the next one.
December 13, 2019, 12:53 amCarmelo AnthonyPF, Portland Trail Blazers
Carmelo Anthony had a full line on Thursday, scoring 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting with nine boards, one assist, two steals, two blocks and two treys.
Anthony continues to put up numbers and should be rostered in most leagues due to the the fact that someone has to produce on this Blazers team.
December 13, 2019, 12:19 amCory JosephPG, Sacramento Kings
Cory Joseph is probable for Friday's game against the Knicks despite some lower back soreness.
Joseph has been dealing with this lower back issue for a couple weeks but has generally played through it and will continue to be a deep-league streaming option until De'Aaron Fox returns.
Source: NBA Injury Report