Willie Cauley-Stein, welcome to the Sacramento Kings. After endless rumors of trading the pick, the Kings stuck to their guns and took their man sixth overall.
“I’m talented enough to do a lot of different things, so when I get to Sacramento I’m going to just work my butt off and in time, become a complete player and hopefully bring a championship to the city,” Cauley-Stein said.
Cauley-Stein, a 7-foot, 240-pound big man, played three years at the university of Kentucky. In 39 games last season, the 21-year-old averaged 8.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, one assist, 1.2 steals, 1.7 blocks and 1.2 turnovers in 25.9 minutes.
The Kings invited Cauley-Stein to a pre-draft workout at their practice facility on June 11. Coaches saw a prospect with an NBA-ready body and were surprised by a mid-range jumper.
Make no mistake, Cauley-Stein was drafted for his defensive expertise. The big man is athletic enough to guard multiple positions and projects to be an elite NBA rim protector.
“I didn’t look up to nobody,” Cauley-Stein said at the workout. “I don’t compare myself to nobody. I think I bring a unique set of skills that are my skills. I don’t watch Tyson Chandler or DeAndre Jordan. I just do what I do and that’s how I look at it.”
Concerns popped up in the past week over Cauley-Stein’s health. The Kansas native suffered a stress fracture in his left ankle in March 2014, but the Kings front office was fully aware of the issue. Cauley-Stein dismissed concerns as well.
“Nothing’s wrong with it,” Cauley-Stein noted. “It’s just healing. I think the process of them looking at it, going over it, it’s 95 percent healed. We’ve seen what I’ve done in the past, we’ve seen what I’ve been doing, so it’s fine, it’s really fine.”
“NBA’s a tough sport,” Divac said of Cauley-Stein before the draft. “Injuries are part of the game. I don’t see any big issue there.”
Speculation in recent days had the Kings interested in trading their draft pick to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for veteran point guard Ty Lawson. Sacramento balked at the asking price and talks stalled as a result.
Now that the dust has settled, the Kings, their fans and especially fellow Wildcat DeMarcus Cousins should be pleased with the pick. Cauley-Stein is expected to visit Sacramento this weekend.