I think I can speak for most Kings fans, and members of the local media when I say that nearly everyone seems pretty excited about the addition of Willie Cauley-Stein to the Sacramento Kings roster. It was Vlade Divac’s first basketball decision since being named VP of basketball and franchise operations, and he nailed it.
The relationship between the Sacramento Kings, their fans, and the national media is contentious right now, to say the least, but we already know this selection went over well locally. What is the national media saying about the Kings decision to draft Willie Cauley-Stein with the 6th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft? Lets take a look.
Chad Ford, ESPN (B-)
Cauley-Stein has major star potential. He has the ability to be a future Defensive Player of the Year winner. He's the most athletic 7-footer I've ever seen and literally has the ability to guard all five positions on the floor. The Kings badly needed rim protection next to DeMarcus Cousins, and Cousins (who is friends with WCS) badly needed reassurance from the franchise that they were still looking out for him. Cauley-Stein also has major bust potential.
He's a below-average offensive player, has a quirky personality, isn't much of a gym rat and has an ankle problem that will likely require surgery at some point. He also would've likely been available in the late lottery. For a team that desperately needs an infusion of maturity, leadership and grit, I'm not sure Cauley-Stein was a great choice. It's going to be fascinating to see how this all plays out in Sacramento. It will either be brilliant or a disaster. For the sake of long-suffering Kings fans, I hope he's brilliant.
Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report (B+)
Having finished No. 29 in the NBA in opponent field-goal percentage inside five feet, per NBA.com, and No. 27 in defensive efficiency, per ESPN, the Sacramento Kings found a perfect antidote in Willie Cauley-Stein.
He has the potential to become one of the most unique defenders in the league, with the versatility to protect the rim, switch onto guards and pressure full court.
Cauley-Stein isn't a go-to offensive player, but after improving his free-throw percentage in each season at Kentucky, there is a chance he can evolve into a threatening mid-range shooter.
There were concerns before the draft regarding a 2014 foot injury, which, according to DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony, may not have healed correctly.
But assuming it's not a serious red flag, the Kings landed a need who can ultimately play alongside DeMarcus Cousins or replace him at center.
Sam Vecenie, CBS Sports (B+)
The Kings kept it simple, and proved the words about Cauley-Stein's injuries to be a smokescreen by taking him at No. 6. You can think of this one of two ways. First: could this be an olive branch to DeMarcus Cousins? The team has said that they'll keep him, and Cousins was vocal about wanting Cauley-Stein. Now that he's gotten his man, will that help? Or, could this be Cousins' replacement? Cauley-Stein is the perfect George Karl center, and you can only imagine what pick-and-rolls could look like between he and D'Angelo Russell if the Lakers agree to trade him to the Kings. One thing is for sure though. Cauley-Stein is an incredible defensive player that can guard most forwards and all big men, as well as switch onto point guards with ease. The key will be developing his offensive game and continuing to improve his hands, because the spacing in this offense doesn't seem likely to be good if they play together.But given his athleticism level, this should be successful in some way regardless.
Andrew Sharp, Grantland
It’s been a long week for Kings fans, but Thursday brought some much-needed relief. The Kings landed the best defensive weapon in the draft, Willie Cauley-Stein. He’s the rim protector that Boogie Cousins has always needed. Will they actually play together? That remains to be seen. Worst-case scenario, the Kings trade Boogie to L.A., Cauley-Stein covers Julius Randle’s defensive weaknesses, and they get to build around Russell in the backcourt. Either way — Boogie or not — Cauley-Stein makes the immediate future a lot brighter than three years of developing Emmanuel Mudiay.
Kelly Dwyer, Yahoo! Sports (B)
It truly is hard to argue with taking a big man with significant – Defensive Player of the Year – skills, but Cauley-Stein was rumored to be threatening to drop out of the lottery on Thursday due to concerns about his foot and ankle (which could require surgery). The Kings can't afford to lose yet another year with a blown lottery pick, even if WCS eventually turns into something fantastic following surgery in 2016-17.
If the Kings were drafting in the low lottery, with Cauley-Stein dropping precipitously, they’d thank their good fortune, select the guy, and figure the rest out later. At No. 6, though, this is much bigger risk.
Big upside, though, if Cauley-Stein keeps himself together, literally from head to toe.
Marc J. Spears, Yahoo! Sports (B)
If DeMarcus Cousins is truly on his way out of Sacramento, then the Kings may have turned to his alma mater to nab his replacement. Cauley-Stein won't be the polished scorer that Cousins is, but the 7-footer is a defensive menace. He has the size and strength to hold his position on the low block against centers, the timing and athleticism to alter shots in the paint and the quickness and footwork to stay in front of guards on the pick-and-roll.
Chris Mannix, Sports Illustrated (B)
Let’s read the tea leaves here. Sacramento takes Cauley-Stein, an elite defender several coaches have compared favorably to Tyson Chandler. Cauley-Stein is regarded as one of, if not the safest pick in the draft. He’s going to be a good defender, even if his offense doesn’t amount to much more than what it is now. But the Kings have a center: DeMarcus Cousins, who has been the subject of rampant trade speculation. The selection of Cauley-Stein strongly suggests Sacramento is open to trading Cousins, whose relationship with head coach George Karl has devolved badly in recent weeks. Good luck, Willie.