Earlier this morning, ESPN’s Marc Stein dropped a little Kings trade rumor nugget in his Friday column regarding Sacramento Kings’ struggling second-year center, Willie Cauley-Stein.
Marc Stein, via ESPN -
Keep an eye on Kings big man Willie Cauley-Stein. Word is Sacramento is open to moving the second-year big man, who wants more of a role than he has under new Kings coach Dave Joerger.
Not a lot of substance in there other than a vague report noting his availability, but Stein is one of the good ones so I’ll take his word for it. Besides, Cauley-Stein’s reported availability isn’t what I would consider ‘shocking’. He’s been struggling since summer league, he’s been in and out of the rotation all season, and he even made some cryptic comments after the Kings beat the Pelicans on November 9th. Struggling, undesirable playing time, bizarre comments, the NBA trade rumor trifecta!
Willie Cauley-Stien: "Just tired of not playing so just going blood when you get in. Going as hard as you can for as long as you can"— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) November 9, 2016
If there is some fire to this smoke, it’s worth noting that Vlade Divac has been very good (or bad, depending on your opinion of what the Kings should do) at holding his ground and not giving into his players’ various trade demands or public displays of unhappiness. Of course, it’s upsetting that so many players want out, or are unhappy, but here we are.
I suppose, if nothing else, you can add Cauley-Stein to the Kings’ potential trade block that already includes Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore, Kosta Koufos, and just a small hint of Omri Casspi. Oddly enough, DeMarcus Cousins is the most secure player on this roster, and if things continue to trend downhill, he’s one of the few the Kings should actually consider moving if they can’t sign him to a contract extension. The Kings are fun.
I’d hold on to Cauley-Stein, personally. He hasn’t been good for an uncomfortably long time, but I still love his defensive potential. He’s picked up his aggressiveness over the last few games, and I still don’t think the Kings are using him in his best role. Cauley-Stein can’t anchor the glass right now, for one, and secondly, he played some of his best minutes last season next to DeMarcus Cousins, and we’ve barely seen them share the floor this season. Dave Joerger is trying to make the Kosta Koufos and DeMarcus Cousins frontcourt pairing work, and early results haven’t been great. Before I move Willie, I’d consider flipping that rotation. Let Cauley-Stein play with Cousins, and let Koufos patrol the paint for a bench unit that sorely needs his size, strength, experience, and rebounding.
I understand how that could read as rewarding a player for poor play, but I just think it’s a better role for Willie while he continues to develop mentally and physically. Let him play with Boogie, take some pressure off, and see if he can gain that confidence he had last season. That’d be my course of action, but I won’t condemn the Kings for seeing what they can get for Cauley-Stein if they just don’t like his potential anymore. They’ve certainly seen him work behind the scenes more than I have, but I’d feel uncomfortable giving up on him this early unless the return is a can’t-miss opportunity, which I’m definitely not expecting.