Willie Cauley-Stein is entering his fourth season with the Sacramento Kings with tons to prove. Since the current front office drafted him 6th overall back in the 2015 NBA Draft, Cauley-Stein has pretty much exemplified the modern era Kings—tantalizing potential with serious inconsistency. But now, 10 months away from restricted free agency, Cauley-Stein says he’s “locked in,” and wants to be a far more consistent player than ever before.
Cauley-Stein appeared on the Grant Napear Show with Doug Christie (the title host was off for the day), and had some interesting thoughts about his offseason training, his development, and his leadership role going forward. When asked what he expected from himself this season, the first thing Cauley-Stein said was “consistency.”
“Consistency. I mean, that’s it. Consistency. Like, I’m doing everything that I’m supposed to do... I’m doing it, like it’s a routine. I figured it out... I’m gonna do all the things they say you’re supposed to do from the jump... Alright I’m locked in, so lets do the stuff they’ve been telling me to do from the jump...Before, in the past it was like, ah yeah they’re telling me this, but I feel like I’m good... but now, I’m like, ah, I wasn’t good. Let’s change it... now, I’m trying to be good.”
On how his offseason was going (emphasis mine):
“(The offseason) is going along like it’s supposed to go along. Locked in early, I’m in a frame of mind right now that I can’t even explain... I’m locked in on something, I’ve never been locked in like this before. I’m excited... I’ve never been this excited about hoops before. This is crazy — I’ve tapped into something that’s beyond me.”
When asked how he sees “his voice coming out in the locker room this year”:
“Man, it’s gonna come out naturally just because... I’m doing leader work. Before, I could already tell they were looking for that leadership, like, Willie you got a voice man: Use it. (The coaching staff) was telling me that last year, ‘you’ve gotta use your voice, you’ve gotta use your voice.’ But like, how can I lead this group of men that are on the same level as me when I’m not working as hard as them? You know what I’m saying? I personally didn’t feel I was working as hard as them until the middle of the season, and that’s when my game started changing. Like, okay let me lock in. Well now I feel like I’m working harder than them. In my head I feel like I’m working harder than you, so now I feel like can lead you. That’s it.”
On-court actions will always speak louder than offseason words, but these are really self-aware statements from the 25 year old big. Consistent effort—especially on the glass and on defense—is all Kings fans have been asking from Cauley-Stein since he joined the team. Hopefully this is what he means when he says consistency, rather than a continued attempt to be a scorer comparable to Kristaps Porzingis. That said, Cauley-Stein’s stats from last season do back up his declared mid-season effort boost;
A Strong Second Half
Willie would hardly be the first NBA player to “figure it out” as he gets older. And as the second oldest of the Kings young core (aside from Bogdan Bogdanovic), a leadership role is certainly there for Willie to snag. It might be a little late for the Kings—who seem to be preparing their rookie big Duke duo of Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles to be their bigs of the future, over their past bigs-of-the-future Kentucky duo—but even if Cauley-Stein’s career prime years come with a new team in the future, any unlocked potential will help the Kings this year, AND next summer when Willie is a restricted free agent. It’s going to be interesting to see how the coaching staff handles the playing time between the rookies, a motivated Willie, and a beefed up Skal Labissiere.
Finally, when Cauley-Stein was asked what he thought a successful season would be, he avoided the playoffs for a much more real answer.
“I think for us, it’s finally getting our identity as the Kings. We haven’t had an identity as the Kings, since, Doug (Christie)... since that era... I want our identity to come out this year. I want people to like, stop saying the Kings are a floozy organization. We real. We’re really coming.”
A “consistent” season from Cauley-Stein and a newly-forged team identity would go a long way towards improving this franchise going forward.