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30Q: What would Consistency Look Like for Willie Cauley-Stein?

Giving Willie Cauley-Stein the chance to back-up his offseason consistency talk is the best move the Kings could make with him—and their rookie duo of Duke bigs—going forward.

Kimani Okearah

Willie Cauley-Stein said in August that “consistency” was his biggest personal expectation for the upcoming season. But what would that consistency look like for Trill? For the enigmatic big man, it comes down to how each side of this Kings/Cauley-Stein partnership wants to move forward entering what could be his last year with the team.

For Cauley-Stein, the question is obvious; what does he mean by consistency? In case you missed his quote, here is what he told Doug Christie on the Grant Napier show.

“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.”

This is a self-aware statement from Cauley-Stein, but it isn’t fully clear what he means by “all the things you’re supposed to do from the jump.” Does that mean full-time on-court effort? Are those things a particular set of skills he’s ignored that that will round-up his 14.2% total rebounding rate (30th percentile last year for bigs who played over 1,000 minutes) to something closer to league average (15.6% was the 50th percentile)? Or is Willie simply realizing that he’s 25—and 9 months away from what should be the biggest payday of his career—and knows now is the time to prove he can identify, work at, and stick to a role?

On the flip side, the Kings use of Cauley-Stein this year—both in terms of role, and playing time—will determine how the NBA views Willie entering his free agency. It’s important to remember that Cauley-Stein only averaged 28 minutes a night last season; that may be second highest on the team for total minutes, but it was only 88th highest for the league overall. And his statistics suggest that Cauley-Stein plays solidly better when he’s given more burn. Below are the splits for Cauley-Stein when he plays more OR less than 30 minutes in a contest, converted to per-36 averages so they’re directly comparable.

Cauley Stein Per-36 Minute Splits

Career: Less than 30 Mins. 14.3 8.6 1.9 1.4 52.40%
Career: More than 30 Mins. 16.1 9.6 2.6 1.1 52.10%
17-18 Season: Less than 30 Mins. 14.8 8.7 3 1.2 49.20%
17-18 Season: More than 30 Mins. 18.2 9.3 2.9 1.2 51.20%

There’s a causality argument to be made here; does he play better when he gets more minutes, or does he get more minutes when he’s playing better? Whatever reasoning, his points and rebounds per game significantly improve when he plays more than 30 minutes. If the Kings weren’t the Kings, and had a lack of a log-jam for the big spots, what would consistency look like for Cauley-Stein if he was getting 32 minutes a contest?

Looking of the Kings current roster, it’s possible that we see Cauley-Stein get more more run this year, even with the additions of Marvin Bagley, Harry Giles, and Nemanja Bjelica to further clog the front court. Cauley-Stein is the elder statesmen of the Kings young bigs—and while consistency has always been the big complaint about Cauley-Stein, he’s probably going to be the most floor-ready player of that group. Playing Cauley-Stein along with one of the Bagley/Giles duo could be a big help (relatively speaking, of course) to ease the rookies into NBA.

Giving Willie significant minutes early in the season would be a wise move—it would give Cauley-Stein a last, but REAL chance to prove he belongs on the roster, while testing his on-court chemistry with Duke-duo. Letting Trill try and back-up his consistency talk is the best move the Kings could make with him going forward.