Cousins praises Cauley-Stein’s recent performances
Despite a (3-5) road trip, Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein found success in the mid-season eight game outing. Determined to not fall into the carousel of underachieving Sacramento Kings first round draft picks, Cauley-Stein came to life on the road and gained the trust of his teammates.
During the road trip, Cauley-Stein averaged a season best 9.1 points per game, which is four points above his season average. In almost all previous games this season, Cauley-Stein’s efforts weren’t needed late in games, but he finally saw action in those critical moments.
Coach Dave Joerger used Cauley-Stein deep into the fourth quarter four games during the trip, with two of those games resulting in victories.
Cauley-Stein’s greatest attribution during the road trip was positioning. He looked more comfortable on the court and was able to pick the correct open spot shots.
Specifically in pick and rolls and baseline cuts, Cauley-Stein was able to finish the process around the rim but also off the pass.
Ty Lawson and Cauley-Stein played so well early in the road trip that by the time the Kings arrived in Houston, Mike D’Antoni had set defensive schemes to eliminate the duos newfound chemistry.
“He’s doing a good job of catching and finishing, and that’s why I try to play him with Ty (Lawson) a lot,” coach Dave Joerger told the Sacramento Bee. “Ty gets in the paint, creates problems and gets a lot of guys shots.”
The most surprising trend during the road trip was his durability. Late in the fourth quarter of Sacramento’s victory in Cleveland, Cauley-Stein’s poster dunk on Kyle Korver ignited the Kings’ to a victory over the Cavaliers in overtime. Not only were his offensive traits needed, but his defensive presence takes the pressure off of DeMarcus Cousins in late game situations.
“It helps us a lot,” Cousins told the Sacramento Bee. “He’s a (pick and) roll threat at all times, and once he masters that and understands the impact he can have on a team doing that, we’re going to be a scary team.”
Statistically, Cauley-Stein’s best game of the trip and of the season came in a loss on Monday night against the Philadelphia 76ers as he scored 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting.
With more wear and tear expected with Cousins the road trip, Cauley-Stein utilized the spotlight and demonstrated that he was ready for the opportunity. The willingness of his Kings’ teammates to trust him allowed him to block out the negativity and focus on the offensive facets of his game.
“You know if they throw you the ball in there, they believe you can score,” Cauley-Stein told the Sacramento Bee. “Everything else kind of takes care of itself. All the work you put in on the court and your teammates believing you can do stuff. That’s big.”
Coach Dave Joerger and the rest of the Kings organization have emphasized the need to constantly develop the seven-footer by not giving up on his slow upbringing of a younger athlete. Drafted sixth overall in the 2015 draft, Cauley-Stein has been committed to backing up Sacramento’s investment in his second year.
The Kings exercised the third-year option on Cauley-Stein in October meaning that the organization is willing to stand by their first round guy. Cauley-Stein averaged 17.75 minutes a game during this road trip and will likely see more than his season average at 12.2 minutes a game.
With little height on the bench combined with his consistent high-octane play, Cauley-Stein might be the center the Kings thought they had when they drafted him last season.
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