Easier offensive transition for Willie Cauley-Stein
Not all college educations are the same. Fortunately for Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky University prepared him for a career with the Sacramento Kings.
At Kentucky, head coach John Calipari ran the dribble drive motion offense. It’s the same offensive system operated by the Kings, and it was invented by George Karl’s assistant coach Vance Walberg.
“I don’t have to learn anything. I already know how to run the offense,” Cauley-Stein confirmed at Saturday’s introductory press conference. “I already know how it works so (I know) the best way to get the most effective stuff out of it. So there’s no learning that I have to do which is big, because I can jump right into something else to learn.”
For those of us not Kentucky graduates, Walberg’s sets originally called for four perimeter players and a weakside center. A ball handler would drive to the basket with the intention of taking a layup, dishing to the big man, kicking out for an open 3-pointer or resetting the play.
During his time at Clovis West High School, Walberg created the system due to a lack of quality bigs. Eventually spacing adjustments were made so the coach could park two low post players on opposite ends of the baseline.
This was traditionally the case when Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns shared the floor last season. The Kings rookie was also used as the lone body inside when Towns sat, and he set screens and facilitated ball movement on the perimeter on occasion.
“The cool thing about it is it’s very versatile, so it plays right into my hands,” Cauley-Stein said of the offense. “I can play multiple positions so I kind of just fit in wherever I need to be fit into. Being at Kentucky for three years, I played all the positions there so it’s going to be really beneficial for me as a learning curve (because) I’m not going to have to learn as much. I’m just going to have to learn like the speed of the game and the physical play of the NBA and whatnot.”
Cauley-Stein may have mastered the X’s and O’s, but he still has room to improve his short-range arsenal. The 21-year-old’s scoring has been mostly comprised of hook shots, alley oop finishes and put-backs. While his humbling role in favor of Towns was a factor, Cauley-Stein’s lack of creativity with his back to the basket was a another reason why he reached double-digit points in only 35 of his 105 NCAA appearances.
Adding to his offense will be a main focus this offseason.
“You can’t teach defense, that’s a pride thing,” Cauley-Stein stated. “So offense is something that you’re going to do everyday until eventually you’re going to get good at it. It’s like anything. It’s like when you’re a kid and you’re reading. The more and more you read, the better and better you’re going to get at it, so same way with offense. The more and more I work on it, the better and better I’m going to get at it.”
Ideally Cauley-Stein will develop into a reliable option to ease the heavy offensive burden on DeMarcus Cousins. The 7-foot, 240-pound rookie can be expected to crash the offensive glass right now, but down the road he could be counted on for interior touches when Cousins has to rest.
What’s for sure is that Cauley-Stein has faith in the dribble drive offense. On Saturday he was quick to point out the benefits of its teamwork.
“There were some games where I would have 20, and Karl (Towns) would have eight or nine,” Cauley-Stein said. “There’s other games he would have 25 and I would have eight or nine, and it kind of just switches off like that. Every night somebody else is going off.”
Cauley-Stein’s turn is on the way. The prospect known for elite defense will come into training camp wiser than a typical rook on the offensive side of the floor. If nothing else, he will know how to get out of the way, which is better than most first-year players.