Has Willie Cauley-Stein lived up to the Tyson Chandler comparison early in his career?

In last year’s draft, the Sacramento Kings selected Willie Cauley-Stein with the sixth overall selection. The Kings were trying to improve their defense because the year before they gave up 105 points per game (28th in the NBA).

It made sense to take Cauley-Stein because his defense was what made him successful at Kentucky. The problem came when it started to become more and more clear that the NBA didn’t rely on the big man who can only do defensive things.


But the constant comparisons to a game-changing defender like Tyson Chandler kept Cauley-Stein on many teams’ radar including Sacramento’s. Cauley-Stein has the potential to be someone who can be an anchor defensively and help at the rim when the defense breaks down.

Having a defensive anchor can be a very reliable thing. The Cavaliers wouldn’t have won the title without Tristan Thompson and the Warriors needed Andrew Bogut’s defensive abilities the year before.

Therefore, can Cauley-Stein be that guy? Are his numbers comparable with someone like Chandler over the first two seasons?

Take a look at Stein’s numbers as a rookie in the NBA from both a per game perspective and a per 36 minutes perspective in points, rebounds and blocks.

WCS   24.4 MPG  7.0 PPG  5.3 RPG  1.0 BPG

WCS   PER 36 MINS  11.8 PPG  9.0 RPG  1.7 BPG

All in all those numbers were solid. He was never going to blow you away with offense but those numbers are good enough to see that growth is possible. Below are the numbers of Tyson Chandler in his rookie year.

Chandler  19.6 MPG  6.1 PPG  4.8 RPG  1.3 BPG

Chandler  PER 36 MINS  11.3 PPG  8.9 RPG  2.4 BPG

Everything is about the same and they both started around over 30 games in their rookie year. (31 for Chandler and 39 for Cauley-Stein.) The problem comes when you look at their second year numbers.

WCS  12.6 MPG  5.1 PPG  1.9 RPG   0.4 BPG

WCS   PER 36 MINS  14.6 PPG  5.3 RPG  1.2 BPG

For Cauley-Stein everything drops. Points, rebounds, minutes and blocks all suffer under new coach Dave Joerger. How did Chandler do? He improved in every category.

Chandler   24.4 MPG  9.2 PPG  6.9 RPG  1.4 BPG

Chandler   PER 36 MINS  13.6 PPG  10.1 RPG  2.1 BPG

Maybe your retort to this is that he started slow last year and it took Cauley-Stein a second to get the numbers back up to a good average. Here’s a breakdown of what Cauley-Stein’s numbers were at this time last year. (20 games into the season)

Through 20 Games Played: 18.9 MPG 4.8 PPG  5.2 RPG  1.1 BPG

Now, maybe after seeing these numbers you’re saying, “Those numbers don’t tell the entire story. They have advanced numbers and Cauley-Stein is a better defender than that.”

That’s a fair point.

Let’s take a look at some of those advanced numbers. NBA.com has his defensive field goal percentage at 43.5 percent. That means he has held his opponents to a collective of only 43.5 percent shooting when he’s the guy defending the shot all year. That’s pretty good. That’s better than LaMarcus Aldridge and Andrew Bogut.

However, if you go on the ESPN page and look up some of the numbers like usage rate, offensive rebounding rate and value added Cauley-Stein isn’t doing well, even amongst fellow centers, of which only 57 qualify.

His USAGE RATE is 16.5, tied for 206th and 28th among centers.

His OFFENSIVE REBOUNDING RATE of 6.8 ranks 80th and 47th among centers.

His DEFENSIVE REBOUNDING RATE of 10.3 is tied for 244th and ranks 56th among centers.

His REBOUNDING RATE 8.5 is tied for 170th and ranks 56th among centers.

His PER (player efficiency rating) is 12.54, tied for 194th and 47th among centers.

Finally, his VALUE ADDED to the team is 5.8. That ranks 210th and 49th among centers.

So how did Chandler do when he was in his second year in the NBA? Here’s Chandler’s same numbers in his second year in the league when centers were used more.

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16.5 Usage Rate (T185) (24th among centers)

10.0 Offensive Rebounding Rate (T51) (T23 among centers)

20.6 Defensive Rebounding Rate (44th) (22 among centers)

15.5 Rebounding Rate (T40) (T21 among centers)

15.11 PER (113th) (17th among centers)

61.5 Value Added (112th) (19th among centers)

So what do all these numbers mean? Well, for starters it means that Cauley-Stein isn’t the same guy he was last year. To be fair to him, he’s on his second coach in two years. He is also playing in a system that doesn’t fit his game offensively. He needs to be in a style that suits a big man who is offensively crippled and surround him with shooters like Stan Van Gundy did in Orlando for Dwight Howard.

Then you look up and realize that the Kings only have one player on the team that shoots over 37 percent from the 3-point line. His name is DeMarcus Cousins, and you can’t expect the best player on the team to camp out on the 3-point line all day waiting to get a shot the same way Arron Afflalo would.

Whether Cauley-Stein’s downfall is because of the coach or because he has to re-adjust to the league is anyone’s guess. However, the Cauley-Stein pick isn’t looking as good now when you look at players below him like Frank Kaminsky and Myles Turner and how well they’re doing in their second year in the league.

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Anthony Bertacchi on Twitter
Anthony Bertacchi
Special Contributor to Cowbell Kingdom and a proud Sacramento State Alum.

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