With the sixth pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings select 7’1 defensive specialist Willie Cauley-Stein.
For the sixth consecutive season, the Kings have a top-10 pick in the draft. Despite that, they still have many needs and could have gone any number of ways in this draft. Talented DeMarcus Cousins is the franchise centerpiece, and they must surround him with the right supporting players.
First, let’s address the elephant in the room.
The Cousins/George Karl/Vivek Ranadive storyline has seemingly dominated all basketball news outlets lately and many questions still remain. Is Cousins staying put? Will Karl get his way and push a Cousins trade? Will owner Ranadive fire Karl for pushing it? Can they all just get along? Let’s presume Karl remains the head coach and Cousins remains the face of the Kings.
It’s all about defense for Cauley-Stein. With the Kings ranking 27th in defensive efficiency last season, the three-year Kentucky product should fit perfectly alongside of Cousins. The pairing should allow Cousins to concentrate on better-suited defensive assignments. The Kings need a shot-blocking big man and Cauley-Stein is probably the most versatile defensive big man available this year in the draft.
It doesn’t hurt at all that Cousins is reportedly keen on him. In an up-tempo Karl scheme with major emphasis on the pick-and-roll, Cauley-Stein has the ability to switch off on anyone. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year is a freak athlete and runs the floor with terrific speed.
During his post-draft interview, Cauley-Stein says he aims to be a complete player. That means he will need to devote major attention on the offensive side of the ball. He’s not much of a rebounder either at 6.4 boards per game last year.
Cauley-Stein also addressed the red flag on everyone’s mind – his leg injury during the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Cauley-Stein says, “Nothing’s wrong with it – it’s 95 percent healed.” Good news.
All in all, this is a solid pick. Cauley-Stein was perhaps drafted higher than expected, but the pick figures to make the Kings’ face-of-the-franchise very happy.
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