The Golden State Warriors made a move this offseason that may prove to be beneficial to reclaiming their spot among the top teams in the NBA. This may be tough for fans to comprehend even after the loss of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. And no, we’re not talking the addition of D’Angelo Russell either. The key piece to the puzzle is Willie Cauley-Stein.
During his tenure with the Sacramento Kings, Cauley-Stein was viewed as an underachiever. And maybe rightfully so, but who on the Kings wasn’t? In his four years, Willie Cauley-Stein averaged just 10.1 points and 6.4 rebounds while shooting 53.4 percent from the field. What also stands out is just his 9.1 shot attempts.
While each player performs well in their per 36 minutes stats, heading to the Warriors is exactly what Cauley-Stein and the team needs. With no true threat in the paint after the departure of DeMarcus Cousins, Cauley-Stein has an opportunity to make a name for himself.
Can we say All-Star?
Hmm, it sounds like a reach but think about the talent of his teammates, the expectations that come with wearing the uniform, and the chip on his shoulder by being given up on by one of the worst teams in the league. This will be a career-year for the young Center.
Since Steve Kerr arrived, the Warriors gave not had a dominate big on their roster. Andrew Bogut was a defensive ace, JaVale McGee proved to be beneficial in spot duty, and Cousins was not himself after coming off an injury. Let’s also take into account, no big was needed in the Warriors’ offense with Stephen Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green, and Durant there. But that team is no longer.
If Willie Cauley-Stein can get deep in the paint, he will get touches. With Curry being the main threat from the perimeter, teams will play up on him and force him to make an entry pass into the post. This is what has plagued Willie Cauley-Stein with the Kings. Too many young players in and out of the backcourt with a point to prove. Never a good situation for a post player.
But in Kerr’s offense, he should see the ball plenty. If Curry decides to throw up random shots, Cauley-Stein can still count on the assist of Russell and Green. As we’ve seen for the past three seasons, the Warriors’ ball movement resulted in three players averaging 18 shot attempts per game. If he can get good looks, why not an All-Star nod? Who in the West is that dominant at the Center position?
You have Nikola Jokic for the Denver Nuggets, Rudy Gobert for the Utah Jazz, and Clint Capela for the Houston Rockets. Those players play a heavy dose of minutes and now Cauley-Stein will get the same opportunity play with a winning team. Losing and putting up numbers will get you noticed but putting up numbers and winning will get you respect.
There will be no shortcuts taken in the Western Conference this year. With talent now spread throughout, games will be tougher, meaning, starters should see an increase in minutes which should translate to higher per averages.
But this will still come down to Kerr. At some point, he has to throw some kind of backing behind his post players. In recent years, he’s had no choice to. But this season will be different. Against the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals, Kerr realized that an offense featuring just Curry and Green is not enough. He knows he needs at least 3-4 scorers to win. With the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers adding more weapons and the Rockets bringing in Russell Westbrook, this will be a shootout year.
While Russell displayed the scoring necessary to lead the Brooklyn Nets to the playoffs last season, he’s in a complete fodder t zone with the Golden State Warriors. Will he still be able to penetrate while watching Curry dribble while searching for an open shot? Can he consistently knock down the open look from the perimeter that is sure to come?
By adding Willie Cauley-Stein, the Warriors would be wise to feed the post as much as possible. If he can get 15 shot attempts per game, then why is it hard to think he can’t average close to 18 points per. His rebounding will also be a huge factor. The Warriors shoot, and I mean they shoot a lot. Last season, Cauley-Sten averaged 2.2 offensive rebounds per game. If he can double that with an increase of minutes, that’s extra opportunities for him and teammates.
Making the All-Star team would be tough but being the underdog is perfect. No one is counting on him to have that breakout season and that’s what should be his motivation. Things didn’t go well for him in Sacramento but with Thompson gone and the addition of Russell, this is the perfect opportunity for him to make a bold statement.