The Kings made Willie Cauley-Stein the sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft less than a year and a half ago, but there already appears to be some uncertainty about his long-term future in Sacramento. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, word is that the Kings are “open to moving” Cauley-Stein, who would like a larger role than he currently has in Sacramento.
After averaging 21.4 minutes per contest in his rookie season, Cauley-Stein is playing just 14.5 MPG early on for the Kings. The 23-year-old big man hasn’t seen the floor at all in two of Sacramento’s 10 games so far under new head coach Dave Joerger, who has often leaned toward playing his veterans over his young players during the first 10 games of the season.
At this point in the season, with offseason signees still ineligible to be traded for at least another five weeks or so, the Kings likely won’t seriously consider any major moves involving Cauley-Stein or any of their other top trade candidates. However, Sacramento is certainly a team worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses, particularly if the club slips out of playoff contention.
In addition to Cauley-Stein, players like Rudy Gay, Kosta Koufos, Ben McLemore, and DeMarcus Cousins have been mentioned as potential trade candidates for Sacramento. Gay and Koufos still appear to be available, though it sounds as if the Kings would like to keep McLemore.
As for Cousins, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com, the consensus among multiple league sources he spoke to was that it would be smart for the Kings to move the big man before the deadline. In the view of those sources, Cousins is unlikely to re-up with the franchise when he becomes eligible for free agency in 2018, so it makes sense to extract as much value as possible for him by dealing him this season, rather than trying to do so in a contract year.
During TNT’s Inside the NBA studio show on Thursday night, Shaquille O’Neal – who has a small ownership stake in the Kings – referred to Cousins as “hot-headed,” suggesting that the veteran center “hasn’t shown great leadership qualities yet.” O’Neal added that he’s hearing the club could be looking to go “in a different direction” if the Kings don’t show signs of improvement.