Willie Cauley-Stein

Kings Not Expected To Chase Nikola Vucevic

The Kings are hoping for an upgrade at center, but they won’t pursue Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic when free agency starts June 30, according to James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Vucevic is in line for a huge raise after posting his best NBA season and his first All-Star appearance. The 28-year-old averaged 20.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.1 blocks in 80 games this year. Despite reports that Sacramento might be one of his free agent suitors, Ham states that he doesn’t fit the up-tempo approach that the Kings prefer.

That’s also true of fellow free agent big man Jonas Valanciunas, who opted out of his deal with the Grizzlies last week. He’ll be seeking a significant raise over the $17.6MM salary he bypassed.

Ham suggests the Kings might opt for a short-term solution, seeking a one- or two-year contract with the Knicks’ DeAndre Jordan or the Hawks’ Dewayne Dedmon. Jordan will turn 31 this summer and Dedmon is almost 30, so neither is viewed as a long-range option.

Sacramento also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of keeping Willie Cauley-Stein, as Ham notes the team is expected to make him a restricted free agent by issuing a qualifying offer before June 30. GM Vlade Divac said the front office still sees potential in the former No. 6 pick, but has been frustrated by his up-and-down performance.

“We would like to keep Willie in terms of his talent potential,” Divac said, “but he still needs to show us the consistency that we are looking for. We are talking.” 

Kings Notes: Cauley-Stein, Workouts, Team USA

The Kings are known to be looking for a starting center when free agency begins on June 30, but does that mean that it’s time for Sacramento and former No. 6 overall pick Willie Cauley-Stein to part ways?

Jason Jones of The Athletic opines that even though the Kings have the ability to make Cauley-Stein a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer of just under $6.3MM, it might be best after four seasons for both sides to see what else is out there, especially if the Kings can pick up someone like Nikola Vucevic.

The 25-year-old big man had some bright spots during the 2018/19 campaign, including a hot start that helped make the Kings one of the NBA’s surprise teams to start the season. But, the Kings still feel that Cauley-Stein is an average to below-average rebounder for a big man, and his blocks per game this past season were the lowest of his career.

Perhaps more importantly, the Kings really like what they already have from young, cheaper big men like Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles, and questions still remain, fairly or not, about Cauley-Stein’s desire and focus, which the Kings aren’t sure will now suddenly change after four seasons in the NBA.

There’s more out of Sacramento this weekend:

  • The Kings brought in six prospects for workouts on Thursday, per the team’s website. The players are: guard Jordan Bone (Tennessee), guard Terence Davis (Mississippi), swingman Brian Bowen (Australia), forward Zylan Cheatham (Arizona State), forward Trey Mourning (Georgetown), and big man Chris Silva (South Carolina).
  • Six more more NBA hopefuls will work out for the Kings on Monday, per a report on the team’s website. The prospects are: guard Kyle Guy (Virginia), guard B.J. Taylor (UCF), guard John Konchar (IPFW), guard Jaren Lewis (Abilene Christian), swingman Jakeenan Gant (UL Lafayette), and forward Nick Mayo (Eastern Kentucky).
  • As we relayed earlier this week, two Kings’ players will be participating in USA Basketball this summer. Harrison Barnes will be at USA Basketball’s August training camp ahead of the FIBA World Cup in China this fall, while the aforementioned Bagley will be part of the 10-man select team that will scrimmage against the 18-man FIBA World Cup roster.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Pacific Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Pacific Division:

Klay Thompson, Warriors, 29, SG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $69MM deal in 2015
The smart money has Kevin Durant signing elsewhere this summer, which makes it more imperative for Golden State to keep its dynamic backcourt intact. The Warriors would probably have to max out Thompson at $190MM over five years and ownership appears willing to do so. If not, rivals with ample cap space would certainly give him a four-year, $140MM deal, the max they could offer. In any case, Thompson won’t have to take a discount the way the market figures to play out. Even in a somewhat down year by his standards, he still had the sixth-most 3-point makes in the NBA.

Reggie Bullock, Lakers, 28, SG (Down) — Signed to a two-year, $5MM deal in 2017
The cap-strapped Pistons figured they couldn’t re-sign Bullock, so they traded him to the Lakers for a couple of assets. He was Detroit’s most reliable wing player but things didn’t go well for him in L.A. He never got into a shooting rhythm with the Lakers, as the career 39.2% long-range gunner made just 34.3% of his 3-point shots. Bullock’s price tag might have gone down somewhat, though he should still field some multi-year offers. He might even return to Detroit, where he played four seasons, if the Pistons can fit him into their budget.

Rodney McGruder, Clippers, 27, SF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.4MM deal in 2016
McGruder finished his season in the Clippers organization, though he’s ineligible for the playoffs. Miami put him on waivers to get under the luxury tax and the Clippers claimed him. The Clippers gained control of his Early Bird rights and can make him a restricted free agent by extending a $3MM qualifying offer. It seems that McGruder might benefit from Miami’s surprising move, as he could claim a rotation role with his new club depending upon how well they do in free agency. If they choose not to give him a QO, he should be able to secure a contract on the open market befitting a second-unit player.

Jamal Crawford, Suns, 39, SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.39MM deal in 2018
How crazy is this? Crawford entered the league in 2000, the same year Zion Williamson was born. They could be teammates next season. That’s if Crawford decides re-sign with Phoenix. He wants to play at least another year and why not? This week, Crawford became the oldest player in NBA history to record a 50-point game. Crawford appeared in 64 games with Phoenix after playing a minimum of 79 the previous three years. He’ll be providing offense off the bench somewhere next season, a tribute to his preparation, perseverance and durability.

Willie Cauley-Stein, Kings, 25, C (Down)– Signed to a four-year, $15.35MM deal in 2015
Cauley-Stein said prior to the season he was “ready to get paid” after his walk year. He started all but one game this season for Sacramento but didn’t really enhance his value. He’s not a shot-blocker. He doesn’t rebound particularly well for his size. He can’t shoot free throws, nor does he pose much of an offensive threat. The Kings can make him a restricted free agent by extending a $6.25MM qualifying offer but even that’s not a given. Cauley-Stein will certainly get a raise compared to his rookie deal but it probably won’t be what he expected.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pacific Notes: McGee, Front Office, Beverley, Cauley-Stein, Suns

While the Lakers are out of the playoff picture, and LeBron James will not play again this season, several players on the roster have incentive to finish the year strong. As Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times writes, JaVale McGee, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and Mike Muscala are set for unrestricted free agency this summer.

Without the postseason as a motivating factor, the next pay check for those players is a strong consideration. Head coach Luke Walton commended those players’ efforts to close out the season.

“I think they’ve done a nice job of staying focused on the team. And that is a big thing, a real thing,” Walton said. “Guys should be concerned about their futures. You have to take care of that as players. But when you take care of your team and play with that type of attitude, the other teams in the league see that. That’s what they want.”

Particularly, Walton praised McGee, stating that the NBA champion “looks good right now,” and adding that his contributions recently have been “meaningful numbers.”

Check out more Pacific Division notes:

  • Mark Heisler of the Orange County Register opines that the Lakers‘ front office needs to be cognizant of its missteps this past season. Unable to pair James with another elite talent, this summer will be another chance to do so and the team will need to be smart with its approach.
  • As the Clippers prepare for the postseason, the team hopes to get Patrick Beverley back on the court and healthy, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes. “So, it’s an injury of concern, but nothing that I think is that serious,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “He will play in the playoffs. I’ll say that.”
  • Willie Cauley-Stein is set for restricted free agency this summer and the Kings will need to decide whether or not to retain his services. Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee examines Cauley-Stein’s value and why Sacramento will face a tough decision.
  • Matt John of Basketball Insiders looks at how the Suns can accelerate their rebuild. Phoenix has a solid star piece in Devin Booker but will need to maximize acquisitions via free agency and the draft.

Lowe’s Latest: Rockets, Prince, Blazers, Heat

The Rockets and Cavaliers had discussions about sending Brandon Knight to Cleveland along with a first-round pick in exchange for Alec Burks. However, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com hears that those talks have ceased. Houston has also spoken with the Grizzlies about potential Knight deals.

Cleveland is selling Burks, Rodney Hood, and any other “indispensable asset” prior to the deadline, Lowe writes. The team is willing to take back future salary in exchange for picks.

Houston is expected to scour the market for deals leading up to the deadline with an eye on attaching a future first-rounder to Knight and Marquese Chriss. The Rockets would likely push for lottery protections on any picks that would convey past James Harden‘s prime.

Lowe’s latest piece contains trade nuggets from several teams in the league and we’ve already passed along news from the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley and Marc Gasol sweepstakes as well as the Magic’s pre-deadline plan. Here are the rest of the newsworthy notes from the ESPN piece:

  • The Hawks have made Taurean Prince available in trade talks, sources tell Lowe. Atlanta hasn’t received a ton of traction on Prince deals because of its asking price. The organization wants a young prospect and a pick in exchange for the small forward.
  • The Blazers have put their first-rounder on the table in trade talks, sources tell Lowe. Portland has reached out about Otto Porter Jr.‘s availability, though Wizards owner Ted Leonsis previously announced that the team would not be trading Porter before the deadline.
  • Porter has drawn interest from several teams. In addition to the Blazers, the Mavericks and Jazz have kept an eye on the situation. Dallas was interested in swapping Harrison Barnes for Porter prior to the Kristaps Porzingis trade.
  • Miami appears to be willing to move anyone but Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo for cap relief. Lowe expects the Heat to try to get at least a second-round pick for Wayne Ellington.
  • Lowe confirms a previous report that JaMychal Green, Justin Holiday, and Garrett Temple are all available. Holiday, who was acquired from the Bulls earlier this year, cost the Grizzlies two second-round picks.
  • The Kings have approximately $11MM in cap space available and they want to use it to pick up an asset. Lowe writes that it could be a draft pick or a player who will help them win this season.
  • Sacramento is willing to engage in trade talks about Willie Cauley-Stein, who will be a restricted free agent this summer. The Kings may simply let the center walk should he receive too high of an offer this offseason.
  • The Bulls are expected to listen to offers for anyone but Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. Lowe doesn’t expect Chicago to deal either Kris Dunn or Zach LaVine though, as the team’s asking price is anticipated to be too high.
  • The Nuggets own a pair of trade exceptions and have slightly less than $7MM in breathing room under the tax. They are open to taking on a salary dump if another team calls and has to shed a player in that price range.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Pacific Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Pacific Division:

Jonas Jerebko, Warriors, PF, 31 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.18MM deal in 2018
Jerebko has bounced around the league the last few seasons but he always stays within his role and provides solid contributions wherever he lands. He’s averaging 7.2 PPG while shooting a career-high 48.9% from the field in 19.8 MPG. He’s also helped on the boards (5.5 RPG). An above-average 3-point shooter, Jerebko shouldn’t have too much trouble finding another contender to sign him as their backup stretch four next summer. It could be Golden State if he’s willing to settle for the veteran’s minimum again.

Tobias Harris, Clippers, 26, PF (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $64MM deal in 2015
When news leaked over the summer that Harris turned down an $80MM extension offer from the Clippers, many people wondered what Harris was thinking. He was willing to bet on himself that he could do even better as an unrestricted free agent and thus far, the odds have increased in his favor. Harris is posting career highs in several major categories, including scoring (21.0 PPG), shooting (50.8%) and rebounding (8.5 RPG) for one of the league’s surprise teams. When the superstars come off the board, Harris will be next in line for a big payday.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lakers, 25, SG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $12MM deal in 2018
The previous Pistons regime declined to give Caldwell-Pope a multi-year extension. He wound up signing a pair of generous one-year contracts with the Lakers but he’s been reduced to backup duty. Most of the shots he’s taken have come from beyond the arc and he’s not particularly good at it (33% this season, 34.4% for his career). Caldwell-Pope doesn’t appear to have a future with the Lakers beyond this season and will have to take a pay cut to find work elsewhere.

Dragan Bender, Suns, 21, PF (Down) — Signed to a three-year, $13.4MM deal in 2016
When the Suns drafted Bender No. 4 overall in 2016, then traded with Sacramento for No. 8 selection Marquese Chriss, they seemingly resolved their power forward spot for years to come. Instead, they wound up with two of the biggest busts in that draft. Chriss was traded away to Houston during training camp while Bender is barely seeing the court in Phoenix. He’s appeared in eight games while averaging just 5.5 MPG. Bender needs a change of scenery but he’ll have to settle for a modest deal next year until he proves he’s a genuine NBA player.

Willie Cauley-Stein, Kings, 25, PF (Up)– Signed to a four-year, $15.35MM deal in 2015
The Kings have a lot of young bigs but Cauley-Stein has been a fixture in the lineup. He’s posting career highs at 14.3 PPG and 8.2 RPG while generally playing the same amount of minutes as last season. Cauley-Stein came into the league with a reputation of being a quality defender and he’s posted positive Defensive Box Plus/Minus ratings each season, according to Basketball-Reference. He’ll be a restricted free agent but might be one of the few who gets a substantial offer sheet, considering Sacramento will like choose to make Marvin Bagley III their main man in the middle.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pacific Notes: Ariza, James, Cauley-Stein, Ingram

Suns forward Trevor Ariza is viewed by teams as a player who will become available before the NBA’s Feb. 8 trading deadline, Marc Stein of the New York Times reported this week. However, Ariza rejected the idea upon hearing the rumors and explained his desire to stay in Phoenix, despite his team holding just a 4-20 record as of Thursday.

“I’m not one to get somewhere and then just duck out,” Ariza told Gina Mizell of The Athletic. “I’m one to be in it, regardless of whatever the situation is. Fight until the end. That’s the type of person that I am, and that’s what I expect.”

Of course, the Suns could always choose to move Ariza against his wishes if the right deal comes. He signed a one-year, $15MM deal to join the young team in free agency, entering a vastly different situation than what he had in Houston during the 2017/18 season.

“It gives you a different perspective,” Ariza told Mizell. “Although I love to win, sometimes you have to be the person that’s able to take these punches and be able to still get up. (I have to) teach the next generation, teach the younger players how to prepare, how to become better pros.

“Right now, that’s the situation that I’m in, so I’m not worried about it. I’m not crying about it. I’m very thankful for my position. The only thing I can do is hope that we get better every day.”

There’s more out of the Pacific Division tonight:

  • LeBron James tuned out the noise surrounding him against the Spurs on Wednesday, scoring 20 fourth-quarter points to propel the Lakers to victory. “I’m past the [taking things] personal stage,” James said, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “I can do whatever. I can have a huge workload, I can have a not so huge workload. … It doesn’t matter for me. What’s most important is seeing my teammates make huge shots in the fourth quarter. … That’s what’s most important to me. I can care less about the narrative about me. It doesn’t matter. I’m a staple in this game.”
  • Willie Cauley-Stein is proving his worth with the Kings this season, gunning for a bigger contract in free agency next summer, James Ham of NBC Sports writes. Cauley-Stein is averaging a career-high 14.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, shooting 54% from the floor in 23 contests.
  • Lakers forward Brandon Ingram will miss at least two games after spraining his left ankle on Wednesday, according to McMenamin (Twitter link). Ingram didn’t travel with the team and is set to undergo a precautionary MRI Thursday evening. His status will be updated Friday morning.

Poll: Kings’ Hot Start

The Kings have been one of the season’s biggest surprises so far, as they have jumped out to a 6-4 start. As a result of strong 3-point shooting, the league’s second fastest pace and development from several young players, the Kings have impressed many through their first 10 games.

This is a Kings team that hasn’t won more than 33 games in a season since 2007/08, so a strong start is certainly something that has caught attention. While the team hasn’t been overwhelming on either end of the floor (they are just about league average on both ends), they have gotten strong play from De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein and Nemanja Bjelica.

In his second season in the league, Fox has made major strides. Heading into the Kings’ loss to the Bucks on Sunday, Fox was averaging 19 points, 7.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. Meanwhile, Hield is providing another capable scoring option, averaging 19.8 points per game while hitting 48.9% of his 3-pointers. Bjelica has been a great addition for the Kings, as his floor-spacing has been much needed in the starting lineup. So far, Bjelica is averaging 15.6 points per game while shooting a staggering 55.3% on 3-pointers. Finally, Cauley-Stein has improved as a rim-running big, averaging 16.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.

However, teams have gotten off to fast starts only to fade throughout the remainder of the season. Most recently it was the Magic, who got off to an 8-4 start last season, only to finish 25-57. While that Magic team surprised many early in the season due to some unsustainable shooting, there are certainly ways for the Kings to fall back down to the bottom of the standings moving forward.

Perhaps the development from their young players, their key free agency additions and their style of play will lead them to more success than anticipated. What do you think? Vote in the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments!

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Pacific Notes: Rondo, Suns, Cauley-Stein, Bell

Lonzo Ball was once again named the Lakers‘ starting point guard on Saturday against the Spurs, but that doesn’t mean his status in the role will be permanent. Rajon Rondo made a solid return to the lineup after being suspended for three games, scoring 12 points and dishing five assists in 29 minutes. Ball struggled in his first start and shot 2-8 from the floor.

“I didn’t play well tonight,” Ball admitted, according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. “Bad game. I’m human. I don’t play good every game.”

Both Ball and Rondo share similar playstyles, looking to play in transition and make their teammates better. They both struggle shooting from deep and prefer to attack the basket for points. The major difference lies in experience, where Rondo holds 11 more NBA seasons of playing time.

“Doesn’t matter who starts. They are both fine either way,” head coach Walton said. “They just want to win, is what they told me. They know that the decision is made by the coaching staff and they support each other and whatever it is they’ll go out and do their job.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns have a promising young core featuring Devin Booker, Josh Jackson and Deandre Ayton, but the organization still has a ways to go before reaching true success, writes Gina Mizell of The Athletic. “Teams don’t just overnight become championship organizations or great playoff teams,” Suns forward Ryan Anderson said. “It takes time to build. You have to allow some time for that, but you can’t really make an excuse for not playing hard.”
  • Willie Cauley-Stein has so far backed up his talk about getting paid next summer, James Ham of NBC Sports writes. Cauley-Stein has averaged an impressive 16.5 points and eight rebounds in six games for the Kings this season.
  • The Mercury News’ Logan Murdock details how Jordan Bell plans to work himself back into the Warriors’ rotation. The 23-year-old has seen limited time behind starting center Damian Jones in the team’s first six games. “It felt good to be out there,” Bell said. “It sucks when you’re watching the team do damage and you know you can help. But you got to understand how to be a pro and just realize some matchups aren’t right.”

Kings’ Frontcourt Logjam Worth Monitoring

The Kings are projected by most oddsmakers and NBA analysts to be the Western Conference’s worst team in 2018/19, but there are several young players on the roster who should be fun to watch. Marvin Bagley III, 2018’s second overall pick, is one of those players, while 2017 first-rounder Harry Giles, who generated buzz with his play this summer after missing his entire rookie season, is another.

However, Bagley only played 12 minutes in Sacramento’s opening-night game on Thursday, while Giles saw just 10 minutes of action. It’s certainly not unusual for rookies to have modest roles to start the season, but the Kings’ frontcourt rotation in their first game highlighted the logjam that exists at the four and five, as Jason Jones of The Athletic details.

With Willie Cauley-Stein and Nemanja Bjelica starting at center and power forward, respectively, and Justin Jackson also playing at the four in some lineups, head coach Dave Joerger suggests it may be “tough” to find minutes for Bagley, especially since the club is thinking long-term with its top pick, Jones writes. For his part, the No. 2 overall pick said he’s “trying to stay patient” when it comes to his playing time.

“I can only control what I can control,” Bagley said after Thursday’s loss. “And whenever my number is called, I’ve just got to go hard, go 100%, and try to do whatever I can to try to help us win. I think I did all right for what I did tonight, how much time I played tonight.”

Besides Cauley-Stein, Bjelica, Jackson, Bagley, and Giles, there are a few more big men on the Kings’ roster who would like to earn some minutes up front. Skal Labissiere didn’t play in the club’s opener, and neither did veteran Zach Randolph, who wasn’t even active for the game. Throw in Kosta Koufos, who should be healthy soon after battling a hamstring injury, and you have seven or eight players vying for playing time at two positions.

In other words, there will likely be “unhappy bigs every night” in Sacramento this season, as Jones tweets.

The Kings, who don’t have serious playoff aspirations, are unlikely to address their frontcourt logjam right away, but this is a situation worth monitoring over the course of the season. At least one trade before the deadline seems likely, and vets like Randolph and Koufos could ultimately be strong buyout candidates if they’re not moved by February. Stay tuned.