The Kings extended a qualifying offer to center Willie Cauley-Stein on Friday, likely making him a restricted free agent and giving the team options as it moves into what promises to be an explosive free agency period.
The Kings tendered the $6.3 million qualifying offer, a move that was widely anticipated despite Cauley-Stein’s desire to move on to another team. Roger Montgomery, Cauley-Stein’s agent at Roc Nation Sports, told The Sacramento Bee last weekend that Cauley-Stein wanted the Kings to renounce his rights, which would have allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent.
Kings general manager Vlade Divac decided it would be more prudent to make the offer. If Cauley-Stein signs the tender, he will remain under contract next season for $6.3 million and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. If he opts for restricted free agency, the Kings will be able to match any offer he receives from another team.
The Kings extended the qualifying offer a day before the deadline with free agency set to begin at 3 p.m. Sunday. They can revoke the qualifying offer at any time up to July 13.
Cauley-Stein averaged 11.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals in 81 games last season. He has improved each year since the Kings selected him with the sixth pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, but he hasn’t played his way into an upper tier of free-agent centers that features Nikola Vucevic, DeMarcus Cousins, Al Horford, Marc Gasol and Brook Lopez.
It remains to be seen what the free-agent market will offer Cauley-Stein. The Kings are not likely to match if Cauley-Stein attracts offers over a certain price point, but Divac has indicated he sees value in Cauley-Stein and might wish to keep him under the right circumstances.
The Kings are interested in acquiring free-agent center Al Horford, a league source told The Sacramento Bee on Friday. The Kings are unlikely to keep Cauley-Stein if they land Horford or another top free-agent center, but he would give them a backup plan if they were unable to upgrade at the position.