Happy to be in the starting lineup, Cauley-Stein says 'flawless' defense is key to Kings' success
Which Willie Cauley-Stein can the Kings expect?
The player who scored a career-high 29 points Thursday against Denver would be nice. But that’s unrealistic since Cauley-Stein doesn’t anticipate putting up such numbers nightly.
The Kings, though, don’t want a repeat of Saturday, when Cauley-Stein had just two points and shot 0 for 5 with only two rebounds in 28 minutes against Charlotte.
Sacramento doesn’t need Cauley-Stein to be its leading scorer every night. But the Kings need him to contribute, whether scoring, rebounding, playing defense or doing things that don’t show up in the box score such as boxing out or challenging shots.
After Saturday’s loss to the Hornets, coach Dave Joerger was asked what Cauley-Stein needed to do to be more consistent.
“Just try to do all the other stuff,” Joerger said. “Being in the right place at the right time, being an energy guy.”
Cauley-Stein’s toughest challenge would be duplicating his offensive performance from Thursday, when he attempted 22 shots, an unusually high total for him. He also faced a Nuggets defense that is among the NBA’s worst and did little to disrupt the second-year center from Kentucky.
“He benefited greatly from playing in space the other night (against Denver),” Joerger said. “I don’t know how many dunks and layups he got off pick-and-rolls, and he didn’t get those (Saturday). Sometimes that’s definitely not all his fault. … . Different nights it’s different things.
Cauley-Stein has played well for about a month as his minutes have risen. In his previous 15 games entering Monday’s game against Minnesota at Golden 1 Center, he averaged 10.3 points and 4.5 rebounds in 19.8 minutes per game. Overall, he was averaging 6.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in 13.7 minutes per game.
When he isn’t scoring and opponents limit his strengths, Cauley-Stein must elevate other facets of his game in his increased playing time.
“I think teams are definitely going to start doing that now, playing the pick-and-roll where we’re not getting layups and dunks, and they’re going to challenge us from the 3-point line,” Cauley-Stein said. “But me personally, I’ve just got to find other ways to make an impact.”