When the Sacramento Kings drafted Willie Cauley-Stein in June, their idea was obvious: put him next to DeMarcus Cousins in the frontcourt, and you have a potentially scary combo. One is the unstoppable scorer, one the dominant defender. The question, though, was how long it would take Cauley-Stein to earn a starting spot.
It appears he's already done it.
"I would say right now, Willie's probably going to start," Kings head coach George Karl told reporters on Saturday, via CSN Bay Area's James Ham. "I'm not sure of that yet, but I think that's probably where I'm heading."
The rookie started four of Sacramento's six exhibition games. Veteran Kosta Koufos started the other two. Due to Koufos' history with Karl in Denver, it wouldn't have surprised anybody if he had gotten the nod. If Cauley-Stein is ready, though, then why not give him the opportunity? He's perhaps the best defensive prospect the NBA has seen in years, and the Kings' frontcourt of the future might as well develop some chemistry.
In the summer, Cauley-Stein said he felt no nerves about making the transition to the pros. Still, some saw him as a project. It would appear his belief in himself is paying off.
The concern here is spacing. With a starting lineup of Rajon Rondo, Ben McLemore (or Marco Belinelli or James Anderson -- Karl hasn't said who will start at shooting guard yet), Rudy Gay, Cousins and Cauley Stein, opposing teams are going to try to force jumper after jumper. But that would have been an issue with Koufos in Cauley-Stein's place, anyway.
We'll see how it looks in three days. Sacramento hosts the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.