With young, talented players at multiple positions and the Western Conference in a state of flux, the Sacramento Kings are being pegged by some as a potential surprise team in the 2019-20 season.
But one of their most vital players apparently doesn’t want to stick around to see just how good the team can become.
Speaking to The Sacramento Bee on Saturday night, Roger Montgomery, the agent for Willie Cauley-Stein, said his client no longer wants to play for the team with which he has spent the first four seasons of his career.
“I really think Willie needs a fresh start,” Montgomery said, according to The Bee’s Jason Anderson. “Based on how things have gone for him there in Sacramento, I just think it’s time for Willie to move on, and we’d really like him to move on.”
Cauley-Stein, 25, was drafted sixth overall in 2015 and played out his rookie contract this past season. He is now headed for free agency, the only catch being that if the Kings extend Cauley-Stein a qualifying offer, he would become a restricted free agent. That would give the Kings the opportunity to match any offer another team makes.
That is something Montgomery is hoping doesn’t happen.
“We’ve kind of hoped that things would change over the years and Willie would get a chance to expand his game, get a chance to get some consistency there in terms of the roster turnover and the coaching turnover and the things that have not been steady there,” Montgomery told The Bee. “That being said, I’m hopeful they will not even give Willie his qualifying offer so Willie can be an unrestricted free agent.”
Per league rules, the deadline to extend the qualifying offer to Cauley-Stein is June 30, and the offer would be for $6,265,631. Should the club indeed make him the offer, Cauley-Stein would only be allowed to sign an offer sheet with another team, and the Kings would then have 72 hours to match.
“Willie is a great player who has shown he can fit our style of play,” the Kings said later Saturday night through a statement to The Bee. “Beyond that, we can’t comment further.”
In four seasons, Cauley-Stein has averaged 10.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 295 games (199 starts). He played in 81 games last season, starting all of them. Over the last two seasons, he has averaged 12.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists. He has also seen his average minutes increase to 27.6 over the last two seasons, after averaging 20.1 minutes in his first two seasons.
His increased role with the team has coincided with an increase in the team’s talent, particularly with younger players. Second-year point guard De’Aaron Fox is up for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award. Rookie Marvin Bagley III was named to the All-Rookie first team, a distinction teammate Buddy Hield earned in the 2016-17 season.
While the Los Angeles Lakers will add Anthony Davis via a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans, injuries to players such as Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson of Golden State; reported friction in Houston’s locker room; and big-name free agents such as Durant, Thompson, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard on the market, the Western Conference appears as wide open as it has been in half a decade or more.