The Golden State Warriors officially announced the signing of free agent center Willie Cauley-Stein to a contract. Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not released, however, his deal is reported to be for one year and $1.7 million — the veteran minimum.
The seven-foot center will likely head a young center rotation, followed by Kevon Looney (reportedly re-signed to a three-year, $15 million contract), newly-acquired Omari Spellman and No. 39 overall draft pick Alen Smailagic.
“It honestly just came down to situational, like, I know that I had said something about getting paid at the beginning of the year, but by the end, it was no longer about getting paid,” Cauley-Stein told reporters in Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League. “There’s still a lot I need to learn about this league. I think I got excited, jumped the gun.”
Cauley-Stein, 25, had hoped to sign a long-term extension with Sacramento, which he now considers home, but his uneven performance over his first three seasons caused reticence. This past season, he averaged 11.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.19 steals in 27.3 minutes over 81 games (all starts). Instead of an extension, he was given a qualifying offer before the start of free agency. He asked the team to rescind the offer, which they did, and a day later reportedly agreed to terms with Golden State.
“I just got the phone call, and I don’t know how you could turn that down,” Cauley-Stein said. “Just talking to Steve [Kerr] and Draymond [Green] and Steph [Curry], they were just really excited. It was pretty easy on me … It was about how do I stay secure and how I guild off that security. The Warriors are the best about doing that in the league.”
Cauley-Stein is most adept in the pick-and-roll, as is newly-acquired guard D’Angelo Russell. Known for their pass-happy, ball movement offense, the Warriors were last in the league in running the pick and roll last season. With Kevin Durant gone and Klay Thompson out until at least December with an ACL injury, head coach Steve Kerr will have to show how adaptable he can be.
The No. 6 overall pick by the Kings in the 2015 NBA Draft, Cauley-Stein spent three seasons at Kentucky and earned First Team All-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors as a junior in 2014-15.
In four NBA seasons, Cauley-Stein has averaged 10.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 24.0 minutes in 295 games (199 starts) with Sacramento. He was named to the 2015-16 All-Rookie Second Team.