Kevin Durant sings praises of Willie Cauley-Stein

There aren’t many players in the NBA with more physical tools than Sacramento Kings center and former Wildcat Willie Cauley-Stein.

A former high school wide receiver, Cauley-Stein is a fluid, natural athlete who runs the floor like a guard, only he’s 7-foot, 240 pounds.

And one of the best players in the world has taken notice.

During a recent appearance on Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum’s Pull Up podcast, two-time reigning NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant discussed his NBA Mount Rushmore, toughest opponents to guard and more, but also sung the praises of Cauley-Stein.

“You know who I like a lot … Willie Cauley-Stein,” Durant said. “I feel like he is the next one of those guys.”

“He’s springy, springy. Crazy springs,” McCollum added. “Gets off the ground as quick as anyone I’ve ever seen.”

A former top-50 recruit in the 2012 class out of Olathe Northwest High School in Kansas, Cauley-Stein spent three seasons at Kentucky, where he averaged 8.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.0 steals in 105 career games. Cauley-Stein was a consensus First Team All-American selection as a senior in 2015, helping lead the Wildcats to a 38-1 record and a berth in the Final Four. His colorful and outgoing personality also made him a fan favorite in Lexington.

The No. 6 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Cauley-Stein is now entering his fourth NBA season with the Kings and is coming off the best year of his young career, In 2017-18, Cauley-Stein averaged career-bests in points (12.8), rebounds (7.0), assists (2.4), steals (1.1) and minutes (28) while starting 57 of 73 games.

Cauley-Stein, who is averaging 9.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game over his first three NBA seasons, has been working on his game in Sacramento and Las Vegas this summer.

Durant went on to say that as the Kings improve, Cauley-Stein’s ability will shine brighter and brighter.

“Once they get better in Sac,” Durant said. “they’re going to see his athleticism is ridiculous.”

Cauley-Stein is one of four former Wildcats on the Kings roster along with point guard De’Aaron Fox, forward Skal Labissiere and rookie forward Wenyen Gabriel, who was recently signed to a two-way contract. Cauley-Stein was back in Lexington during the NBA All-Star break last February.

Sacramento, who finished 12th in the NBA Western Conference with a 27-55 record last season, selected Duke big man Marvin Bagley with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft in Brooklyn earlier this summer.

Cauley-Stein has already grossed over $10 million during his NBA career. He is slated to make $4.7 million in next season and his salary then jumps to $6.2 million in 2019-20.
The Kings will face off against Durant’s back to back defending world champion Warriors and McCollum’s Blazers once each during the preseason before opening the 2018-19 season Oct. 1 vs. the Phoenix Suns.