Worst Starter No. 4 – Willie Cauley-Stein
After executing the Kevin Durant – D’Angelo Russell double sign-and-trade in the 2019 offseason, the 19-20 Warriors were hard-capped, which meant they couldn’t spend more than the tax apron (a line a few million over the luxury tax line) for any reason. That’s why they dumped Andre Iguodala on the Memphis Grizzlies.
With only a small amount of money to spend, it was therefore wild that the Warriors, the team that had won three titles treating the center position as highly replaceable, spent what little money it had over the minimum on a center. They dipped into the Mid-Level Exception to sign former Kentucky and Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein to a two-year contract.
What Cauley-Stein had going for him was defensive playmaking, and he brought that to the Warriors; he averaged 1.1 steals and 1.2 blocks in 22.9 minutes per game with the Warriors. He played 41 games, starting 37, as the defensive anchor in the middle.
The problem with this anchor was that it didn’t stay down; for every block he got there was another that he missed, making it clear he lacked the defensive discipline to be a long-term option once the stars came back. He was also a nothing on offense, providing decent finishing but with poor hands, no passing or scoring, and even very little offensive rebounding.
The Warriors moved him along to the Dallas Mavericks at the deadline to get something of value for him. He did a few things well, but like many bigs during the Stephen Curry era, he didn’t offer enough on offense to balance out his defensive contributions.