When Willie Cauley-Stein committed to Kentucky back in 2011, he was a little known big man out of the state of Kansas.
WCS, as he became affectionately known, was a project big man that didn't possess the jaw-dropping skills that are common for a five-star recruit, but he had the athleticism and the raw talent to make him a four-star recruit. During his three years at Kentucky, Willie transformed his game and his image as he progressed into one of the best defensive stoppers in all of college basketball.
He has been projected to go as high as the top five but recently questions about his medical history and background are scaring teams away. I can't fathom what those background questions are, but it isn't a secret that he has sickle-cell problems and he's been open about them since he's been at Kentucky.
Maybe his motor is being questioned, which is fair, as Willie has had issues with that in the past. But make no mistake, he's a great talent that any team would be thrilled to have.
Important Stats at Kentucky:
Points Per Game (2014-2015)- 8.9
Rebounds Per Game (2014-2015)- 6.4
Blocks Per Game (2014-2015)- 1.7
NBA Draft Combine Measurables:
Height- 7'.05" with shoes
Weight- 242 lbs
Draftexpress.com- #11 Overall to the Indiana Pacers
Yahoo Sports- #5 Overall to the Orlando Magic
NBA.com- #8 Overall to the Detroit Pistons
Strengths: His biggest strength is his ability to defend any position on the floor while being a seven-footer. We watched Willie develop into an elite defender this season as he was able to switch out on smaller guards on the perimeter and shut them down. He has the length and lateral quickness to move along with point guards and completely take them out of their game. It's demoralizing.
Willie is also a very good shot blocker that has come a long way with his timing. Offensively his strengths lie in catching lob passes and running the court with fast breaks. He has shown the ability to drive and dunk on opponents, essentially creating his own shot off of the dribble.
What Needs Work: Willie has been offensively challenged since his freshman year at Kentucky but his is light-years from there. His outside shooting is much improved but he still really isn't a threat from anywhere outside of the paint. Speaking of the paint, he wasn't as dominant in the post as he should have been for his size, missing a great deal of shots around the rim.
He was not as polished in the post as Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, or Frank Kaminsky, the elite big men in the NCAA. Willie has also had issues with desire and work ethic as he had a tendency to disappear at times throughout his time at Kentucky.
Final Analysis: Willie Cauley-Stein is worthy of a top ten draft pick and will definitely be a lottery pick. But is he a top five draft talent? There are some questions that I have highlighted in this profile that are not easily answered, but there is no question about his gifts. He is the most athletic big man in the draft and I don't think there is a debate. He also has an engaging, quirky personality that allows him to realize that there is more to life than basketball. We loved that about him here, but will NBA GM's use that as a reason to pass him up?