Sacramento Kings Betting: Willie Cauley-Stein transforming Team

willie-cauley-stein-improving-1When you think of betting on the Sacramento Kings, you’re probably most focused on the efforts of DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo. However, one player who’s really making an impact on the team lately is rookie Willie Cauley-Stein. You wouldn’t know it from his numbers (5.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.2 BPG) so far, but Cauley-Stein may ultimately help vault Sacramento into the postseason.

Cauley-Stein got off to a rough start in his first season, dislocating his finger during a game against Boston on Dec. 3. For many rookies, this might have completely thrown them off their game and led to a poor season. But Cauley-Stein took this opportunity to continue improving his skills in various ways.

As CSN reports, the 7-foot center hit the weight room more, watched lots of film and kept up his cardio. The end result is that Cauley-Stein emerged from the injury as a smarter, stronger, more well-polished player. Now healthy, he’s using his time to work on other aspects of his game, namely offense.

“In college, you can get away with a lot more stuff because you’re just far more superior (talent wise) than everybody else,” he said. “But in the league, it’s like everybody’s on your level or higher.”

The sixth pick in last year’s NBA Draft, Cauley-Stein doesn’t think of himself as a mere rookie. Instead, he wants to work towards stardom now and shed the draft-day doubts that he might only be a defensive specialist.

“For me to take the step that I want to take and the step that I think I need to take, I have to become an all-around basketball player or it’s not going to be fun for me,” said Cauley-Stein. “Playing this game won’t be fun for me if I don’t become the player that I know I can become and the player they know I can become. If I settled and was just a rim protector and an under-the-basket guy, then I cheated myself in life, that’s how I look at it.”

willie-cauley-stein-improving-2He added, “I don’t want to be classified as a big man, I want to be a big guard, if that makes sense. If you can put the guard game with the post game, then it’s deadly. DeMarcus for instance, he’s a big man, but he has moves like a guard that you just can’t stop. That’s what I want.”

Blessed with the agility of a shooting guard and a 37-inch vertical leap at 7’0”, 240 pounds, Cauley-Stein is already making his presence felt on the defensive end. In fact, it’s his ability to defend all five positions that makes him one of the league’s best pick-and-roll defenders. And what’s amazing is that he still has the drive and determination of a less-talented fringe player who’s just trying to stay in the NBA.

“My whole mentality my rookie year is nobody outworks me,” he said. “That’s going to build the foundation. As soon as I become a vet, I already have that niche on me, like, you’re not going to outwork him, so what do you do now? You can’t outwork him, so he’s just going to keep coming back — he’s going to come with another wave, another wave and that’s the kind of thing I’m trying to build now. It’s like an unlimited amount of waves that’s just going to come and come and come.”

The only real obstacle to his goal of future stardom is the losses that keep piling up. Sacramento is currently 21-28, which puts them two an a half games behind the Utah Jazz for the Western Conference’s eighth seed. This is a far cry from his Kentucky days, when the team won 50 games in a row at one point.

However, with a roster that already includes Cousins, Rondo, Rudy Gay and a constantly improving Cauley-Stein, it wouldn’t be a surprise of the Kings turn things around. So if you’re looking to do any Sacramento Kings betting in the future, keep in mind that Cauley-Stein’s growth should help this team win more often in the future, or at least cover more spreads.

Boston’s Jared Sullinger coming into his own in Second Year

jared-sullinger-boston-celticsJared Sullinger’s professional basketball career got off to a rocky start the minute he was selected 21st overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. After all, this was a guy whom many predicted to be a top-5 lottery pick going into the summer of ’12. And there was good reason why since the bulky 6’9″ power forward led Ohio State to a 63-10 overall record and Final Four appearance during his two years there.

Unfortunately, Sullinger’s stock slipped considerably after he suffered through back issues during the Draft Combine in Chicago. He eventually fell to the Boston Celtics, who grabbed him in the latter half of the first round.

Wanting to prove the critics wrong in his rookie season, Sullinger showed flashes of brilliance, including a January-of-2013 game against the Toronto Raptors where he scored 25 points and grabbed 20 rebounds. This was the first 20-20 game by a Celtic since Kevin Garnett did it in 2007. But then disaster struck just two weeks later on February 1st, when it was announced that Sullinger would miss the rest of the season with a back injury.

This was obviously a huge setback and a harrowing reminder of the Draft Combine the year before. However, all of these reminders seem to have vanished now that Sullinger is showing his true potential in the 2013-14 season. For starters, he’s averaging 13.4 PPG and 8.1 RPG in a modest 27 minutes per contest. These numbers may not leap off the stat sheet at casual observers, but what he’s done over the past four games definitely does. In a stretch from Jan. 29th to Feb. 7th, 2014, Sullinger has averaged 23.8 PPG, 13.8 RPG and 1.25 BPG. What’s more is that the 21-year-old has led the rebuilding Celtics to a 3-1 mark over these past few games.

jared-sullinger-boston-celtics-1Following his fourth game during this impressive streak, where Sullinger scored a career-high 31 points and grabbed 16 boards against the Kings, his teammates were asked to weigh in on this emergence. Gerald Wallace said, “He’s one of the best offensive rebounders I’ve played with. And when is focus is on, he’s pretty good down on the block.”

What impresses Rajon Rondo about his teammate is the consistency. “The hardest thing in this league is to be consistent, and right now he’s been very consistent for us…so it’s not easy what he’s doing,” Rondo said.

Sullinger himself also commented with the following, “I just went out and just played my game. (I’ve) been doing it for the past couple games and just letting everything go, playing my game and just showing better body language, according to my father.”

As mentioned before, Sullinger has played well before. But a four-game stretch with double-doubles is new territory for the power forward. So should we expect a drop-off at some point? Not according to Celtics Insider A. Sherrod Blakely, who said the following:

The way that he’s going about doing it is really what’s impressing me. He’s not just relying on shots around the basket, he’s not just relying on jumpers. He’s mixing it up and that is what you want to see in a young, upcoming promising big like Jared Sulilnger – the ability to hurt teams in different ways.

One more testament to Jared Sullinger’s insane run over the past week-plus is that he’s currently playing with two injured hands. He’s got a dislocated finger on one hand and sprained ligaments in the other. So if he’s playing this well at age 21 with two injured hands, just imagine how good he’ll be for Boston in a few years as long as his back issues don’t return.

NBA Power Rankings for Oct. 29th, 2012

A week ago, we did a complete list of power rankings for all 32 NBA teams. Seeing as how the regular season doesn’t officially begin until tonight, we weren’t expecting the rankings to shift much – especially at the top. However, a major and surprising trade between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets blew this notion out of the water. That said, let’s discuss the trade and look at the top NBA teams heading into the 2012-2013 season.

1. Miami Heat – Nothing has changed here during the preseason since the Heat are pretty much the unanimous pick to repeat as NBA champions. The newest Miami pickup, Ray Allen, recently talked about how he doesn’t like the offseason divorce with the Celtics. However, winning a title in Miami should erase most of his negative feelings about leaving Boston.

2. L.A. Lakers – A week ago, we had the Lakers tabbed as the NBA’s third best team. After all, there haven’t been any regular season games yet to showcase the chemistry between Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and new teammates Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. However, we don’t really need to see it right now following the big Thunder trade.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder – After failing to come to terms on a contract extension with G James Harden, the Thunder sent him, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston for Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin, two first round picks and a second round pick. For the future, this isn’t a bad trade when draft picks are considered and Martin should provide plenty of offensive punch. But there’ll be nobody replacing Harden’s perimeter defense contributions this year, and the Thunder are a worse team at the moment.

4. San Antonio Spurs – No major preseason trades to report from the Spurs. Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing since they have a strong core group in Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. Unfortunately, the latter is dealing with some back problems that could hamper his production to open the season.

5. L.A. Clippers – The Clippers addressed their most pressing need of depth this summer after adding Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill and Matt Barnes. So far in the preseason, it looks like all four players could make solid contributions during the year.

6. Indiana Pacers – In the East, it’s basically the Miami Heat and then the rest. And for our money, the rest starts with the well-balanced Pacers who feature budding franchise center Roy Hibbert and smooth swingman Paul George.

7. Denver Nuggets – Many people wonder about Denver’s lack of a true superstar. But they added a very good player in Andre Iguodala and look poised to challenge for the West’s top spot with a number of solid role players in Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried.

8. Boston Celtics – Much of the Celtics hopes rest on how much better Rajon Rondo has gotten over the offseason. With Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both another year older, Rondo will have to carry Boston more this year. Also, it will be interesting to see if Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa can fill the void left by Ray Allen at shooting guard.

9. Memphis Grizzlies – Nobody’s denying that the Grizzlies have talent with Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph providing plenty of offense and Marc Gasol and Tony Allen playing lockdown defense. But will this be enough to make a serious run at the Western Conference title? It might be if everything goes right for Memphis.

10. Atlanta Hawks – With Joe Johnson now departed to Brooklyn, nobody’s giving Atlanta much of a chance to win the Eastern Conference. And while we don’t see them as being any serious threat to the Heat, they could potentially make the Conference finals with the return of a healthy Al Horford. Josh Smith will need to step up in Johnson’s absence and stop taking so many ill-advised three’s too.