The Houston Rockets reportedly reached a verbal agreement more than a month ago to sign veteran NBA center Willie Cauley-Stein. Yet, with training camp for the 2022-23 season only a few days away, he still isn’t actually on the roster, which remains full.
There’s a very plausible reason for the delay. While Houston reportedly has no plans for three of the players (Trey Burke, Sterling Brown, and Marquese Chriss) acquired from Dallas for salary matching purposes in the Christian Wood trade and could easily create a roster spot, if needed, they are now eligible to again be used as matching salary in trades — this time, by the Rockets.
So, for general manager Rafael Stone, it makes sense to exhaust any trade possibilities before cutting one (or more) of that trio and signing a new player, whose salary would be ineligible to be dealt until midseason. The only hard deadline is just prior to the Oct. 19 start of Houston’s regular season, which is when the current NBA offseason roster limit of 20 players shrinks to 15 plus two two-way contracts.
It all makes sense, but one potential casualty of a delay is Cauley-Stein, himself, since he wouldn’t be on the floor and practicing with his new NBA team when training camp begins. But according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, that may not be a big factor, since Cauley-Stein is likely bound for the G League, anyway.
In a story published Friday, Feigen writes:
There was a report about Willie Cauley-Stein over the summer. It seems most likely that he will sign after the first cuts but only be on the roster a short time to get his G League rights. He’ll get a chance to work his way back to the NBA with the [Rio Grande Valley] Vipers but would not seem to be part of the 15-2 [roster] plans.
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) September 23, 2022
Now 28 years old, Cauley-Stein was the No. 6 pick in the 2015 NBA draft by Sacramento. The 7-foot big man, who played at the University of Kentucky, played only sparingly in 20 games (mostly mop-up duty) with Dallas and Philadelphia last season.
Since Cauley-Stein hasn’t been a consistent NBA rotation player since 2020-21 earlier, it makes sense that he may have to work his way back into the league with a strong G League showing.
Statistically, Cauley-Stein’s best years came in his original NBA home with the Kings. In a two-season span from 2017-18 through 2018-19, Cauley-Stein averaged 12.3 points (52.8% FG), 7.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.8 blocks in 27.6 minutes per game.