Going into the 2015 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings had made four consecutive poor draft choices with their first overall selection and it did not take long for that to become apparent. Only one first round pick, Ben McLemore, remained on the team from the last four drafts, and the Kings knew even he was nothing special.
With DeMarcus Cousins making his first All Star appearance in the season prior and Sacramento looking to build around the big man, there was an obvious choice in the draft: center out of Kentucky, Willie Cauley-Stein.
Although Willie played the same position as Cousins, Trill was known more for his ability to guard multiple positions effectively rather than his offensive side of the game.
So when Sacramento’s number six overall selection was on the clock and Willie was still on the board, it was an easy selection and seemed to be their first knowledgeable draft choice in years.
Trill had a solid first season in the league which earned him a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Although his stats didn’t catch the eye, his play next to Cousins was exactly what was expected out of the rookie; all defense and minimal ball touches on the offensive end.
He was putting up the same numbers in his sophomore year and then, the trade. DeMarcus Cousins was shipped to New Orleans right after the 2017 All Star Game and the center position became up for grabs.
Although Kosta Koufos mostly filled in the roll for the rest of the season as the starting center, Willie saw his minutes increase and even posted a career-high 29 points to go along with 10 rebounds just days after Cousins departed Sacramento.
The Kings thought they had something special in Cauley-Stein, and in his third season in the league, he started the majority of the season. He was given a larger roll on the offensive side as well which in turn led him to averaging a solid 12.8 points, 7 boards, and 2.4 dimes per game.
In his last year under his rookie contract, Trill came out swinging and started 81 games. About halfway through the season, Willie was averaging 14 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game.
But it was as if his desire to play the game slowly wore thin throughout the season. He began to play more and more lethargically as each game passed and his numbers began to drop.
When it came time to resign the big man, the Kings had some issues with the idea. His defense was nowhere they thought it would be when they drafted him, he wasn’t a great rebounder for a center, and he showed little heart and hustle in the second half of his contract year.
Ultimately, the Kings extended a qualifying offer to make Trill a restricted free agent but was later rescinded to make cap space.
Trill signed with the Golden State Warriors in the summer of 2019 where he would play exactly half a season on a terrible Golden State squad before being traded to Dallas in light of Dwight Powell’s season-ending injury.
Although Willie could be in Orlando with his team for the seeding games and the playoffs, Trill opted out of the NBA restart because his partner is expecting a child sometime this month.
Even though I enjoyed Trill during his time in Sacramento, it’s sad to say that between 2011-2015, he was the best first round draft pick the team had during that span when, in reality, he will go down as a serviceable big man.