Willie Cauley-Stein: Knicks were right to pick Porzingis over me
The Knicks will never have to think of what could have been.
Before the Knicks altered the direction of their franchise by taking Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth-overall pick in the 2015 draft, the team was also considering drafting center Willie Cauley-Stein, who was widely considered the best defensive player available, and worked out for the Knicks.
While Porzingis has since become one of the league’s best players — lighting up Madison Square Garden on Saturday night with another offensive masterpiece — Cauley-Stein, who was drafted by Sacramento with the sixth pick that year, has yet to fill the immense potential he displayed while taking Kentucky to the Final Four.
Cauley-Stein was largely invisible in the 118-91 loss to the Knicks, struggling with foul trouble, and finishing with five points, three rebounds and three assists.
“I thought I had a pretty good chance of coming here, but they ended up picking the right guy,” Cauley-Stein told The Post following the loss.
Cauley-Stein was like every other player against Porzingis, having virtually no chance of slowing the most offensively versatile 7-footer in the league.
But while guarding Porzingis, Cauley-Stein believes he saw what he is capable of, even if the league has rarely seen a talent as unique as the Knicks’ franchise player.
“I think I just gotta get more selfish,” said Cauley-Stein, who hit 2-of-6 shots, and is averaging 8.9 points this season. “Offensively, I gotta get to the point that I’m just going at dudes like him. Guarding him, and then watching his game, you take away, oh, this is what he’s doing. I have the same body size, the same skill-level, just transfer it over to a game now. But being behind in the race, he’s been doing it for a while.”
Cauley-Stein, 24, said he believes Porzingis is in the perfect situation, with Carmelo Anthony’s absence giving him the opportunity to become a superstar, and the Kings center admits he wonders what would have happened if the draft unfolded differently.
Porzingis has made sure the Knicks never will.
“This league’s all about situations,” Cauley-Stein said. “I went to a situation where I’m playing behind the best center in the league [DeMarcus Cousins], or I could’ve gone to somewhere where they don’t have a guy, and now you’re the guy, and you’re getting all the touches. That helps a lot.
“You get a chance to get the ball every time, you’re gonna do better quicker, and you’re gonna gain experience faster. He’s very comfortable. … When you can take all the shots you want to take, when you want to take them, and make plays, it’s very hard to fail.”