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Is Willie Cauley-Stein Dallas-bound?

The playoff-bound Mavericks suddenly need a center. Could the Warriors be a good fit?

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

There are only 15 days until the 2020 NBA trade deadline, which means the Golden State Warriors have just over two weeks to figure out what moves - if any - to make.

Golden State has an incentive to make a move or two, even if they barely get anything back. Trading a player (assuming they don’t take any salary back in the move) would open up the cap space necessary to convert the two-way contract of Ky Bowman (Marque Chriss’ contract could then be converted in March). Given that the team has given away draft picks like under-the-seat goodies at an Oprah taping, they’d likely be happy to get a low draft pick back for any of their cheap veterans.

It’s a little unclear how the team currently views center Willie Cauley-Stein. Just a week ago, Cauley-Stein’s fate with the Warriors seemed sealed. He’d been taken out of the starting rotation, wasn’t playing many minutes, and the team had just re-signed Chriss. Things were looking grim.

But he returned to the starting lineup, and the fifth-year center has started three contests in a row. More importantly, he’s averaged over 30 minutes per game during that streak. His numbers have been decent enough during that span - 13.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 blocks, and 1.0 steals per game - and he’s looked the part of serviceable starting center.

Still, the question has to be asked: Is the increase in minutes due to Steve Kerr and Bob Myers believing that Cauley-Stein deserves to be playing that much? Or is it due to the team wanting to showcase their center before the trade deadline, to increase the odds of shipping him out?

If it’s the latter, then you can expect Myers to get on the phone with the Dallas Mavericks soon. On Tuesday, Mavs center Dwight Powell suffered a ruptured Achilles in a non-contact injury, ending his season.

Powell had started 37 games for Dallas, and his lob threat was a brilliant pairing with young playmaker Luka Doncic. With the Mavs sporting a 27-16 record, and looking every bit the part of noisemakers in the West, it seems all but guaranteed that they’ll look for reassurances at the center position. Boban Marjanovic ain’t gonna cut it.

So, you glorious mathematicians . . . can you put two and two together? I bet you can.

Cauley-Stein would be a strong fit with the Mavericks. He’s long and athletic, and could replicate much of the rim-running that Powell provided. He’s a decent defensive player, and steady and reliable in his role.

He’s been far from exciting or inspiring during his short Warriors tenure, but Cauley-Stein has been quietly, steadily good. That’s worth a lot to playoff-bound team that suddenly finds itself with a 6-foot-10 hole on the court.

Elsewhere, the Denver Nuggets probably wouldn’t mind having a center, especially if Mason Plumlee is slow to rehab his injured foot.

Denver would have to shift some puzzle pieces in their roster to add another player, but it’s likely something they’re monitoring.

The Warriors will have discussions with teams. It’s just a matter of if anything materializes, which depends in part on whether Golden State has any interest in carrying Cauley-Stein into next season.

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