The Rookie and His New Team: Nik Stauskas


Nik Stauskas will alleviate the shooting woes of the Kings, especially with his ability to shoot over defenses. Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan and Michigan State had five players taken in the 2014 NBA Draft: Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Gary Harris, and Adreian Payne. This series will look at how each player fits with their respective teams. It’s now Nik Stauskas’ turn.

The new owner of the Sacramento Kings, Vivek Ranadivé, wanted to shake things up. The Kings had lingered in the basement of the Western Conference in the post-Chris Webber era, and Ranadivé wanted all options of improving explored.

He relayed this to rookie general manager Pete D’Alessandro, who brainstormed angles people hadn’t thought of. He decided to crowdsource the NBA analytics community and allowed the process to be filmed. It was a smart move, because even if the pick didn’t turn out correctly, the publicity of the process would draw fans. And so the Kings ended with up Nik Stauskas. You can look at the process below:

Stauskas had a stellar sophomore year, winning the Big Ten Player of the year as Michigan’s featured player. This alone had him projected as a lottery pick, but his draft workouts continued to inflate his value.

The Kings had the eighth pick, and their war room seemed to all agree on Stauskas. They watched the top picks come off the board, and decided that Stauskas was the best player available. However, one could make the argument that Indiana forward Noah Vonleh, who was selected right after Stauskas, had the higher upside.

While Stauskas may have been the best pick available, the Kings had selected a shooting guard in the previous year’s lottery.  Ben McLemore’s rookie season may have fallen short of expectations, but drafting another player of the same position usually isn’t the best use of a pick.

The reason the Kings fell in love with Stauskas was his shooting ability. While McLemore had insane amounts of athleticism, his shooting touch was sporadic. The Kings feature a slasher in Rudy Gay and a traditional post player in DeMarcus Cousins, so they needed someone to space the floor out.

The argument for Stauskas is simple. The Kings had just signed Darren Collinson, and with Marcus Smart selected, there wasn’t a floor general good enough to be Collinson’s backup. Gay will be the small forward for at least the next three or four years, the same going for Boogie Cousins at the center. The power forward position was filled with defensive-minded role players, big men like Jason Thompson and Reggie Evans, neither who needed offensive touches. The shooting guard position was McLemore and an aging and injured Jason Terry. Stauskas could provide Terry insurance, if not supplant McLemore as the starter.

Still, the argument against Stauskas isn’t too difficult to make. McLemore remains an obstacle, and no one knows for sure what the Kings are planning for him. Another option was Noah Vonleh, a stretch forward who could have alleviated some of the pressure on Cousins. One reservation about Vonleh is that he dominates the ball, which would be bad news on a team with high-usage players in Cousins and Gay. Another stretch four in Adreian Payne would have required trading down. Doug McDermott would have been another shooting option, but he plays the same position as Gay.

Prediction: Stauskas will have an almost permanent green light to shoot in Sacramento. This will always be a positive, and Stauskas proved that in the Summer League. He shot 48 percent from deep while scoring 9.9 points a game. The Canadian maintained a 44 percent shooting percentage from three in his two years at Michigan. It will be quite the feat to see if he can replicate that in the NBA.