Nik Stauskas spent two seasons shining with the Michigan Wolverines, and now he will do his best to carry that momentum forward into the NBA after being selected eighth overall by the Sacramento Kings in the 2014 NBA draft.
The reigning Big Ten Player of the Year made a name for himself as a freshman member of Michigan's national runner-up squad by showcasing his three-point shooting ability. While that strength continued on in the 2013-14 season, Stauskas also flashed a more complete game in taking on more of a leadership role.
After Stauskas weighed in at 6'6" and 211 pounds at the predraft combine, per MLive.com, The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre felt Stauskas was making a case for himself to go in the draft lottery at that point:
Stauskas has the versatility to play either guard position, as he showed a knack for being a savvy distributor in dishing out 3.3 assists per contest as a sophomore along with an average of 17.5 points. He described his enviable skill set in a report by CSNPhilly.com's Dei Lynam on May 17:
I can be a guy who immediately stretches the floor and make shots. That is something I have always been able to do. But I think teams are going to be surprised when I have the ball in my hands, the plays that I can make for myself and others. I just feel I am a guy with a high IQ. I really like to make the right play out there.
Putting someone with Stauskas' length to run the point could create matchup problems in certain situations, and he is excellent at working off the ball and screens. Should he add just a bit more muscle to his frame, defending Stauskas will be difficult for the rest of the NBA in the years to come.
But defense has always been Stauskas' chief shortcoming, and it's a weakness that could be accentuated as he prepares to adjust to an even higher level of competition. The energy and sharpshooting he brings to the offensive end of the court is undeniable, but he lacks conviction as a perimeter defender.
It will take quite an effort to get that lacking part of his game up to par with the NBA, but Stauskas showed marked improvement as a sophomore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Thus, he appears to have the requisite work ethic to make the necessary adjustments. Although he possesses deceptive athleticism, Stauskas doesn't have the elite physical tools to make up for lacking defensive fundamentals and technique.
The immediate future for Stauskas in the Association should see him fill in for Sacramento as a strong bench contributor at the very least. Bringing in instant offense is something the Kings or any squad could always use, but Stauskas is well rounded enough to hold his own on the court. That suggests he could play a bigger role than that of an offensive spark, but he likely will have to prove his worth as an NBA-caliber defender to become a surefire starter.
Sacramento is getting a player whose passion for the game is evident, and Stauskas should thrive, with the upside to become a borderline All-Star.