What does Nik Stauskas bring to the Sacramento Kings?
The Sacramento Kings added a big-time shooter Thursday evening when they selected Michigan’s Nik Stauskas with the eighth overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft. The pick has received mixed reviews from fans and leaves one glaring question: what does this selection mean for last year’s first-round pick, Ben McLemore?
It’s difficult to write an analysis piece without comparing what Stauskas brings to the table versus McLemore. It’s rare to see a team spend two top-10 picks in consecutive years on the same position, but that is what the Kings have done.
General Manager Pete D’Alessandro has a lot of work to do if he hopes to balance out the roster, but he added shooting and playmaking at a position that absolutely killed his team last season.
“Knocking down shots and spreading the floor is definitely something I’m excited to do for this team.” - Stauskas on what he brings to the Kings
Stauskas has great range, finishing his sophomore season hitting 44.2 percent (92-for-208) from 3-point land. He has Jimmer-type range, but in a 6-foot-6 body.
You can’t argue with his 64.2 true-shooting number or the fact that he shot 82.4 percent from the line on 5.7 attempts per game. The Kings landed one of the top shooters in the draft, which was a huge need.
Stauskas can score as a catch-and-shoot player (49 percent) and off the dribble (38 percent) and he averaged 4.6 pick-and-roll possessions per game as a sophomore. He understands the game and can instantly come in and make an impact on the offensive end.
“I think I can play multiple positions. Moving forward in the NBA, I think I can play a little bit of one and also the two.” - Stauskas on his versatility
With Trey Burke moving onto the NBA last summer, Stauskas was asked to take on more of a ball-handling role in year two at Michigan. He posted 3.3 assists per game as a sophomore and an 18.8 percent assist percentage, while turning the ball over 1.9 times a game.
Stauskas won’t have an opportunity to post a usage rate of 24.4 percent with the Kings like he did in Ann Arbor, making those assist numbers difficult to duplicate. But Sacramento needs playmakers at almost every position. McLemore finished with a total of 82 assists last year in 82 games played. It’s not hard to see Stauskas doubling or tripling that number.
“Nik may give us great shooting, he may give us playmaking and right now, one of his maybe weaknesses is his ability to defend an NBA player from day one.” - Kings head coach Malone on Stauskas
According to Malone, the Kings have done their homework on Stauskas as a defender. They have watched plenty of tape and interviewed coaches from Michigan. They believe that Stauskas has the ability to come in and hold his own as a team defender, but will initially struggle in isolation situations.
“I can improve defensively and I can also improve my body and putting on more strength and speed.” - Stauskas on his defense
Stauskas has the size to play the two, but his lateral quickness is in question. At 20 years old, he is still growing into his body. His 12-percent body fat that he measured at the combine is high for a perimeter player at the NBA level and will have to come down significantly if he hopes to compete with elite wings. He may not have the athleticism of McLemore, but if he can play smart defense, he may be an upgrade at the position initially.
More than staying in front of his man, Stauskas needs to improve as a rebounder. He also hardly moved the meter in steals or blocks. This might be a product of his role at Michigan, but 2.9 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 0.3 blocks in 35.6 minutes per game is unacceptable at the pro level.
There is no question that defensive accumen is the major knock on Stauskas. Malone will have his hands full trying to make him into anything more than a solid team defender.
This might not be a super-popular pick, but Stauskas is a very functional player that instantly improves major points of need for the Kings. Sacramento needed shooters and improved playmaking. Stauskas brings those skills to the table. But those two items come at the expense of defense.
There were no perfect players at No. 8 and the Kings went with the player that filled the most needs and at a major position of need. Stauskas will have the opportunity to compete with McLemore for the starting shooting guard position on day one if a move isn’t made beforehand.
At Michigan, Stauskas was the star, but at the NBA level, he will need to do more or he will quickly become a situational player. He doesn’t have McLemore’s raw upside, but he could prove to be the better pro.