Nik Stauskas grades his first half performance
If the NBA is grade school, Nik Stauskas needs a parent-teacher conference pronto. His performance on the court so far this season has casted doubts over his preparedness for this level of competition.
In 39 regular season appearances, the Sacramento Kings rookie shooting guard has underwhelmed offensively and defensively.
Stauskas is shooting 33.3 percent on field goals and 27.2 percent on 3-pointers for a measly 3.6 points in 14 minutes per game. He’s producing only 1.1 rebounds and 0.7 assist per game, a far cry for a player who was heralded as a playmaker at Michigan. Additionally, Stuaskas has struggled to slow bigger slashers, who overpower the 6-foot-6, 205-pounder.
The lowest point in Stauskas’ professional career came on Saturday, when he was a healthy scratch for the first time this year in place of D-League call-up Quincy Miller. It served as a wake up call that he can’t wing games like an English class in college.
It’s safe to say the current product on the court is not what the Kings front office envisioned when they drafted Stauskas eighth overall last summer. The Canadian native is well aware of this fact, and grounded enough to understand he has much work to do.
“I’d give myself a D+ to this point,” Stauskas told Cowbell Kingdom on Friday. “Offensively, I haven’t played with as much confidence as I should have. I haven’t been making as many shots as I normally do. Defensively too, it’s taken me a while to get used to the physicality and the speed of the game, and what not, so just those adjustments that need to be made. I need to learn and get better.”
Of course, the quality of the teachers can affect a lesson plan, and the Kings let go two merited instructors in Michael Malone and Chris Jent in mid-December. Despite the flux of the coaching staff, Tyrone Corbin and his staff have repeated the same instructions to Stauskas.
“Our whole team, defense is something that we’re trying to get better at,” Stauskas noted. “For me, that’s probably the weakest part of my game, so that’s something that I’ve always needed to focus on. And probably just staying confident. That’s the one thing that everyone really preaches to me.”
Stauskas said that no other NBA players besides Kings have reached out to help him this season. But he does have a role model in Ben McLemore, who went through similar lumps in his rookie campaign last season. Stauskas and McLemore play the same position and compete for minutes, but it’s common to see them talking and sharing a laugh.
A lesson McLemore understands, and Stauskas is familiar with now, is to know your place in the Kings hierarchy. The rookie has learned that it’s best not to debate others on improving his game, and instead listen intently.
“Don’t have an answer to everything,” Stauskas emphasized. “Like when your vets, or when your coaches say something to you, sometimes even if you know you’re right, you have a reason for doing what you did, don’t say anything, just agree. Sometimes that’s the best bet for you.”
Stauskas is not in danger of flunking out yet, but the 22-year-old is feeling the pressure. With the support of his family, close friends and teammates, he remains upbeat and driven to improve his weaknesses.