Sacramento Kings happy with decision to stand pat and draft Nik Stauskas

Nik Stauskas warms up for the Michigan Wolverines. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

The Sacramento Kings were actively searching for deals on draft night. But when it was all said and done, they stood pat and made the pick where they were slated in the order.  The Kings took Nik Stauskas out of the University of Michigan with the eighth overall pick, making him the first Wolverine to be drafted in franchise history.

Pete D’Alessandro, Vivek Ranadivé and Michael Malone were all smiles after the draft came to a close.  It was clear they were happy with the pick as each raved about the 20-year-old guard out of Mississauga, Ontario.  Below is a breakdown of what the Kings brain-trust had to say about the newest addition to the team’s roster.

  • D’Alessandro and his staff did their homework on Stauskas all year long.  However, he seemed to suggest that a workout in Chicago a week-and-a-half ago really turned heads on the 20-year-old guard.   “I think when you bring guys like Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond to a workout where you’re looking at shooters, I don’t know if you could have better evaluators right there,” D’Alessandro said.  “I’m proud to say that these are the guys I have around me and they were were just really blown away by the workout to the point where we thought about every scenario of how we would get him.”
  • Both D’Alessandro and Ranadivé suggested that there were deals that they left on the table because of how much they liked Stauskas.  The Kings GM acknowledged they explored deals to move up in the order, move down or acquire a veteran talent.  However, none of the deals they considered were, in their minds, worth sacrificing the opportunity to select Stauskas.  “We were really active in trying to acquire as much talent in this draft as we could,” D’Alessandro said.  “But again, sometimes to acquire that talent, you have to break off a really good piece like No. 8 for multiple things.  And that was a little bit too much for us with the kind of talent we were going to acquire with eight.”
  • D’Alessandro felt confident that Stauskas would be available to them at eight.  However, there were some internal discussions about moving up in order to secure the former Wolverines’ services. “It’s never exact,” D’Alessandro said of how the draft order played out versus how he thought it would play out.  “But I think we had done enough homework and we felt pretty solid.  We were getting some good intel back and felt pretty strongly that we may see him there at eight, which was a little bit of a relief because at one time, we were talking about moving up a little bit and we didn’t have to do that.  So we kind of had it figured out, not perfectly, but good enough.  It worked.”
  • The Kings were intrigued with the idea of acquiring additional picks in this year’s draft, including in the second round.  Although they ended up settling with just the pick they had, Ranadivé applauded his general manager’s efforts to try and secure them additional selections.  “This man was working the phone – first round, second round – and he was working right ‘til the last pick,” Ranadivé said.  “And so we’re happy with Nik Stauskas and we’re glad we picked him, but we’re also glad about the decisions, the things we decided not to do.  I think we’re where we want to be.”
  • The selection of Stauskas raises questions about the future of Ben McLemore.  The Kings drafted him last year with the seventh overall pick, but he struggled in all aspects of the game in his rookie season.  D’Alessandro and Michael Malone both think that McLemore and Stauskas can co-exist.  Stauskas is a capable ball-handler and playmaker and the Kings think he can play some point guard for them.  “Nik is such a playmaking type of a combo guard and we could actually see them on the floor together at times,” D’Alessandro said. “And as we see Ben advance defensively, which we fully expect with his athleticism, we could actually see him maybe switching over guarding some one, playing together, playing off each other.”
  • Malone on McLemore and Stauskas:  “I think people automatically assume we take Nik Stauskas, that means we don’t appreciate or love Ben and that’s not the case.  Ben McLemore has had an unbelievable summer so far.  He’s worked very, very hard.  He’s gotten better and I know he’s anxious to show that in summer league in Vegas in a couple weeks, but both of those guys can play together.”
  • Does D’Alessandro plan on having a conversation with McLemore to reinforce the Kings faith in him? “I’m always available for Ben,” D’Alessandro said.  “Ben and I talk regularly.  So to me, there will be (conversations), but I don’t know if I’ll have to do that quite frankly because I think he understands how we feel about him.”
  • Ranadivé said that Malone is very high on Stauskas.  During the season, the Kings majority owner would oftentimes ask the Kings head coach what prospects he liked and he pointed out Stauskas.  “Every now and then I would ask the coach who do you like in the draft?” Ranadivé said.  “And then one name that always came out was Nik Stauskas.  He would say ‘V, you gotta watch this kid from Michigan. He’s great. I love that kid.'”
  • The Kings were also be said to be strongly considering new Chicago Bulls forward Doug McDermott.  Like Stauskas, McDermott was one of the top shooters available in this year’s draft.  What tipped the scales in favor of Stauskas for the Kings?  “I think his ability to create off the dribble.  You know he really can do that when you see him with the ball in his hands.  I also think he can catch and shoot.  We think Doug is an excellent player.  I think he’s gonna have a really outstanding career in the NBA.  But  at the end of the day for where we are, we say we like passing from every position, we like playmaking, we like shooting, so we identify the things (that we want).  Like when Vivek and I talk about skill and will, when we put it on a graph, those are some the skills that we really value.  And I think he actually does fill a lot of those holes for us.”
  • Malone said that “there’s just something about Nik Stauskas that made me a big fan.” The Kings head coach thinks the former Wolverine addresses several areas of weakness that the Kings need to fix.  “He understands the pick and roll reads and he finds the open man more times than not,” Malone said.  “The fact that we’ve got a guy that can make shots, create his own shot, but also make plays for his teammates, I think he addresses two of those offensive needs going into the offseason.”
  • Malone on Stauskas earning the fans’ trust: “I think he’s gonna earn their trust pretty quick.  Nik Stauskas is a gym rat.  He’s a guy who in his freshman year to his sophomore year put on 15 lbs., added six inches to his vertical leap and (Michigan coach) John Beilein says he’s a guy they had to kick out of the gym.  So, I think our fans are going to really appreciate his game, but also come to know him off the court as well.”
  • The Kings head coach believes that Stauskas is NBA ready.  He thinks the rookie guard’s experience playing against tough competition in the Big 10 will help him in his transition to the league.  “Now the NBA’s a different level obviously,” Malone said. “But I think with his work ethic, his skill-set, his IQ, his passion and his hunger, I think he’s gonna be more than ready to start the season next year.”
  • Where does Stauskas have to improve as a defender?  Malone thinks the 20-year-old guard needs to get stronger and if he does, that will help him handle the physical rigors of defending in the NBA.  The Kings head coach believes that Stauskas’ high basketball IQ will help him become a good team defender.  “I think he’ll have a pretty good understanding of what we’re trying to do and pick up our terminology and concepts fairly quick,” Malone said. “Individually, one-on-one, is he gonna be able to guard James Harden or somebody like that right away?  No, but who can?  Those guys are some of the best players in the world.  But I think he’s gonna pick it up pretty quick and as he gets stronger, I think that’s only gonna help him defend those guys one on one.”
  • Is Stauskas underrated as an athlete?  Malone seems to think so.  “The other thing that’s exciting is how athletic he is,” Malone said.  “People don’t realize that he’s gotta 36-inch vertical leap, which is excellent.  He’s shown that he can get to the rim, he can finish and if you get there late, he’ll throw it down on you.  He’s not just a one dimensional, spot-up jump shooter.”
  • Malone thinks DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay should be excited about the addition of Stauskas.  He noted that the 20-year-old guard’s shooting ability will help create more space for both men to make plays.  “When we had LeBron James in Cleveland, he always wanted shooters on the floor because that gave him room to operate,”said Malone, recalling his time spent as an assistant with the Cavaliers.  “So that’s only gonna help open things up for everybody else and he’s gonna knock down that shot or he’ll be able to put the ball on the floor and make a play for himself or for a teammate.”

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.