Shooting guard has been one of, if not the, weakest position for the Philadelphia 76ers the last couple years. Nik Stauskas, who was acquired from the Sacramento Kings in the offseason, will be hoping to change that.
As of now, he’s projected to be Tony Wroten’s starting backcourt partner when the season starts in 11 weeks. He’s also the next person I’ll discuss as to how he fits into the 76ers’ long-term plans (or seven-year plan, as Julius Erving mentioned several weeks ago).
At first glance, it’s exciting to see the Sixers add a player who was picked eighth overall in last year’s draft to their collection of young talent (Nerlens Noel, the sixth pick in 2013 who could’ve gone higher had it not been for a torn ACL; Joel Embid, last year’s third pick; and Jahil Okafor, this year’s third pick). After all, Stauskas was the 2013-14 Big Ten Player of the Year and an All-American. The 6-foot-6, 205-pound guard also shot over 44 percent from 3-point range in his two years at Michigan, and his shooting is a skill the Sixers badly need in order to complement their young and talented frontcourt.
But in his only season with the Kings, Stauskas played like most of their underachieving draft selections of the last decade. He averaged 4.4 points and shot 36.5 percent from the field and 32.2 percent from 3-point range, not exactly impressive for someone known for his shooting. In fact, it’s downright pathetic.
Does this mean he’s an automatic bust? No. The Kings had a volatile season that was headlined by coaching changes and disagreements between new head coach George Karl and management. Perhaps a lack of consistent offensive system hurt Stauskas’s transition to the NBA. On a positive note, he did improve after the All-Star break, nailing 42 percent from downtown compared to 26 percent beforehand. He has only played one year, so he deserves a chance to show if he can pick up where he left off.
Fortunately for him, the Sixers are sure to give him every opportunity to make that happen. Because they’re not in a position to win many games, they’ll instead focus on deciding which players have long-term potential by giving everyone more minutes than they deserve. In order for Stauskas to prove he has value, he’ll simply need to make 3-pointers. He’s also an underrated athlete, so he has the potential to mix in some drives to the basket with his perimeter game. But he’ll be judged much more on his outside shooting.
It’s difficult to say how much we should expect him to contribute in terms of points, but he should be an above-average 3-point shooter next season to show he can be a piece of a winning team. (The NBA average is usually around 35 percent.) If he can hit 42 percent in his last 23 games, it’s not asking much for him to be above average. His overall scoring ability, though, may help decide if he’s more of a starter or bench player.
In the end, it’s tough to determine where he belongs on the roster, but based on his potential, he’ll probably end up a bench player, with an outside chance of starting if he can hit over 40 percent from 3-point range on a high volume of shots.