O Canada! Hours after the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins wowed in his preseason debut, fellow countryman Nik Stauskas was similarly impressive in his second outing with the Sacramento Kings. Showing off the effortless shooting stroke and all-around offensive knack that made him a mid-lottery pick, Stauskas appeared a seasoned vet in the Kings’ exhibition win last night against the Toronto Raptors, scoring 13 points on just six shot attempts during a team-high 26 minutes of court-time.
Stauskas went 2-2 from deep last night, a wholly unsurprising development. He’s an absolutely breathtaking shooter, blessed with a quick, compact release and supreme balance that makes him a threat from almost anywhere in the halfcourt. Of the many reasons why we were more bullish on Stauskas than most, though, was his innate ability to move without the ball and underrated merit as a playmaker in his two years spent at Michigan.
Clips of Stauskas’ eye-opening performance highlight the often overlooked former talent especially, not to mention his beautiful jumper:
There’s a noticeably consistent comfort to Stauskas’ game that’s only fleeting in a player like Wiggins’. And we don’t mean to take anything away from the number one pick’s play in his NBA debut or deride him in general there, either; if you’ve been reading this space since May, you surely know how high we are on Wiggins’ short- and long- term potential.
Stauskas is just a more polished player right now, a trait poised to help him enjoy a banner rookie season. There were a few specific plays from the 21 year-old’s performance on Tuesday that stuck out to us more than others. Namely, ones where he showed a knack for finding offensive space and naturally flowing to positions on the floor where he could exploit the defense.
This, for instance, doesn’t seem to be a set play. There’s an opportunity for DeMarcus Cousins to set a flare screen to help free Stauskas, but the Kings’ big man decides against it. What gets Stauskas the wide open look is his seemingly routine cut as Rudy Gay turns the corner and draws help from Kyle Lowry, the Canadian’s defender:
It’s that brief moment when Lowry gets caught ball-watching that Stauskas decides to move, and it makes all the difference in the world. Stuff like this is what separates rookies from veterans and great shooters from the most effective ones – it can be learned, but it’s obviously best if it doesn’t have to be. Stauskas, clearly, falls among the latter group.
He exhibits similar understanding of read-react concepts here. The set calls for Stauskas to receive a down-screen and run a dribble hand-off with Cousins at the elbow. Sensing Jordan Hamilton playing him on the high-side, though, Stauskas quickly back-cuts and gets a dunk off a nifty dish from Boogie:
Again, this is hardly advanced stuff. Coach Mike Malone surely alerted Stauskas of the proper cut if his defender reacted the way Hamilton does, and it’s a common basketball principle in general. But that doesn’t mean it’s always implemented, let alone by a player so early in the stages of learning his team’s offense.
That Stauskas makes the correct read and has enough sudden athleticism to finish it uncontested is just another reason why he could emerge as one of the best offensive players of his esteemed draft class. And should that happen, the Kings will have finally found a legitimate perimeter partner to pair with Cousins for the long-haul.
(Video via Dawk Ins)
Is Stauskas a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate?
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