- Paul Sherman/Daily
By Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Writer
Published June 23, 2014
A lot has changed for former Michigan guard Nik Stauskas over the past year. He became a lot stronger thanks to the strength and conditioning program at Michigan, and he became more explosive on the basketball court as he added penetration and shot creation to his already strong 3-point shooting arsenal.
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And at some point in the near future, more change will come into Stauskas’ life as he walks across the Barclays Center stage, wearing a hat to represent his new team and job. He may soon be a millionaire as well.
With the NBA Draft coming up Thursday, the Daily broke down Stauskas’ stock in the loaded 2014 talent pool and evaluated potential destinations for the Mississauga, Ontario native.
WHAT WE KNOW: Stauskas won the 2014 Big Ten Player of the Year award and was named to the All-American second team and Big Ten All-Tournament team.
Beyond that, Michigan fans will remember Stauskas for his six 3-pointers in the team’s 2013 Elite Eight game against Florida, which powered the Wolverines to their first Final Four since 1993.
Since announcing his decision to leave Michigan after his sophomore season, Stauskas has made visits and worked out for the Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets and Boston Celtics.
Seen as the best shooter in this year’s draft class, at 6-foot-6, Stauskas will have the chance to play guard and potentially small forward depending on the team he goes to. Stauskas has drawn comparisons to current Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick, the all-time leading scorer at Duke.
WHAT’S POSSIBLE: After accepting an invitation from the NBA to sit in the green room on draft day, it’s easy to see Stauskas as a late lottery pick, going somewhere between ninth and 14th.
Though some of the teams he’s worked out for — the Lakers, Celtics and Kings — hold picks six through eight, respectively, it would be surprising for any of them to select Stauskas that early. It doesn’t help that all three of those teams have been connected to possible trades to move out of their draft positions.
While Stauskas improved his game to a new level this past year at Michigan, teams interested in him, while impressed by his athleticism and length, see him as a role player who would be able to spread the floor and potentially provide a 3-point spark off the bench.
Regardless of questions regarding his athleticism, Stauskas could thrive if put in the right situation, despite the argument that Stauskas is not just a shooter.
To prepare for the draft, Stauskas has been working out in Chicago along with former Creighton forward Doug McDermott and former Michigan State forward Adreian Payne, among others. McDermott, standing at 6-foot-8, shares the ability to make buckets, hence his nickname “Dougie McBuckets.” While the two have become friends from training together, it’ll be interesting to see which of the two comes off the board first.
POTENTIAL LANDING SPOTS: Of the seven teams that have worked Stauskas out, the Hornets and Timberwolves — ninth and 13th picks, respectively — have most often been projected to select Stauskas. Additionally, the Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns have been tied to the sharpshooter.
Phoenix Suns: After just missing out on the final playoff spot in the Western Conference last season, the Suns return a young core of guards Goran Dragić and Eric Bledsoe, though Bledsoe is technically a restricted free agent.
With the backcourt most likely secured for years to come, a fast-paced, athletic team like the Suns could look to add a taller stretch-two like Stauskas to open up the floor.
After averaging the seventh-most points and sixth-most 3-pointers per game last season, the Suns have the ability to improve a strength of the team.
With Miles Plumlee, twins Marcus and Markieff Morris and 2013 first round pick Alex Len returning in the frontcourt, the Suns can’t afford to take chances this year. They also hold two other first-round picks, so if they do become locked in on a particular player, a trade is possible.
Though the Suns two most accurate 3-point shooters are Dragic and Gerald Green, the Suns could lose forward Channing Frye in free agency, opening the door for a new player to complete the trio of sharpshooters. Enter Stauskas.
Philadelphia 76ers: Holding the third and 10th selections in the draft, the 76ers have a bevy of options for continuing to rebuild a team that finished with the NBA’s worst record last season.
With former Kansas center Joel Embiid, once the consensus No. 1 overall pick, suffering a right foot injury, the top three picks of the draft are suddenly in the air again. While former Duke forward Jabari Parker and former Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins remain locks to be drafted within the first three picks, it’s growing more and more likely that the duo will go 1-2 now, leaving the 76ers on the outside looking in.
Such a situation wouldn’t push the 76ers to select Stauskas third, but it could change how they handle having two top-10 picks. If Embiid falls to them at three, the team could take him and hope he develops to form a destructive pair with former Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel.
In that case, the 76ers would still want to take a shooting guard to pair with reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams. That’s where Stauskas would enter the equation. In ESPN.com writer Chad Ford’s most recent mock draft, he has them taking Stauskas ninth.
Minnesota Timberwolves: It’s unclear what direction Minnesota is really heading in. After seemingly making improvements last offseason, with the addition of shooting guard Kevin Martin, it appeared the Timberwolves could find themselves back in the playoffs again.
But thanks to a mix of injuries, bad luck and inconsistent play, Minnesota once again was left on the outside looking in. While the Timberwolves possess a franchise player in forward Kevin Love, it has become clear that he no longer wants to play in Minneapolis, despite having one more year left on his contract.
Though Minnesota has looked into deals to move him, it appears nothing will happen before the draft. With that being said, the team could look into an area that could be improved on regardless of Love’s status: shooting, where Stauskas would fit in. With only four guards signed at the moment, adding another one, especially at shooting guard, could be necessary.
However, with a Love trade potentially bringing back a shooting guard, like the Warriors’ Klay Thompson, the Timberwolves could look to add a stretch-four like Michigan State’s Adreian Payne.
Charlotte Hornets: Gifted with the Detroit Pistons’ first-round selection, No. 9 overall, thanks to the 2012 Ben Gordon deal, the newly renamed Hornets possess two first-round picks.
With the added top-10 pick, the Hornets will be looking to add a shooter to compliment the play of point guard Kemba Walker and forward Al Jefferson. Though the Hornets have a starter at the ‘2’ in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, his paltry 11-percent shooting mark from deep is an issue that needs to be handled.
Such is the reason that DraftExpress.com and CBSSports.com have projected the Hornets selecting Stauskas or McDermott.
Ultimately, it comes down to whether Charlotte wants a player that is a natural shooting guard who possesses the ability to play the ‘3’ also, or a stretch-four that could still stretch the floor but guard bigger players on defense.
PREDICTION: While many teams have shown interest in Stauskas, it will ultimately come down to what team is willing to put a need like shooting ahead of drafting the “best player left on the board.” Look for the Hornets to select Stauskas, thus continuing the cycle of what-ifs relating to the Pistons and Michigan players. Only time will tell if the Pistons will regret missing out on another Ann Arbor product.