Nik Stauskas: Sacramento Kings fans must practice patience


Nik Stauskas deserves our patience. It is really easy to get frustrated with a rookie who doesn’t seem to “get it” or isn’t producing early. Fans are often ready to move on and trade away a recently drafted player for a “known commodity” when this is the case. A lack of patience can often lead to shipping a player out of town before said player has come into their own.

NBA draft strategy has evolved over recent years. Teams are looking for prospects with elite upside instead of a player that has basically reached their ceiling, despite how high that ceiling may already be. Small market teams in particular look to draft ‘special players’ that can be the ‘face of a franchise’ down the road.

The Sacramento Kings are no different. Nik Stauskas was drafted with anticipation of where he can go, instead of where he was day one. Same can be said for last season’s draft selection, Ben Mclemore, who has made tremendous strides in his second season. However, Mclemore benefited from a few things Stauskas has not had the luxury to enjoy. Mclemore was able to see an abundense of consistent minutes early in his rookie campaign. Learning on the floor is a huge advantage for a rookie, especially one with only a season or two of college experience.

As a player makes the transition from college to the NBA, many things change both on and off the court. They have to learn to play with new teammates, work under a new coach, and wrap their head around a complicated NBA system. Stauskas has had to make this transition three times since entering the NBA. As a young player develops you will see the progression from thinking to reacting on the court. Having to learn three new systems in the span of five months is a challenge for any player let alone a rookie learning how to play in the NBA.

Stauskas at his best is a guard that can both work with and without the ball in his hands. He can be a great option in a space and pace system, which the Sacramento Kings front office envisions and George Karl employs.

Stauskas got very sporadic minutes in the first half of the season. He looked lost on both ends of the floor and we didn’t see the confidence he showed at the University of Michigan. As a shooter, confidence is essential. Any hesitation allows the defender to close out and force a difficult shot. The only way to truly build confidence is by producing on the floor.

Mar 20, 2015; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Nik Stauskas (10) gestures after a three point basket against the Charlotte Hornets during the first quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

February was a rough month for the rookie. Not only was he left out of the Futures game as part of All Star weekend, but his name was constantly placed in trade rumors. I believe he was included in trade rumors because he was one of the only pieces the Kings had to move, and less about the front office not envisioning him as part of their future, but the effect on Stauskas is the same regardless of the motive.

Since the start of March, Stauskas has started to garner more consistent minutes, despite a few DNP’s mixed in. His confidence is improving, and not coincidentally, his numbers have followed suit. He’s averaging eight points and one three-pointer per game in 19 minutes this month.

The biggest hurdle between Stauskas and consistent minutes is second year guard Ben Mclemore. He has made tremendous strides in his second season. The playing time Mclemore received during his rookie season has proved invaluable in his sophomore season.

As the season comes to a close, I’d expect to see Stauskas’ minutes increase as veterans begin to shut it down. Between the game experience he’s earning this season, a summer in the gym, and summer league, we could see his play elevate to another level next season.

He should enter next season as a valuable bench piece that can start when needed and push Ben Mclemore to take another step towards stardom as he holds on to his role in the starting line up.

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