Nik Stauskas posted his feelings about the trade that has brought him to Brooklyn Friday afternoon. Writing on Instagram, the 6’6” shooting guard thanked the Philly fans, then offered what was pretty much the customary comment when changing teams.
“I couldn’t be more excited for this change of scenery and for a new opportunity to grow and become the player I’ve always dreamed of becoming in this league,” he wrote. “It’s go time baby! Let’s get it BK!”
It came not long after his father had texted his feelings. They were a bit more open about what happened in Philly and how he sees the opportunity in Brooklyn.
"Unfortunately he had a bit of a slump shooting in the preseason and got out of the rotation," Paul Stauskas, Nik’s father, texted Michigan Live after the deal. "If Brooklyn lets Nik be Nik, I think he'll be a great asset to the team. I can't wait for his first game in the new uniform."
Will the Nets let Nik be Nik? As we know, he’ll have to earn it. However, in Brooklyn we’ve seen D’Angelo be D’Angelo, DeMarre be DeMarre, Joe be Joe, Trevor be Trevor and Allen be Allen upon arriving to their new homes.
You see, something happens to players when they arrive in Brooklyn.
DeMarre Carroll is in the midst of a resurgence after being labeled a ‘salary dump.’ Allen Crabbe, in an expanded role, is putting up the best totals of his career on a nightly basis. Speaking of resurgence, what more could be said about D’Angelo Russell, Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie? They’re putting up career numbers as well. Even Sean Kilpatrick, before being waived Thursday, had established himself as a legitimate NBA player while in Brooklyn.
The reason SK is no longer here is that the Nets had to make room for Nik Stauskas, the former eighth overall pick out of Michigan in 2014. He and Caris LeVert were teammates on a Wolverine squad that made it to the NCAA championship game.
He reads as a ‘throw-in’ piece in the deal that centers on the swap of Jahlil Okafor for Trevor Booker (and a Knicks second-round pick). But is he? Little can be learned from what he’s done so far this year.
Stauskas made three of his six (!!) total season appearances consecutively on November 30, December 2 and December 4. He has scored four points all season, all in one game (October 28 at Dallas). He’s averaging less than one of everything right now. He had the makings of someone who looked to be as good as done in Philadelphia.
So now, Stauskas also has a second chance, like Okafor and like Russell.
Okafor is the topic of conversation, and rightfully so because he was drafted higher and he was an All-Rookie First Teamer (ahead of Russell) after the 2015-16 season. But Stauskas was a lottery pick, too, taken No. 8 in 2014.
For Stauskas, like Okafor, it wasn’t working in Philadelphia. For the Nets, like Okafor, Stauskas is a low-risk, high-reward young piece for the organization that has prided itself on making these deals then pushing the player’s envelope physically and mentally, building their confidence. For Stauskas, there’s more individual pressure. He, like Okafor, is in contract year.
We have a better idea of Okafor’s potential since he has been in the spotlight since high school, where he was player of the year, then three gold medals in FIBA youth tournaments, an NCAA championship at Duke.
Stauskas, who grew up in the Toronto suburbs, doesn’t have that stellar resume’ but again, he played well at Michigan, getting to the Elite 8 one year, the NCAA Finals the other. He was one of college basketball’s best shooter on the court or on the line. He’s played for Team Canada three times.
Here’s what Stauskas has done in the NBA after his college career. It’s been disappointing for a such a high pick. (He was the star of an infamous video shot in the Kings draft room in 2014. In it, Kings owner Vivek Ranadive seems to overrule his basketball people and urge them to take Stauskas over Elfrid Payton.)
He averaged 4.4 points in 15.4 minutes per game in 73 appearances as a rookie for the Kings in 2014-15; 8.5 points in 24.8 minutes per game in 73 appearances (35 starts) the next season also with 76ers, and 9.5 points in 27.4 minutes per game in 80 appearances (27 starts) last season. For his career, he’s shooting 34.3 percent from three and 38.6 percent from the field. His best year, easily, was last year, shooting 36.8 percent from deep.
Those are very much Joe Harris numbers, except that Harris was taken 25 places after Stauskas in the same draft.
Last season was his best but even coming off that season, he didn’t do as well as the Sixers had hoped. Then in the off-season, Philly signed J.J. Redick to a one-year, $23 million deal. No room at the inn for Stauskas.
We don’t know how much Nik will play, but given the Nets track record, he will get his opportunity in some form, fashion or timeframe. Kenny Atkinson went out of his way during Thursday’s pregame press conference to emphasize the Nets got two players, not just Okafor.
He referred to Okafor and Stauskas as “two very talented offensive players” and noted both would have to play defense if they plan to get minutes. “We need both those guys to be two-way players,” he said.
Also, it may not take an injury to see what Stauskas can do, because Atkinson has been running an 11-man rotation on a regular basis this season. Occasionally, we’ve even seen 12.
In some of Stauskas best stretches, he’s been deadly, like from November 11 to November 19 (six games) last season when he posted 14.5 points per game while shooting 66 percent from the floor and 53.6 percent from three, or later that season when he dropped 12.1 points per contest during an eight-game stretch between February 8 and February 27, shooting 47.1 percent from three. In each game, he scored in double figures.
But he can also die for long stretches as well and sometimes, his critics say, he’ll let offensive slumps affect the rest of his game. That reportedly drove his coaches in Philly nuts. For example, after that great stretch at the end of February, Stauskas went 9-of-33 —27.2 percent from deep— over the next seven games, averaging 7.0 points per game and not once in scoring double figures. Everyone knows three-point shooters can be boom or bust, but Stauskas seems to have a bigger disparity over longer stretches.
Bottom line, Nets love shooting, and they love pace and space. They’re second in the league in three-point attempts, jacking up 34.1 per game, 1.5 three’s. So letting Nik be Nik wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Besides, there’s no risk, and he’s reunited with LeVert, something his dad also likes.
"They had great chemistry at Michigan and I'm sure they haven't lost it," Paul Stauskas said.
The bigger issue may be whether he or Harris, with their near identical numbers and experience, will get the most minutes. Harris is a better defender, tougher, too. But Stauskas has a good rep as a secondary playmaker. With an injury prone backcourt, that alone could get him time on the court.
He also knows that as a player with an expiring contract worth $3.8 million this season, he’ll need to prove his worth with the Nets or wind up on the treadmill of one minimum contract after another.
Staukas should be fan favorite if he does well. In 2014, he was tagged with the nickname “Sauce Castillo” after a closed captioning error mashed up his name. He partnered with Musashi Foods for his very own hot sauce under the “Sauce Castillo” brand.
Of course, to be a fan favorite, you’ve got to get on the court. We shall see.