I’m not afraid to come right out and say it: I want the Denver Nuggets to select Nik Stauskas in the 2014 NBA Draft.
There is a lot about Stauskas to like (besides the fact that we already know he looks good rocking a yellow uniform). The 6′ 6″ guard out of Michigan is an above average ball handler with a deadly pull-up jumper and decent size. He played a big role in Michigan’s NCAA Tournament run during the 2012-13 season, averaging 11.1 points on 46.3% shooting his freshman year. Last season, Stauskas’ emerged as one of the team leaders following the departure of players like Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. from the previous year’s squad that lost to Louisville in the National Championship Game. During the 2013-14 season, Stauskas responded admirably to his new role and posted 17.5 points per game while connecting on 47% of his field goal attempts.
But the discussion about Stauskas and his potential to make an impact in the NBA begins and ends with his three-point shooting. Simply put, Stauskas is as pure a shooter as they come. He’s a killer from beyond the arc, an assassin from the land behind the line. Stauskas averaged right around 44% from three-point land for his college career, which made him one of the top three-point shooters during each of the seasons he spent in Ann Arbor. In fact, it was a video of a young Stauskas showing of his freakish three-point abilities that first put him on my radar:
It’s easy to dismiss that little display as nothing more than some skinny kid throwing up uncontested 3s in his backyard. But anyone who thinks shooting more than 100 three-pointers in about five minutes isn’t impressive — never mind the fact that he made all but about 8 of the shots he took — has no idea the type of stamina, focus, and natural ability something like that requires.
I realize it’s a bit of an apples to oranges comparison, but last year, Denver didn’t have a player who shot above 40% from the three-point line. Randy Foye was closest, shooting 38% on just under 500 attempts. That makes the mid-40s percentage that Stauskas posted at Michigan even more intriguing. Assuming the players who went down with major injuries last year make a full recovery by the time the season starts, can you imagine the fits a shooter like Stauskas could give opposing teams? He’s not someone opponents would have to specifically game plan around, but they would have to be aware of where he is on the floor every time the Nuggets touch the ball. That means teams would have to second-guess the strategy of cheating toward the paint to get extras bodies on Kenneth Faried, J.J. Hickson, and Darrell Arthur, because if they overplay their hand too much, Stauskas — along with shooters like Foye and Danilo Gallinari — could make them pay from deep.
Like any 20-year old looking to break into the league, Stauskas has plenty of areas where he can improve. DraftExpress notes that scouts specifically mention concerns about “his lack of upside defensively, due to his unappealing combination of poor length, average frame and mediocre lateral quickness.” Those are definitely areas of concern for the Nuggets, as they really missed the presence of a solid perimeter defender after Andre Iguodala bolted the Mile High City to join the Golden State Warriors.
But in my opinion, the potential Stauskas possesses on the offensive end of the floor — providing a legitimate threat from the 3-point line that will allow the Nuggets to spread the floor, give the bigs some room to operate, increase opportunities for guys like Manimal to chase down offensive boards, and even maximize scoring opportunities in transition — should outweigh any holes in his defensive game.
CityLeagueHoopsTV — one of the best YouTube channels around when it comes to footage of up-and-coming ballers and big-time college prospects — recently posted footage of Stauskas’ draft workout in Chicago with a group called Priority Sports. During the 3-and-a-half-minute clip, Stauskas shows off a lot of the skills that earned him the attention of NBA scouts during his time at Michigan, including his smooth stroke from deep and his nasty pull-up jumper off the dribble. Watch this and tell me you wouldn’t love to see this kid lighting it up in the Pepsi Center next season:
According to most draft experts, Stauskas will be available when teams selecting in the 10-15 spots are on the clock in this year’s draft. That means if the Nuggets stay put with their current pick, they should have a chance to call his name at the 11 spot. If Stauskas can make the jump to the pros and maintain his accuracy, he’s the kind of player who could be a serviceable, if not solid, player for a franchise for more than a decade. Come June 26, I hope the Nuggets are the franchise that reaps the benefits of calling his name.