Raise your hands if you had high hopes for Michigan after they lost Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the NBA over the summer and Mitch McGary to injury in the winter. That’s what I thought. Nik Stauskas‘ dramatic and surprising step forward in 2013/14 helped make it all possible for the Wolverines and this year it’ll be his turn to shake the commissioner’s hand.
Stauskas exhibited some serious range in his freshman season but when he was charged with taking on a bigger role for his team, he transformed himself into a much more well-rounded scorer. No longer just content to fire away from downtown, the sophomore showed that he could create his own shots off the dribble and cut hard to the basket. It also helps that the guard has a quick release on his shot which allows him to take advantage of the smallest glimpse of daylight. In a draft that’s heavy on talent but light on solid shooters, the 6’6″ guard should find serious interest from several clubs. Stauskas led Michigan in scoring with 17.5 points per game this past season, posting over 20 points in 14 games.
He also helped create offense for others, racking up a team-high 118 assists. That ability to dish coupled with respectable ball handling could allow him to play a little bit of point guard at the next level, which only helps to boost his stock. His instant offense helped lead the Wolverines to the Big Ten championship and an Elite Eight birth, but his play on the other side of the floor isn’t quite as impressive.
Stauskas may have a tough time staying in front of defenders at the next level due to his lack of lateral quickness. Things tend to get even trickier for him when faced with a screen and it often seems like he looks to fight through picks rather than go around them and vice versa. He also doesn’t have the kind of big, physical frame that one might need to disrupt the NBA’s stronger backcourt players. However, it should be noted that Stauskas added significant muscle mass last offseason, packing on 16 pounds between his frosh and sophomore campaigns. If he can add even more mass over time, he might be better equipped to play tough defense. One NBA scout told Brendan F. Quinn of MLive.com earlier this month that, “As (Stauskas) gets bigger and stronger, he’ll be fine.” Not everyone will agree with that assessment.
If he can’t take a significant step forward as a defender, it’s hard to see him getting very far at the next level. However, if he can find a way to make some strides early in his career, he can be a very effective role player and make a team glad that they chose him in the late lottery or middle portion of the first round.