In July 2015, the Sixers acquired Nik Stauskas in a trade with the Kings, just a year after Sacramento had used the 8th overall pick in the 2014 draft to land the Michigan standout. It looked like an ideal fit for Stauskas, who would get to play more minutes in Philadelphia, but wouldn’t necessarily be under any more pressure, since the Sixers weren’t viewed as a playoff contender.
For the season, Stauskas appeared in 73 games for the 76ers, starting 35 of them. He did indeed play more minutes (24.8 per game), and his other averages increased along with his playing time. However, his 8.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, and 1.9 APG marks weren’t all that impressive, and he continued to struggle with his shot, making 38.5% of his attempts from the floor, including just 32.6% from three-point range.
Heading into his third NBA season, Stauskas knows he has to take a big step forward. While he’s not likely to lose his roster spot prior to the regular season, there’s no guarantee that the Sixers will exercise his $3.81MM option for 2017/18 within the next month, so it could become a contract year for the Canadian guard.
“Coming into my third year now, I can’t really make excuses anymore, like I’m young and trying to figure things out,” Stauskas said this week, per John Smallwood of The Philadelphia Daily News. “It’s time for me to make the improvements that I’ve been trying to make over the last two years. It’s time to show that.
“I think there were times last year when I showed glimpses where I was getting to the basket well, shooting well and finishing,” Stauskas added. “But I think I let my confidence waver throughout the year. I think I am mentally stronger. I know I belong now. My first two years, there were so many times when I wondered if I belonged. I’d get to be wondering if I really belonged here. Is this where I’m meant to be? This is the first time in my NBA career where I’ve said I know I belong here. I know I can compete at this level.”
Head coach Brett Brown stressed that the team believes Stauskas still has “great potential,” and the Sixers’ backcourt isn’t nearly as crowded as its frontcourt, meaning the 22-year-old (23 next Friday) should have the opportunity to claim a significant role if he plays well. But if he struggles out of the gate, it’s not clear how much patience the Sixers will have.
What do you think? Is Stauskas poised for a breakout year, or is the former top-10 pick unlikely to be a part of the Sixers’ long-term plans? Take to the comments section below to share your opinions. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.