The Cleveland Cavaliers will likely have the ninth pick in this upcoming draft. In the next few weeks here at Right Down Euclid, we will be profiling players the Cavaliers might draft in the first round on June 26th. Today, we profile Michigan guard Nik Stauskas. Click here for more draft profiles.
Tale of the Tape
Name: Nik Stauskas
Weight: 205 lbs.
Honors: 2014 Big Ten Player of the Year, 2014 Big Ten All-1st Team, AP All-America 2nd Team
2013-2014 Per Game Stats: 17.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 3.3 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 47.0 FG%, 44.2 3PT%, 82.4 FT%
Nik Stauskas is one of the best pure shooters in this draft class. Emerging from the shadow of Trey Burke to take over the Michigan backcourt this season, Stauskas transformed from strictly a shooter to a well-rounded offensive weapon for the Wolverines. He has the potential to be a top-10 pick, and while there are major concerns over his defense and finishing ability, Stauskas could be a quality starter for years to come.
Stauskas isn’t a great athlete, but he’s not a poor athlete either. Stauskas can play above the rim a bit on offense, which is key to him being a multi-dimensional talent there. He also has decent straight-line quickness, and can beat guys off the dribble. However, he’s very underwhelming in two key physical traits at the NBA level: Agility and strength. Stauskas is not laterally quick, which is one of the many reasons he isn’t a good defensive prospect. He relies far more on his ability to accelerate to the rim than shiftiness on offense as well. He also isn’t strong enough to deter drives to the rim or finish in traffic consistently. Stauskas overall just has poor body control as well. He lacks the strength to finish in traffic and can’t contort his body to avoid contact, and that’s going to get him murdered on drives to the rim in the pros if it doesn’t improve.
Offensively, Stauskas is most notable for his shooting ability. He has a quick and fluid release on his jumper, and hit 44 percent from 3-point range this season, and didn’t shy away from taking NBA-range threes either. Stauskas is an established spot-up shooter, but is also great coming off of dribble hand-offs and in the pick-and-roll, where he’s great at taking advantage of switches and creating space for himself to launch threes. Stauskas’s immediate impact on offense will certainly be as a shooter. When attacking the basket, Stauskas can be inconsistent, especially if he’s forced to finish over length. He’s at his best filling lanes out of the pick-and-roll or on off-ball cuts, finding space in the defense and attacking in a straight line. Stauskas is an underrated passer, someone who who makes smart passes out of the pick-and-roll and can hit off-ball cutters and outlet guys when attacking the basket. For this reason, there’s potential that Stauskas could play a little bit of point guard, which makes him more intriguing. Stauskas does have good potential as an offensive weapon, but it’s likely that he only ever is an accessory scorer, meaning he is likely to become a fourth or fifth option as a 3-point specialist.
Defensively, Stauskas really doesn’t have much of a chance to be a plus player at the NBA level. Stauskas doesn’t have the physical tools to cope with NBA perimeter offense, and gets killed off the dribble because of this. He often looks like he doesn’t know what to do with his hands when guarding opponents in isolation, and instead of making himself as wide as possible, he often swats at the ball or flails his arms at an opponent like he’s swatting invisible mosquitos. Off the ball, he’s also bad, which is very concerning. A guy like Doug McDermott might make it in the NBA because he at least understands positioning and tries off the ball. Stauskas gets lost very easily off the ball, and often will kill his defense by ball-watching, which results in him getting torched by off-ball cutters or spot-up shooters rotating around the perimeter for open looks. He’s also a bad rebounder because he’s not strong enough to properly box out. I’m not going to say there’s not hope for Stauskas on the defensive end, but I’m more confident in McDermott becoming a good defender than Stauskas, and that’s a problem.
Stauskas is a decent decision-maker on offense, knowing when to attack and when to feed teammates based on situation and matchup. His court vision is good, and he can run a fast break efficiently. However, it seems like Stauskas is a step slow at times in reading what’s occurring on the court. This is most apparent on defense, where he’s slow to react off the ball, and on the ball gets burned because he doesn’t react quickly to drives. It also affects him on offense, where he waits a little too long to make decisions out of the pick-and-roll. In college, this was okay, particularly against zones, where waiting allowed him to find holes to hit teammates. In the NBA, however, this slow reaction time is usually correlated with high amounts of turnovers. I’m concerned that this will make him even less effective offensively.
I think Kevin Martin is your best comp for Stauskas. While Stauskas’s shooting release is much, much better than Martin’s, they are both effective at similar things. Martin’s always been a solid three-point shooter and creator off the dribble, and his role on the Rockets and Timberwolves is what I envision Stauskas being able to do. Martin’s also always been a poor defensive player, and his decision-making has historically always been quite questionable. Martin is probably the ceiling for Stauskas.
How Does He Fit on the Cavaliers?
I don’t see Stauskas being a worthy pick for Cleveland. His shooting would help space the floor for the offense, but he’s turnover prone and is going to be a horrible defender right off the bat, and I’m not sure this team can afford that. Stauskas also wouldn’t be as valuable as other similarly rated wings in this draft to the Cavs, because he probably can’t slide down to the small forward position like say, James Young could. I’m not high on Stauskas as a prospect, but I’m especially not high on him as a fit for the Cavs.