Last season, a 6'6 lanky Canadian kid was the fifth starter for a John Beilein team that went to the National Championship game. He can only be called the fifth starter because the other four tested the NBA draft waters. But Nik Stauskas was determined to work hard all summer and elevate his game to be "not just a shooter", a phrase that most commentators would use as a gimmick. Stauskas found a way to become a great player, good enough for B1G Player of the Year and landing on various First and Second Team All-American lists. Despite his meteoric rise, one big question remains: Does Stauskas' game translate to the next level?
Strengths: The most obvious one, and the reason he was recruited, is his shooting. Stauskas attempted almost 100 more shots this year, and both his field goal percentage and 3-point shooting percentage are almost identical in both years. This shows that Stauskas can be just as effective as a high usage player, but can also thrive as more of a role player as well. The two stats that jump off the page from year 1 to year 2 are assists and free throw attempts. Last year, Stauskas only had 52 assists, and this year those numbers jumped to 118. He made some incredible passes as the season went on to set up bigs Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford, and also was able to make the extra pass for a more open 3-point shooter. In regards to free throw rate, Stauskas still shot 82% from the line, but attempted 204 this year to 87 last year. What does this mean? Stauskas is proving to the NBA that he is creative at getting to the basket, and also drawing contact once he gets there. This is how someone like JJ Redick became a more complete NBA player, and Stauskas is headed in this direction as well.
Weaknesses: Because of John's Beilien's "switch everything" defensive scheme for shooting guards/wings, Stauskas never had to play lockdown defense on any one player for the entire 40 minutes. This allowed him to exert more energy on offense, and Stauskas was never seen as a lockdown defender in his two years in Ann Arbor. Will he be guarding shooting guards or small forwards? This is a question that NBA executives will have to think about when deciding if it makes sense to draft him. Along with his mediocre defense, Stauskas is still not an incredibly strong player. In the NBA, he will probably need to add even more strength to his slightly weak frame to help him battle. A final problem with Stauskas is when he takes himself out of the offense at times. While Kentucky had no answer for the gunslinger in the first half, John Calipari implemented a box-and-1, and Stauskas only finished with six second half points. This is concerning because Stauskas is such a talented player, and needs to find ways to be more aggressive when college or NBA teams throw this defensive scheme at him.
Prediction: The development of his game from year 1 to year 2 was a treat to watch for Michigan fans all year. His ability to get shots off over defenders right in his face shows that he can make shots he will be forced to in the NBA, and his dunks and attacking the basket with ferocity all show GMs he is ready. In his first few years in the NBA, he will likely be a bench/role player averaging 10 or 15 minutes off the bench, but he has shown he has the ability to do more. I think Stauskas is ready to go, and has shown his full arsenal of what he can do. After working as hard as he did, it makes sense for him to go, and I think he bolts within the next few weeks.