The Sacramento Kings officially introduced Nik Stauskas on Saturday after selecting the Michigan guard with the eighth pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
“It gives me great pleasure to welcome Nik Stauskas, Paul and Ruta to the Kings’ family,” said Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadivé. “We are ecstatic to have you here.”
“I’m extremely excited to be here finally in Sacramento,” said Stauskas. “For those of you who don’t know me very well, I grew up just outside of Toronto and this has been my dream my entire life. This is all I ever wanted. The fact that I’m here right now is a dream come true. But at the same time, I’m not satisfied with where I’m in my career at this point. I’ve played with a chip on my shoulder my entire career and I plan on keeping it that way. I feel that’s what going to help me have success at this level.
Stauskas is also excited to be a Sacramento King and play in front of the loudest fans in the NBA.
“I’ve heard only good things about this organization and the fans here,” said Stauskas. “From what I’ve heard, Sacramento has the loudest fans in the NBA. I’m excited to be a part of this and I know these guys have a very big vision of what’s going to happen these next couple of years. I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Stauskas was drafted by Sacramento after two remarkably successful years in Ann Arbor. The Mississauga, Ontario native started the last 33 games as a freshman and helped Michigan advance to the national championship game for the first time in 20 years. As a sophomore, Stauskas was the Big 10 Player of the Year and led the Wolverines to the Elite Eight.
“The jump he made from his freshman year (11.0 ppg, 46.3 FG%) to his sophomore year (17.5 ppg, 47.0 FG%) was a tremendous one,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “Talking with his coaching staff at Michigan and coach (John) Beilein, they feel he’s only reached the beginning of that potential that we all feel he has up here.”
Stauskas immediately fills one of Sacramento’s many holes. He is considered one of the best shooter in this year’s class. The Kings finished 27th in three-point shooting last season. Stauskas shot 44.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc at Michigan.
“The real reason we have you here is last year in training camp we had a 3-point shooting contest and a 50-year-old man (Hall of Famer Chris Mullin) beat all our players,” joked Ranadivé. “So I hope it doesn’t happen this year.”
Malone believes Stauskas is more than just a shooter and will add much-needed dimensions to the Kings’ offense, which finished last in assists per game (18.9) and was eighth in turnovers (14.7). Stauskas ranked 12th in the Big 10 in assists (3.3) and ninth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.9).
“I think Nik Stauskas brings a lot to the table – shooting, passing, ball handling, creativity and I think he’s only going to get better,” said Malone. “We are ecstatic that he’s here and I cannot wait to get on the court and start working with him.”
This is the second consecutive draft where Sacramento selected a shooting guard high in the lottery. Ben McLemore was selected sixth overall last season. Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro hinted that Stauskas and McLemore might played together on the court. If so, Stauskas believes he is up to the task of being a facilitator.
“I do feel comfortable being a primary ball handler,” said Stauskas. “Whether that’s initiating the offense through pick-and-rolls or bringing the ball up the floor, I’m confident in my handle. Obviously, I can get better at it, but I feel like I’ll be able to transition well in the NBA.”
While Stauskas should help on offense, the big question mark is how he will do on the other end of the floor. The Kings struggled on defense as well. They gave up 103.4 points per game and allow opponents to shoot 38.0 percent from downtown. With time and hard work, Stauskas believes he will be able to help and defend at the NBA level.
“The biggest thing for me is going to be putting on some strength and size and be able to defend a little bit better,” said Stauskas. “I feel like I’ve shown at times that I’m a capable defender, but that’s definitely the area of my game that needs the most work at this point. Hopefully with the help of coach Malone and the rest of the staff here, I’ll get to that point.”
It’s been eight years since the Kings made the playoffs, which is the second-longest active streak. Stauskas hopes to change that because he has not yet failed.
“Being at Michigan and the kind of culture that we had there, winning was everything,” said Stauskas. “When I came in as a freshman with Trey (Burke) and Tim (Hardaway Jr.) there, it was Final Four or failure. It’s the same thing this year even when they left. Even when my dad was my coach back in high school. Every level I’ve been at I’ve been a winner. I feel like I can bring that attitude and mentality here to Sacramento.”
One of the reasons Stauskas has so far been successful in his basketball life is the chip he carries on his shoulder. He traces that back to growing up and playing basketball in Canada, a hockey-hungry nation.
“I don’t think anyone really pays attention to basketball in Toronto,” said Stauskas. “Maybe now they do because we have a lot of kids coming from there. I just felt like I was never really recognized. I kind of always motivate me to show out and let people know how good I was. That’s been the case my whole life. I always felt like I had something to prove. I feel like it’s the same thing moving forward in the NBA.”
Stauskas was later asked who currently in the NBA does his game most resembles, he gave two names that Kings fans know very well and should get excited about.
“The one guy that I’ve been watching a lot lately is Klay Thompson,” said Stauskas. “He’s a guy that I think I play a little similar to. Moving forward, I love watching film on Steph(en) Curry. He’s a guy that I think is extremely crafty with the ball and obviously he shoots it very well off the dribble and off the catch. Those are guys that I think I play like and hopefully I can continue that moving forward.”
Curry is one of the league’s best and most exciting players. Thompson has become one of the best two-way players. If Stauskas shows any signs that he is capable of doing some of the things that the “Splash Brothers” can do, the Kings finally might have picked a winner.
The fans should also be excited that Stauskas does not care that he was drafted by a small- market team. All he wants to do is win.
“I don’t think that really matters that much to me,” said Stauskas. “I’m here to play basketball and win games. That’s most important to me.”