Nik Stauskas has a good shot at a great NBA career
The 3-point shot is en vogue in today’s NBA, the latest trend to sweep through the game after analytics showed it to be even more valuable than previously believed.
Teams are firing more than ever from long distance — a record 21.5 attempts per game in the 2013-14 regular season, topping the record of 19.9 set the season before, which broke the record of 18.4 set the season before that.
That figure has been on the rise for years.
In 2005-06, teams averaged 16 3-point shots per game, and two seasons before that, they shot 14.9. That’s a mighty leap from 1979-80, when 3-pointers were a rarity — teams averaged 2.8 per game.
The most recent shift is in response to advanced statistics, which revealed that making one-third of your 3-point shots is equal to making half your 2-point shots.
And just as 3-point attempts have shot up, so too has the NBA’s demand for snipers from beyond the arc.
Which brings us to Michigan guard Nik Stauskas, who, largely because of his talents as an excellent marksman, is a potential top-10 pick in Thursday’s draft.
“I think guys like [Creighton forward] Doug McDermott and Nik Stauskas, they’re higher valued because if you can bring a dead-eye shooter onto the court who can maybe do other things, well, that’s the thing,” one Eastern Conference executive said.
“Because [Atlanta guard] Kyle Korver is such a good shooter, but everyone knows that’s what he’s on the court to do, so if you can get a guy who can do that plus something else that you have to worry about, you’ve got a hell of player in today’s game because the 3-ball is so important.”
Stauskas, a native Canadian who played at St. Mark’s School in Southborough the final two years of his high school career, averaged 17.5 points for the Wolverines as a sophomore last season.
More than half of his attempts from the floor were from distance, and he made 44 percent of his 208 3-point shots. He made 44 percent of 182 3-pointers as a freshman, when he averaged 11 points.
“He’s the best pro shooter in the draft and he has the best pro jump shot in the draft,” said one league source familiar with Stauskas. “If he adds other stuff to his game, I think he’s going to be good.”
At Michigan, some of Stauskas’s teammates called him “Tube,” a nickname tied to several YouTube videos that he had made since junior high that proved just how accurate he is from beyond the arc.
There’s one video of Stauskas making 128 of 142 from long range in his backyard, and another where he made 70 of 76 in the rain, which included 46 in a row.
The videos have several thousand page views, and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry saw one and challenged Stauskas to a shootout, though the NCAA frowned upon the idea.
At 6 feet 6 inches and 207 pounds, Stauskas has better-than-average size, which should help when he faces smaller shooting guards.
“He’s bigger than you think,” said one Eastern Conference executive. “He’s a legitimate 6-6. He’s also more athletic than you think.”
There have been questions about his athleticism, but he helped answer some of them at the Chicago draft combine.
“Stauskas was especially impressive,” wrote ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford. “He measured with a 35.5-inch max [vertical leap], a 10.79 lane agility score, a 2.92 shuttle run and a 3.27 sprint. Those were all very good numbers and should boost his draft stock.”
One Western Conference scout compared Stauskas with Warriors guard Klay Thompson, another 6-6 sharpshooter.
“He’s a lot like Klay Thompson in terms of body type and shooting,” the scout said. “Thompson is a pretty good ballhandler, but I think [Stauskas is] even better with the ball and a better passer than Thompson — and Klay Thompson is a fringe All-Star player. I love Klay Thompson, but I think Stauskas could be that good. Stauskas is good, man. He’s good.
“The thing is, as good a shooter as [Stauskas] is, and he might be the best shooter in the draft, but he’s much more than that. His skill as a handler and passer, he’s got long hands and a good passer . . . Nik Stauskas was hands-down the 2014 Big Ten Player of the Year in a conference with [Indiana forward] Noah Vonleh, [Michigan State guard] Gary Harris, [Michigan State forward] Adreian Payne, the Ohio State guys.
“Watch Stauskas and how teams defended him. They threw everything at him and he scored every way. You couldn’t shake him right. He’ll go left. You couldn’t handle him physically. He’s a real basketball player.”
Scouts and executives interviewed by the Globe about this year’s prospects almost unanimously raved about Stauskas, saying that if there was one prospect who would almost certainly rise on draft boards, it would be him.
“Love him, love him, love him,” said one Western Conference scout.
“He’s really high up on our board, because we need shooting so badly,” said one Eastern Conference scout.
Harris is in the discussion to be a top-10 pick after averaging 16.7 points as a sophomore last season.
“Really solid, like everything about him, offensive, defensive component, the shooting,” said a league source familiar with Harris.
Said a Western Conference executive, “He’s got a very, very nice jump shot, which will transfer to the NBA. He’s going to be able to get in and contribute right away, depending on what team he goes to — if he’s a starter or whatever. But I think he’s going to step in and be able to score some points right away.”
But there are concerns about Harris’s size and position. He’s listed at 6-4, though some scouts believe he’s closer to 6-2, which would make him an undersized shooting guard.
“His NBA upside, you’ve got to wonder,” an Eastern Conference scout said of Harris. “When guys are small at his position, when they’re kind of tweeners or combos, me personally, I don’t like those kind of guys. They scare me.”
But those concerns don’t exist for Stauskas, simply because of his size — and if you combine that with his shooting, scouts and executives say that he’s one of the more sought after players that isn’t being talked about.
“I would mention him first ahead of the rest of the guys,” said a Western Conference executive. “I think he’s got an NBA game. He’s got the size for the [shooting guard] position. And he’s an excellent shooter.