By Frank McLean
When you are a second year player in the NBA, chances are you are not going to get the minutes you need to develop into a regular player. That’s why they invented the NBA-DL. However, if you are Nik Stauskas of the awful 1-25 Philadelphia 76ers, you are going to get a lot of time to develop because you are on a team looking for anybody that plays any sort of game that resembles professional basketball.
The Mississauga Ontario native is getting his chance in the “City Of Brotherly Love”.
After spending two years with the University of Michigan in one of the toughest conferences in NCAA hoops, the Big 10, he came out early and was drafted in 2014 by another terrible organization, the Sacramento Kings.
No one can figure out on that draft night why the Kings took Stauskas in the first place. They already had a glut of guards and in the end that affected his development as he got very little playing time in the California state capital.
The 76ers picked up Stauskas in an off season trade and when you talk to head coach Brett Brown he loves the kid and that he has kind of made him a special project. The goal is to make Stauskas a two way player so that he can have a long NBA career.
This is what Brown said in Toronto before their game Sunday night about Stauskas.
“Were always challenging him to guard and play defense to want to grow him into a two way player. I did think about it coming back to Canada in his own right he is getting better, doing everything we are asking of him”.
“Two-way play is the way around the NBA,” Brown added. “You get to be a two way player, he is getting better defensively and a good pick and roll player. I like him coming off the bench, he can score he’s young. Every time I look at him and talk to him I see he’s young now and how much upside I think he has.”
That’s high praise from a guy who spent a long time being an assistant coach for Greg Popovich and Stauskas is putting in the work.
“I just go out there and focus on working hard rather than scoring,” Stauskas was saying Sunday night. “If you focus on working hard, I feel like that stuff will come, scoring will come, the rhythm will come and all that. Just have to be patient with it.”
And that’s the lesson Brown has been pounding into him.
As a whole, none of guards on this 76ers team can shoot with any consistency, especially behind the three point line. In a game last week in Brooklyn the 76ers guards went a total of 0-for-22 behind the three point line.
“I tell him all the time, you want me to coach you hard and he responds,” Brown said.
His numbers show improvement. In Sacramento last year he got into 73 games averaging 4.4 points a game and was just 36 percent behind the three point line. Going into Sunday’s game in Toronto his scoring average was up to 8.2 points per game, but the three point shooting has slumped to just 28 percent.
But when you talk to Brown and other people around the 76ers they think they got something in Stauskas and when you are on a team that’s 1-25 the only way to go is up.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.