With the Feb. 19 NBA trade deadline looming, Kings rookie Nik Stauskas has not been immune to the rumors, as first reported by CBS Sports.
Having already experienced a coaching change and with the Kings desperate to improve upon back-to-back 28 win seasons, the rookie understands the uncertainty of being in the NBA.
“When you get to this level, it’s part of the job. It just shows that any of us are disposable at any time and any of us can be out of here the next day,” said Stauskas.
“You can’t take it for granted. You’ve got to to come and work every day.”
Stauskas has appeared in all 39 games for Sacramento, but has struggled, averaging just 3.6 points per game while shooting an anemic 33 percent from the floor including 27 percent from 3-point range.
For most rookies, it doesn’t happen overnight which is not lost on Stauskas as he looks over at the Kings' Bay Area rival and at their opponent Saturday in the Clippers.
“Klay Thompson is one guy or even a J.J. Redick type . . . if later on in my career I can work to become a player like that, I’d be really happy with that,” Stauskas commented when asked about modeling his game.
“Those are two guys obviously have come into the league and worked really hard to get where they are. It wasn’t like they came into the league and were stars right away. It took time and they really worked at it.”
“I’m trying to follow their path and do the same thing.”
Stauskas’ point is well taken. While Thompson averaged double figures his first season at 12.6 points per game, he steadily grew into the player he is today, averaging 21.6 points per night with the 31-6 Warriors.
Redick didn’t average in double figures until his fourth year in the league and you have to be magnanimous and round up the 9.6 points per game to not wait and give him the nod until his fifth year.
His teammate, Jamal Crawford didn’t average double figures until his third season - 10.7 with the Bulls and Kyle Korver of the thriving Hawks got to a double figure average in his second campaign at 11.5 with the Sixers.
Mike Miller of the Cavs, along Thompson, averaged double figures right out of the gate including 11.9 per night with the Magic in his inaugural NBA campaign and remained in double figures his first nine seasons in the league.
Gordon Hayward of the Jazz represents a more recent example. The former Butler product is currently averaging 18.9 points per game in his fifth season with Utah.
Hayward has physically matured in a similar fashion that Stauskas aspires to and averaged a paltry 5.4 points per game before nearly doubling his production in year two at 11.8 points per game.
Across the Kings locker room, Ben McLemore has improved in year two playing in front of Stauskas, averaging 11.8 points per night and has been in double figures in 14 of his last 18 games. McLemore averaged 8.8 points per game last year and has made solid strides defensively as well in year two.
However, the former Kansas Jayhawks' development is still early and if anything Sacramento needs both to produce - just think Redick and Crawford to move beyond the overdependence on the big three of DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Darren Collison.
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The Kings have multiple needs including a stretch four in the frontcourt to pair with Cousins, yet they also need to improve their weak 3-point shooting which is 22nd in the NBA at 33.8 percent - virtually no improvement from last season on a percentage basis.
Stauskas shot 44 percent from 3-point range at Michigan, yet was more than just a shooter at the collegiate level. With strength and experience Stauskas could become a better distributor and finisher in the NBA.
Last year’s Big 10 player of the year, Stauskas thrived under John Belein’s system in Ann Arbor which is heavily dependent on the pick and roll game and spacing - a similar style that the Kings aspire to.
So Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro has decision to contemplate with Stauskas.
Perhaps watching Redick and Crawford Saturday will help.