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Nik Stauskas Spreading His Wings with the 76ers

(Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)

It may have taken a while, but Philadelphia 76ers fans are finally getting to see Nik Stauskas, AKA Sauce Castillo heat up in a Sixers uniform. Philadelphia’s early July trade with Sacramento was widely celebrated, not only because of the draft considerations acquired, but because Stauskas is a young, promising player who could help revitalize the team’s moribund outside shooting.

Unfortunately, due to a series of minor injuries (most seriously a right tibia stress reaction), Stauskas was unable to participate in summer league, the preseason, or the season opener in Boston. He finally made his Sixers debut Friday night against the Jazz, participating on a limited minutes restriction. Monday night saw him earn his first start in Philadelphia in a 28-minute run against the Cavaliers. Thus far, the early returns on the former Wolverine have been very promising.

Stauskas’ greatest asset is his ability to shoot the rock, and he has by no means disappointed in that department. Currently, he’s the Sixers’ second-leading scorer behind Jahlil Okafor at 13.5 ppg, having hit 5 of 12 shots from behind the arc (41.7%). Stauskas’ true shooting percentage of 67.6% easily ranks as the best figure on the team. Coach Brett Brown has already made a point to run plays to free him for an open look, like this ‘elevator doors’ play against Cleveland:

On top of his shooting prowess, Stauskas has displayed a knack for serving as a terrific secondary ball-handler. That talent harkens back to his days at Michigan when his game blossomed in his sophomore season before he was taken eighth overall in the NBA draft. From DraftExpress:

“Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Stauskas’s profile is that he led this group of players with 29.5% of his possessions coming as the ball handler on the pick and roll. Averaging 4.6 pick and roll possessions per-game, up from just 1.5 per-game a year ago, the Canadian shooting guard picked up much of the slack left behind by Jazz point guard Trey Burke in Michigan’s half-court offense while continuing to shoot the ball in spot-up and off screen situations at an All-American level.”

Stauskas himself echoed those sentiments in comments he made over the summer. From Philly.com:

“Shooting is my bread and butter, but in college I feel like the majority of my work was done in the pick-and-roll with the ball in my hands and just be free to operate and do what I want,” Stauskas said. “Obviously, playing in the NBA is a different level and it’s going to take adjustments to have that same efficiency and effectiveness in pick-and-rolls and I definitely think that I’m that type of player that can play off the dribble and not only score for myself but get other guys involved as well.”

In what was largely a lost rookie season in Sacramento, Stauskas was not asked to do very much with the ball in his hands. However, on a Sixers squad currently starved for playmakers, he’s getting the chance to create offense for the team. Currently, Stauskas’ usage rate is 20.6 percent, up significantly from his 14.1 percent mark while in Sacramento. His 15.8 assist percentage  is also second on the team behind the legendary T.J. McConnell, and it’s easy to see why when making smooth plays like this in transition:

Or when operating as the de facto lead guard in half court situations:

The Stauskas the Sixers are getting through his first two games is much more in line with the player who averaged 3.3 assists per game during his sophomore season at Michigan. After missing out on him with the 10th pick in the 2014 draft, Philadelphia was clearly ecstatic to be able to bring him aboard this past offseason. Through the first week of the season, it appears he  will have every opportunity to show what he can do.

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