For a former NCAA standout hoping to land in the pros after college, timing can often play a significant role in determining where that player will be taken within the NBA Draft; and in a class widely considered to be one of the deepest in recent memory, Nik Stauskas may be this year’s biggest wildcard.
Dedicated, hard working, and clearly a student of the game, Stauskas’ approach would be a welcome addition to any NBA franchise, and a breath of fresh air in a league that has become filled with million-dollar egos. But the reality that comes with the next level is often harsh, and considering his surroundings, there are those who understandably believe Stauskas should have chosen to remain in Ann Arbor for at least another year.
Following a strong showing in his freshman campaign at the University of Michigan that saw the Canadian sharpshooter average 11.0 PPG and 3.0 RPG while hitting 44 percent of his shots from long-range, Stauskas hit the weights, focused on advancing his game off of the dribble, and prepared to rejoin the Wolverines as an important cog in Big Blue’s basketball machine.
While he remained fairly lethal beyond the arc as a sophomore, it was the added aggressiveness in his game, and a seemingly sudden ability to rise above the rim that first made people realize that the Big 10‘s newest star may be able to find employment in the NBA.
At 6-foot-6, Stauskas definitely has the size to make a living as a shooting guard in the NBA, and it’s not hard to envision the former NCAA assassin having a career similar to that of Toronto Raptors‘ reserve Steve Novak at the very least. However, Stauskas is currently caught in one of basketball’s great debates as someone who could hit the jackpot in this year’s NBA Draft if the right situation presents itself, but also as a talented player who could be seen as a project by GM unwilling to risk a draft pick on him just yet.
For a franchise that has been struck by some seriously good fortune since early December, it’s no great surprise that this situation could also benefit the Raptors if Stauskas were to fall further down the draft board than projected and into the welcoming arms of GM Masai Ujiri. But would the Raptors use their lone, first-round selection on a guard when adding a rebounder with size to the frontcourt should be the team’s primary concern?
That depends. Assuming Ujiri sees the obvious, long-term value in adding a Canadian to the roster and none of the other more highly-prized Canucks remain, nobody would blame Toronto for taking Stauskas with the 20th overall pick. After all, he’s been ranked as high as 11th in a very talented draft class.
Either way, those pulling for Stauskas to become a Raptor can at least take comfort in the fact that unless the franchise orchestrates a significant move up the board, he’s the most likely of the top three Canadian prospects to be available when Toronto makes its first selection.
Ty is an NBA writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @abovethefoldTy.