After all the speculation the Kings would trade their pick, Sacramento kept it and selected Michigan guard Nik Stauskas at No. 8 in the 2014 NBA draft.
The front office believes the Canadian-born shooter will help fill multiple holes, but most importantly he can shoot from deep.
The Kings made improving their outside shooting a priority, and Stauskas was one of the best available.
When asked if he was the best shooter in the draft, Stauskas said: “Definitely. Without a doubt.”
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Stauskas doesn’t want to be known simply as a shooter, but he realizes why the Kings coveted him.
“And as much as I’ve expanded my game over the last couple of years, shooting is definitely the thing I do best and I take pride in that,” Stauskas said. “Coming in I feel like when I get my feet set and I get a good look at the basket, there’s not many people in the league that can knock down shots like I can. I’m looking forward to bringing that skill set to Sacramento.”
The Kings were also looking to add better passing and improve the basketball IQ of the team.
They believe they did that with Stauskas.
“We talked about acquiring floor spacers and passers and guys who can handle the ball, and I think we got all three of those things in Nik Stauskas,” said Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro.
But what makes Stauskas stand out is his shooting.
Stauskas was 13th in the country in three-point percentage (.440) and was the Big 10 Player of the Year.
The Kings were tied for 27th in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage (33.3) last season.
Some of the players expected to provide perimeter shooting – Marcus Thornton, Patrick Patterson or Jimmer Fredette – did not finish the season with the team.
Last year’s first-round pick, shooting guard Ben McLemore, was expected to be a proficient shooter from beyond the arc but that wasn’t the case during his rookie season. McLemore shot 37.6 percent overall, including 32 percent from three-point range.
The Kings believe McLemore will improve this coming season and that Stauskas could play with McLemore, with Stauskas handling point-guard duties.
D’Alessandro said drafting Stauskas is no slight to McLemore.
“We have to get talent here,” D’Alessandro said. “We have to get talent here. We have to get shooters here. And I think Ben is just at the beginning of his trajectory and now we have another guy who is going to do that.”
Stauskas will be expected to help open up Sacramento’s offense.
If Stauskas can make defenses have to defend him at the three-point arc, it will create more room on the court for DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay.
“If I’m DeMarcus or Rudy Gay, I’m excited,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “You think about the year DeMarcus Cousins had and we were 27th in the NBA in three-point shooting. Rudy Gay who proved that he can a be a 20-point scorer and shoot the ball very efficiently.
“When you can (have) space-the-floor guys like Nik Stauskas and like we think Ben McLemore is going to be next year, that gives DeMarcus that much more room, that gives Rudy Gay that much more room. That allows them to be at their best.”
Both players were double teamed aggressively at times because opponents did not have to worry about the Kings beating them from three-point range with consistency.
Stauskas averaged 17.5 points as a sophomore, shooting 47 percent from the field. He shot 44.2 percent from three-point range.
That was a 6.5-points-per-game increase from his freshman season, when he played with Trey Burke, who was a first-round pick last year for Utah.
Stauskas also averaged 3.3 assists, two more than he averaged as a freshman.
That’s key because on top of shooting, the Kings want players that will pass and make the right decisions on the court.
“I think that’s the reason teams have been intrigued with me in the draft this year because of those improvements,” Stauskas said. “I feel like I’m a smart basketball player, I have a high basketball IQ for the game and I like making the right plays.”
That statement sounds as if Stauskas heard some of coach Michael Malone’s complaints during the season.