Nik Stauskas doesn’t come off as arrogant, but there’s no denying the rookie’s confidence as he begins his NBA career in the summer league.
There’s always discussion during the summer about which rookies are “NBA ready,” those players who won’t need a huge learning curve to catch on to the pro game.
Stauskas believes he is one of those players.
“I feel like I’m ready right now,” he said. “I feel like you could put me on an NBA court right now. I could always improve offensively and defensively; I can get stronger and quicker and all that kind of stuff. But I feel like I can make a difference on a team right now.”
Stauskas has looked like anything but a nervous rookie in the Kings’ three summer league games after being drafted eighth overall last month. The rookie from Michigan is averaging 13 points on 48.1 percent shooting. Considered an accomplished three-point shooter, he’s made five of his nine attempts.
“This is basketball and I’ve been playing it for a very long time,” Stauskas said. “I think regardless of athleticism, if you understand the game and have a high IQ for it, you’ll be able to think your way through the game, and that’s what I’ve been able to do so far.”
The Kings cited Stauskas’ basketball intellect as one of the reasons they liked him. It’s something the coaching staff and front office has emphasized in revamping the roster.
Stauskas said he tries “not to complicate things too much,” and he already has grasped the concept that a simple play is the best play.
“I just listen to my coaches, take in the information and try to be patient and aggressive at the same time,” he said.
The coaching staff is high on his potential.
“I think he has a really good feel now from all the talk about the difference between college and NBA, the body size in guys, the athleticism of everybody,” Kings summer league coach Ty Corbin said. “How quick and sharp his moves have to be, how his mind has to be made up and he has to be ready all the time when he gets the ball, when he’s off the ball. I think he has a better feel for those things now, so we can teach him a little bit more.”
Stauskas, 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, still has the physique of a rookie and that might be his biggest adjustment. He said he expected the physical nature of pro ball to be an adjustment, but he is “continuing to embrace that physicality.”
“I was expecting guys to be a little bit stronger and that’s been the case,” Stauskas said. “A lot of grabbing, pushing, that kind of stuff. Often you get switched on to a big and you’ve got to box out, and that’s a tough challenge just because the guys are so strong.”
Though Corbin said Stauskas’ transition to summer league only hints at what’s to come, he believes Stauskas is making good use of the summer league to prepare for the regular season.
“This is a level of talent in the NBA, but it’s going to crank up when you get into (training) camp, when you get into the exhibition season, when you get into the season,” Corbin said. “He has a better feel now of the athleticism and the strength of guys he’ll be competing against on a nightly basis.”
Stauskas’ confidence is evident by his relaxed state when discussing the adjustment. He’s not flustered and speaks maturely about the need for summer league.
“I think it’s just getting used to the play calls and some of the signals and terminology the coaches use; that’s big for us,” Stauskas said. “And also getting to go up against some good competition. There are some guys in the summer league that are on NBA rosters. If you look at our team, our whole starting lineup is part of an NBA roster. You’re going up against high-competition guys. Even though it’s not on the same level as the regular season, it’s getting you ready.”