Over the next few weeks, we'll evaluate the Sixers' roster after the 10-72 season.
Up next: Nik Stauskas
Status: Under contract 2016-17 for $2.99 million
Depends on your perspective. If you tend toward the negative, then you'd probably pick one of the early-season efforts where Stauskas hoisted double-digit three-point attempts while only making a few and generally looking lost. If you're more positive, the mid-March effort against Oklahoma City was a good personal outing for Stauskas even though the Sixers got smacked by the Thunder. Stauskas scored a career-high 23 points that evening, going 9 of 15 from the field and making five out of seven three pointers. He also added four rebounds, three assists and three steals, which is the kind of non-shooting production that was often absent this season.
Stauskas in 2015-16
Tough start. Stauskas was cold to begin the year. He shot 27 percent from distance in November (on 5.9 attempts per game) and 29.2 percent in December (on 3.2 attempts per game). As a result, Brown had him on the bench more than on the court; Stauskas played only 20 minutes per game in December. It got better for a moment midway through the season. Stauskas made 40.9 percent from three in January and 44.4 percent in February. Then the bottom dropped out again. He shot 32.1 percent from deep in March and 25 percent in April. Like a lot of shooters, Stauskas was streaky.
There was an expectation – or maybe just hope – that Stauskas would leave a grim situation in Sacramento (where he played only 15.4 minutes per game his rookie year) and make the most of an opportunity in Philadelphia. His minutes increased with the Sixers to 24.8 per game, but he didn't contribute much. He averaged 8.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists. He was frequently non-existent on defense. And while his 9.2 PER was better than his awful 7.5 rookie season, it was still ugly and telling. When he wasn't making threes, Stauskas was more of a hindrance than a help – and that was true sometimes even when he was making threes.
Before the palace coup, then president and general manager Sam Hinkie pulled off a trade that was almost universally regarded as something between an artful steal for the Sixers and an outright victimization of the Kings. Stauskas was shipped to Philadelphia in a deal that also netted Carl Landry and Jason Thompson, but the players were almost incidental to the deal. In exchange for absorbing nearly $16 million in salary, the Sixers got a first-round pick from the Kings (which won't convey until 2018, at the earliest) and the rights to swap first rounders with Sacramento in this draft and the next. That is a massive haul all by itself, and all it cost them was some cash they had to spend anyway.
Stauskas, a former lottery pick, was a bonus. If he worked out and developed into a viable player, great. If not, if he bombed the audition, they could toss him aside like so many other players and move on to the next casting call. Maybe his first screen test with the Sixers wasn't a total failure, but it wasn't anything remotely resembling a success, either. If your main contribution is outside shooting, if it's something approaching your only contribution, you'd better be pretty good at it. Each year, NBA players and teams take more three-pointers than ever. Everyone shoots them. Being average at it means you'd better do something else at an above-average level, otherwise you're wholly replaceable. At present, there isn't anything that makes Stauskas stand out, including and especially his shooting.
On Nik Stauskas
"This whole league is about two-way players. You can roll out the prettiest shooters you want, but if they can't guard there is no place for them in big games." (see story) - Brett Brown
"When people think of my game they think of me as a shooter and someone who needs to get open threes. I don't necessarily need to get open threes to get myself involved in the game. I can get in the paint, I can make plays for the other guys on the team, I can tough it out on defense, I can rebound and all of those things can help us win games. It doesn't have to be just shooting threes." – Stauskas, who was ostensibly serious (see story).