EDIT: YEAH, THAT SHIT SURE WORKD OUT
Earlier this season, rumor had it that Nik Stauskas was on the trading block so the Kings could pick up a better back up PF or C. Now, while I know the Kings absolutely need someone to complement Cousins and Thompson in their respective rotations, I always thought using the rookie SG to do it was a bad move for many reasons. Rookies are usually bad, and on a bad team the idea of them shining is kind of ludicrous, with guys like Lebron and Andrew Wiggins being exceptions.I also don’t like giving up on a player so early, because what if he turns out to be a contributor to other teams’ playoff successes or shine elsewhere, like Robin Lopez and Isiah Thomas.
However, the biggest reason I had was my optimism, which uncharacteristic of me when I think about the Kings. I thought, and still think, Stauskas and McLemore can be really goddamn good for the Kings.
Both are raw, inconsistent works-in-progress that have suffered through some dumb drama players shouldn’t have to. Both are also very talented, accomplished college players that need to get a better handle on the NBA game and some real, honest-to-Peja mentoring.
On the whole, Stauskas’ rookie stats are trash. His three point shooting is 29%, which I find simultaneously terrifying and hilarious, considering he was a shooting specialist in college, where he was evil with the 3 ball at 47%. Yeah, it’s not the a 1-1 ratio, but damn.
However, let’s isolate the last 10 games. According to Espn.com he’s shooting 49% and averaging 8.1 PPG, which tells me two things: he’s got the talent, but he doesn’t have the opportunity. Since he’s such a raw rookie, I won’t argue for the game to be placed in his hands, especially since they’re not that comfortable with the ball, yet, but I’d like to see more shots made for him. Grant Napear talked about how Mike Malone was trying to do that before he got fired during broadcasts early in the season, but of course that didn’t last.
McLemore provides a possible glimpse into the future for Stauskas. Like Nik, he was also abhorrent his rookie year. He shot 37% and by all accounts looked lost in the NBA. But this season, something changed. we’ve seen his true athleticism on display. The guy can move like few others, he just needs to learn more and get better at harnessing his game. See a pattern here?
I don’t think the comparisons end there, either. Both shooting guards have been playing pretty similarly this year. While Nik is and never will be as athletic as Ben, he still has shown an ability to get to the basket and make some tough shots. He gets the crap blocked out of him a lot, but hey, growing pains. Just yesterday, during the Clippers game, he drove and made a step-back fadeaway. That’s not the first time he’s created his own shot and it won’t be the last. Ben’s forte is arguably getting closer to the rim, with his aforementioned crazy athleticism. He has already shown he can adjust midair and make some tough shots, too. Both players have the kernel of a good to great slasher.
As for that 1-2 punch, I see Ben starting and Nik coming in to spell him. Nik can and needs to be that 3-point shooter. That’s what he was drafted to be. That’s where he will truly thrive, because once he starts knocking those down at a consistent rate, the drive lanes open up. Then the pass lanes open up. I see Ben’s game going the opposite way; once defenders learn they have to give him cushion to account for his speed, he’ll be able to knock down his own long shots.
Imagine both of these guys at their peaks. Imagine the defensive problems they could create for other teams. The hallmark of every great team is depth, and these two with their potential fulfilled could make as strong a shooting guard combo in the NBA.
I understand this kind of reeks of idealism, but I don’t think it’s crazy to think these guys have a future with the Kings. For goodness’ sake, Stauskas won Big 10 Player of the Year last year. I don’t care if it’s “just college,” players without serious talent don’t win that award. The way that talent doesn’t go to waste is to get coaches who know how to use it. Same goes for McLemore. Same goes for almost any player, really.
Also, you know who else sucked his rookie year? Peja Stojakovic. The God. So, let’s not can a player based on his first season.
And you don’t break up this happy couple, do you?