Tay-and-Nik-Stauskas

The last potential Canadian prospect for the Raptors, at least for the first round, is Michigan sharpshooter, Nik Stauskas. Staustas was a starter as a freshman for Michigan when they won almost won the NCAA Championship last year, but he really made a name for himself this past season. After three of Michigan’s starters (and their top two scorers) declared for the NBA draft after their Championship (almost) win, there was a void that needed to be filled. And Stauskas filled it, exceeding just about all expectations.

While he played well in his freshman season, averaging 11 points a game while shooting 44% from beyond the arc, Stauskas gained 16 pounds of muscle over the summer and returned as the main focus of Michigan’s offense. This season, with far more responsibility, Stauskas’ three point shooting percentage stayed the same but his scoring went from 11 to 17 and his assists per game jumped by two. He remained a dangerous but efficient scorer and added dimensions to his game he didn’t seem to have as a freshman.

While Stauskas isn’t unathletic, he’s not going to blow anyone away with his hops and his ability to play defense had been questioned. This season, we saw a much more varied game, with Stauskas driving to the hoop far more and getting to line  at an almost elite rate. He also showed off his high basketball IQ and ability to make his teammates better, leading Michigan to a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.

A lot of people first encountered Stauskas the way a lot of people seem to be discovered nowadays, through YouTube. As a junior in high school, Stauskas started making videos and one of him hitting 123 out of 141 three point attempts in his rather luxurious backyard court.

He followed that up with other videos, including hitting 70 out of 76 in five minutes in the rain.

While Stauskas had a fantastic sophomore season, becoming and All American (as a Canadian, of course) and was named the Big Ten’s Player of the Year, he doesn’t have the star potential that Wiggins and even Ennis do. What he does well, though, teams covet, especially in today’s NBA. While he doesn’t have elite playing ability, he does have the potential to be an elite shooter at the NBA level, and there isn’t a team in the league that wouldn’t want someone like that.

And although Stauskas played the small forward position at Michigan, he’s just 6’5 and unlikely to be able to play anything other than shooting guard in the NBA.

Right now, Stauskas is projected to go anywhere from 12 to 20 in the draft. With the Raptors drafting 20th, they have an outside chance of being able to draft him outright and a good chance of being able to trade up for him, should they wish to.

The Raptors SEEM to be pretty secure at the shooting guard position. While DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross started most of the season together, both are more suited to playing the shooting guard position, so on the surface there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of room for Stauskas. But the bench behind them was pretty weak, with Greivis Vasquez and Kyle Lowry playing a lot of time together, and John Salmons and sometimes Landry Fields also filling in. Playing two point guards together makes for an undersized backcourt and defense challenges, John Salmons was wildly inconsistent and only got worse as the season went on (basically repeating what he does every time he is traded to a new team), and Landry Fields’ shot looks like it’s deserted him forever.

The Raptors were actually a top ten three point shooting team, despite DeRozan continuing to struggle from that distance, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t use another shooter, especially if it means being able to part with Salmons. The Raptors rely on being able to spread the floor, and while the Raptors are a very good three point shooting team, they didn’t have anyone in the top 25 in percentage (both Patrick Patterson and Steve Novak would have qualified had they taken more shots, but it’s likely their percentage would have dropped with more output). Plus, the Raptors struggled to score from three in the playoffs, when there is more pressure on the offense.

While Stauskas’ shooting is definitely his best selling point, his high basketball IQ should also be something that could attract the Raptors to him. Great teams tend to have high IQ guys and the Raptors aren’t flush with them right now. Stauskas might be exactly what the Raptors need.

To send you off, here are some highlights with possibly the worst musical choice for a highlight reel ever.

[edit] It was late when I wrote this article, and for some reason forgot that Michigan actually DIDN’T win the NCAA Championship last year.  I guess it was a moral victory for them.