Sixers: Is This Really A New Nik Stauskas?

Nov 25, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Nik Stauskas (11) dribbles against Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Chicago Bulls won 105-89. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 25, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Nik Stauskas (11) dribbles against Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Chicago Bulls won 105-89. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

The Sixers have seen Nik Stauskas flourish this season, but is this just another flash in the pan?

The moment Nik Stauskas was announced to be a part of the Sixers’ organization, excitement was high, but not because of him. The trade he was apart of seemed so one-sided at the time, that anybody involved in the trade was set to have an easy-going tenure in Philadelphia.

Stauskas was a key piece in a salary dump by Sacramento, which gave the Sixers him, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson (who was later flipped for a 2nd rounder), a future first-round pick, a d the right to swap picks in two drafts. This was all for the Kings to sign Rajon Rondo for one season.

Many believed Stauskas’ poor rookie season was a product of a questionable environment within the Kings’ organization. He struggled to get minutes for a rebuilding team that was in a win-now mode. Nonetheless, there was enough promise for the Sixers to take a low-risk chance on Stauskas.

His first season with the team mirrored his rookie season in a sense. Per 36 minutes, Stauskas’ numbers saw a slight increase, but he shot just 32.2% from the outside and a horrid 38.5% from the field. His main skill coming out of Michigan was his outside shooting, but that seemed lost throughout most of the season last year.

His struggles during the 2015-16 season and a poor Summer League appearance led many to believe he would not have his rookie team option picked up, in favor of giving preseason stud Brandon Paul a shot. It is a rarity for a once top-10 pick to not earn another season on his rookie deal, and the Sixers weren’t about to be the team that made waves in that sense.

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The contract was picked up, and Stauskas has since gotten off to a blazing start shooting-wise. His 64% eFG percentage is good for 3rd highest in the league, above superstar Kevin Durant. His 44.6% three-point percentage is 10th in the league. Finally, his 6th best true shooting percentage has been enough to convince the Sixers he’s starting to come together.

His understanding of his role of a bench scorer may be putting him in an attacking mindset, and his confidence in his game is showing. Stauskas is much more comfortable with the ball, shooting 66% while holding the ball for more than 6 seconds, and 50% when taking 7 or more dribbles. This shows his willingness to attack in more than just a catch and shoot role.

There are some major improvements in Stauskas’ game that goes far beyond his shooting. His playmaking is finally coming to the forefront, with defenses now respecting his ability to score. His off-ball movement hasn’t just been along the outside, with his cutting ability continuing to open lanes up for the offense. The question is though, will he be able to sustain a respectable level of play that shows real improvement? Or is this just another intense hot streak?

The questioning stems from the winter months of last season. His usage percentages went down in January and February, but his effectiveness went way up. In January, he shot 40.9% from three-point range and had a respectable 54.9% true shooting percentage. February was an even hotter month where Stauskas shot 44.4% from the outside and a 62.8% true shooting percentages.

The two months of great play from Stauskas was followed by more of the same struggles, which should make many start to pump the breaks on claiming him as a success story for now. But it is impressive to see his response from being on the roster bubble, to becoming one of the few sustainable offensive options in the Sixers offense.

This time around, however, there seems to be a newfound confidence. Along with being more aware as a passer, Stauskas is not shying away from creating his own shot along the perimeter, rather than forcing drives. For how poor Robert Covington has been shooting the ball, Stauskas has been the polar opposite on offense in both shooting and confidence.

It may be premature to call this a complete turnaround, but the absolute explosion on offense should show that there’s still hope to him becoming a dangerous shooter. For many prospects, it could take their whole rookie contract for them to hit their stride. Stauskas’ feel for the game may finally be coming to him in his pivotal third career season.

Next: Okafor And Noel Must Both Go

He may never reach the top-10 prospect level of talent, but he surely can be a threat off the bench for a team still piecing the roster together. Sauce Castillo went from a lovable wonder to a serious basketball player in the matter of months. This could be the season people start to take Stauskas’ game seriously.