Roughly one year removed from suiting up in the Philadelphia 76ers red, white, and blue, Nik Stauskas is off to the best season of his career in Portland.
Nik Stauskas is good now.
Yes, the very same Nik ‘Sauce Castillo’ Stauskas that the Philadelphia 76ers traded along with Jahlil Okafor and a second round pick to the Brooklyn Nets for Trevor Booker roughly one year ago, has suddenly become an 11.5 a game scorer in his new home in the Pacific Northwest.
And to add insult to injury, he’s knocking down almost half of his 4.8 3-pointers each game.
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But how did this happen? How did Stauskas go from a deep bench player on the Sixers to a part-time player in Brooklyn, to a player who’s now thrust himself into the early conversation for both the most improved player AND the sixth man of the year at the tender age of 25 (though Derrick Rose could give him a run for his money)?
Well, after failing to garner much interest from the Nets following the 2017-2018 NBA season, even after knocking down a franchise record seven 3s on December 27th while coming off the bench, Stauskas signed an almost veteran minimum one-year, $1.6 million deal in an attempt to make the team as a versatile reserve wing capable of playing 1-3.
In hindsight, this deal may very well make Stauskas the steal of free agency.
With a clear path to playing time following Pat Connaughton‘s mildly surprising decision to sign with the Milwaukee Bucks, Stauskas played very well in the team’s preseason and quickly leapfrogged higher profile players like Wade Baldwin, Seth Curry, and rookie guards Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. to become the team’s backup shooting guard, and first guard off of the bench.
Averaging almost 24 minutes of action a night over the first four games of the season, Stauskas has made the most of his half of the game thus far this season, averaging the fourth most points of any player on the roster while easily recording the best clip from downtown on the roster.
But is this success sustainable? That, my friends, is the real question.
As anyone who’s watched the Sixers during the Sauce-era already knows, Nik’s the type of player who can take your breath away with a monster 24-point performance one game, and make you audibly groan the next by going 0-6 from deep.
However, maybe this year will be different.
Though there’s no clear path to a starting role with the Blazers, as their dynamic duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are all but locked in at the one and two guard positions respectively, Stauskas could, and frankly should thrive in his new role with the pressure all but off.
Who knows, maybe we could see Portland even opt to run a three-guard lineup at times with Lillard, McCullom, and Stauskas on the wings, Jusif Nurkic in the paint, and everyone’s favorite ex-Sixer Evan Turner running the show as a Ben Simmons-lite-esque point forward.
So, has Nik Stauskas finally found a home in Portland? Who knows, but it’s clear the bust tag that’s been a bit of a scarlet letter on his chest for the first four years of his NBA career could soon be a thing of the past.