Report Card 2013: Nik Stauskas

NCAA Michigan Florida Basketball

Nik Stauskas, he’s not just a shooter.” That fact was proven again and again so many times that it became a running joke to anyone who watched more thana few Michigan games. Over and over, Michigan’s freshman guard from Mississauga, Ontario showed off his diverse skill set against the country’s best players. And every time an analyst saw it live, he acted as if he was the first person to realize that Stauskas was more than “just a shooter.”

That being said, it’s clear that Stauskas has a specialty: long range shooting. He can do other things, just none as well as he can shoot 3-pointers. The 6-foot-6 freshman found his way into the starting line up by the seventh game and made an immediate impact. He found his way quickly and proved to be a quick learner on offense – reaching double figures in 22 of Michigan’s first 24 games. On defense, however, his progress was more freshman-like. Stauskas routinely experienced difficulty playing sound team defense and appeared to struggle with some of the defensive principles, especially once the Big Ten season kicked in.

By the end of the season, Stauskas was a critical cog in Michigan’s lethal offensive machine, even if he finished the year on a bit of a streaky note. Michigan’s Canadian import appears to be the kind of dead-eye 3-point shooter Michigan is used to playing against, someone in the mold of a John Diebler or a Blake Hoffarber. But don’t forget — that’s not all he is.

The Good

  • 3-point shooting: Duh. Nik Stauskas kicked off his college career by shooting a scorching 56 percent from beyond the arc for the non-conference slate. At that time, it seemed like the kid had been dropped from another planet — when he made less than half of his threes in any single game it felt as if something was wrong. At one point early on in the year, Stauskas was asked what his shooting percentage was in high school, and he said he liked to “keep it around 60 percent.” Inevitably, the freshman’s red-hot shooting numbers cooled when the conference season rolled around. Stauskas fell back to earth, and there were times when it was particularly painful — he simply became human. With the Big Ten season came better defenses, and some brought with them particular shooter-proof strategies (remember Ohio State’s and Indiana’s “lock the rails” technique?). Overall, though, it was a terrific shooting year for Stauskas, especially when you consider his age. In his first college season, he shot 44 percent from beyond the arc and 50 percent from inside for an effective field goal percentage of just under 60 — that’s good for 52nd in the nation, according to Ken Pomeroy.
  • Ball screen offense: Stauskas was obviously a great jump shooter but his ability to create with the ball screen was unmatched in the Big Ten – except perhaps in his own backcourt.

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Source: Synergy Sports (min. 50 poss.)

  • Among players that used at least 50 ball screens, Stauskas led the Big Ten in derived ball offense. Michigan scored 1.14 points per shot when Stauskas shot the ball off the ball screen and 1.24 points per possession when he passed the ball off the ball screen. Those numbers are incredibly impressive and his combined 1.18 points per ball screen possession ranked 12th nationally. Michigan loses Trey Burke’s 487 ball screen possessions (and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s 126) so there will be opportunity for Stauskas in this regard.
  • Efficiency: Shooters are usually the most efficient offensive players because their usage is a bit lower and the majority of their field goal attempts are open shots. Stauskas is no exception to this rule as his offensive rating of 122.8 placed him at 32nd in the country. Stauskas had an eFG% of 72% (1.44 PPP) on catch and shoot opportunities which accounted for 43% of his offense but he was proficient in all parts of the offense. Alongside great players like Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., Stauskas found his niche and didn’t play outside of himself. He rarely turned the ball over, generally made smart passes and made a respectable half of his two point attempts. There’s not much to complain about with Stauskas’s offensive performance as a freshman.

Room for improvement

  • Defense: This was perhaps Stauskas’s most glaring weakness as a freshman. It seemed as though Stauskas had a difficult time learning some of the key defensive principles early on, but he also struggled with his one-on-one perimeter defense. His lack of aggressiveness on the defensive end stood out like a sore thumb. Stauskas committed just .87 fouls per 40 minutes, the 2nd lowest rate in the country. It’s not as though Stauskas was abysmal all season — there were just times when his defense was a liability. You could single out individual poor defensive performances for almost any player on the roster but conference games at Michigan State and Penn State were certainly learning experiences for the freshman. Stauskas is long and he isn’t amazingly slow — on offense he was able to consistently get by defenders — so this is an area where it’s possible for him to improve.
  • Making shots against elite competition: There’s no denying Stauskas can shoot. But the fact is, there was a significant drop off between his long-range shooting numbers in the non-conference season and the Big Ten season. Stauskas’s 57 percent non-conference rate was never going to be sustainable in Big Ten play but 36% in conference play and 38% in the NCAA tournament (3-of-18 against teams other than Florida) are just average numbers for an elite shooter. This trend makes quite a bit of sense; good teams were able to limit Michigan’s primary playmakers without devoting their entire defenses and, in turn, negate Stauskas. There are fewer opportunities available against great defensive teams and he needs to work on getting his shot off against elite competition if he wants to be considered a truly lethal shooter.
  • Rebounding: This critique is a little more contingent on what sort of player Stauskas hopes to be. Last year, Michigan got great production from Tim Hardaway Jr. on the defensive glass and it was a major factor in Michigan’s ability to push the ball. With Hardaway grabbing rebounds, he could start the fast break immediately. Michigan’s fast break attack will undoubtedly suffer next year without the virtuosity of Trey Burke, but it would surprise me if they went away from it too drastically. If Stauskas learns to crash the glass, it could make a big difference in the Wolverines’ ability to push the ball — and at 6-foot-6, it isn’t unreasonable to see this as a possibility. The Michigan coaching staff loves having guards who can rebound, and that seems to be a reasonable expectation for Stauskas.

Grade: B+

Stauskas set Michigan’s freshman record for 3-pointers made in a season with 80, started almost every game, averaged double figures and ranked in the top-40 nationally in offensive efficiency. Given the leap that Michigan players have made between their freshman and sophomore years in Ann Arbor it’s exciting to think about where Stauskas can take his game from here.

Bottom Line: In Nik Stauskas, John Beilein finally has a player who could be developed into a knock-down 3-point shooter. He has all the tools, and his shot is already technically as sound as they come. When Stauskas can get that shot off against the Big Ten’s best and nail it on a consistent basis, he will be considered a great sharpshooter. The talent Michigan has returning and the freshmen coming in indicate the Wolverines will again be a very good offensive team, meaning Stauskas should find himself with plenty of opportunities offensively.

It remains to be seen what sort of role Stauskas takes over with an entirely new backcourt coming in next season. Michigan loses its two primary playmakers in the backcourt but has two talented freshmen to replace them. There’s also talk of Glenn Robinson III playing more minutes at the three position, where Stauskas played the majority of his minutes. But while there are obvious question marks, Stauskas is also the most experienced player on Michigan’s roster with meaningful minutes at the one, two or three spot. Stauskas has the ability to play a bigger role, but there will be heavy competition to be a go to player on the 2013-14 roster.  If Stauskas becomes more consistent – especially defensively – and continues to expand his game there’s also a chance that he could emerge as one of the go to players in Michigan’s backcourt.

  • Champswest

    I like Nik, and he had a very good freshman year. As the team talent continues to rise, Nik’s stock can either go up or down. It depends on how hard he works on his game (and in the weight room). If he releases any more videos, I hope they look more like a Trey Burke video.
    A move to the 2 position could help Nik’s scoring as he would likely be guarded by shorter defenders than he was at the 3. He has a high ceiling.

    • UM Hoops Fan

      It will be interesting to see who plays where and how minutes go. I have high confidence though that Nik will get a lot of minutes going forward.

      A quick aside: these occasional sneers at Nik’s videos are a pet peeve. Would you really rather watch a workout/drills video? Did Trey’s videos get tweet responses from NBA players? Do you want Nik to stop practicing shooting? I’m sure Nik’s in the gym and that he knows he needs to work on his strength, agility, ball-handling, etc., to be the player he wants to be in the NCAAs and beyond. His shooting videos are fun to watch, showcase the skill he has to which few can compare, and come at no cost to his ability to do other workouts. People should just enjoy them.

      • mikey_mac

        Sneer? Seemed instead like just a reasonable hope that Nik is focusing on the other elements of the game this spring/summer. You really read a lot into that.

        • Indiana_Matt

          I wouldn’t say you have to read a lot into it. I get the same perception. Personally I think it’s fun to see the kid lighting it up in his driveway. He is a kid after all. I trust him to be doing everything the coaches ask of him this summer. I agree with the above commenter, let’s just enjoy his shooting displays.

        • jblair52

          He’s not though. He ONLY shoots 3’s.

          One time, they almost caught him practicing a free throw, but then realized that wouldn’t be as cool on YouTube so he stopped.

          • mikey_mac

            Now THAT’S a sneer.

    • mikey_mac

      I completely agree that his stock could very easily go up or down, with GR3 and Irvin vying for his minutes at 2/3, not to mention LeVert and Albrecht.

      Would love to see Nik show up this Fall with confidence on the defensive end — both with the mental and physical aspects. That would go a long way toward cinching a larger role on the team.

  • Michigan fan from NYC

    Stauskas was easily my favorite player to watch all season and the crowd clearly fed off of his 3-point shooting, very similar to the fan the Knicks fans react when Steve Novak shoots 3’s. The issue I see for Stauskas is that Beilein is intent on playing GRIII at 3, which means that either Horford, Morgan, Bielfeldt and Donnal will likely have to split between 50 and 55 minutes. GRIII is a natural 3, but if he plays the 3, will Michigan have enough offense at the power forward and center position? Beilein clearly will aim to get his best 5 players the most minutes, but the logical conclusion would be to play GRIII at the 4 and start a backcourt combination of Walton, Irvin and Stauskas. Joe, how do you see this playing out?

    • Chazer

      I agree, look for JB to put the best 5 on the floor who can run and score! I see Nik getting big minutes because he stretches the D and opens up lanes. You cannot leave him open or he will kill you and he can fill the lane and look for his spot on the run. What I dont think goes away next year is over all team speed….MM GR3 NIK all move well. My bet is that Irvin and Walton can both run and run fast.

      The B1G will get these kids ready for the dance and I think the early exit from the B1G tournament was a blessing this year! The kids were young and gassed, they got the extra break and caught some time off. Look for JB and staff to put the clamp on Walton……its all about turn overs and possesions! JB HAS DONE THIS EVERYWHERE HE’s coached. from Mike Molisani to Binky to Trey! Honor thy possesion, play smart and run!

      But my assessment, you don’t put Nicky three ball on the pine when he can play the pick n roll and shoot the rock!

      Anyone notice that JB has adjusted his entire style to his players and the NBA sets….good for recruiting good for show casing, good when you have NBA talent! I don’t see the Princeton set anymore….that was out of necessity!

    • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

      I touched on this in another post but … Beilein is going to play his best five. I wouldn’t say he’s “set on” playing GR3 at the 3 until he does it – often. It’s a great thing to say in the offseason but it’s by no means a sure thing.

      • jblair52

        I feel we will see a good portion of GR3 at the 3 and MM at the 4 this year though – Beilein is a straight shooter. He never has catered to the stars or the “system” so I can’t believe he would have even let them THINK this would happen if it isn’t going to happen very much.
        (and he’s not the kinda guy that would do it once just to say he did it for them)

      • Champswest

        We have heard Beilein say three things since the season ended:
        1 He would like to play GRIII at the 3 and MM at the 4, their likely NBA positions. (Granted, they will have to work at it and demonstrate that they can do it).
        2 He recruited GRII to play the 3.
        3 He recruited Nik to play the 2.

        As always, Beilein will play the guys that he feels will give the TEAM the best chance to win (which includes benching Nik for his lack of defense and Jordan for lack of offense). With a more talented bench this year, guys are really going to have to earn their minutes.

  • Wayman Britt

    Joe – good analysis I agree with your grading on Nik. I hope he can put on 10 to 15 pounds of muscle before November. He also needs to work on shooting with contact and foot speed.

    The areas of improvement everybody is talking about for Nik, are almost identical to the improvements Matt Vogrich needed his first couple of years. Matt did not improve much in those areas, but I have a feeling Nik will.

    • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

      I’m not sure you can compare him to Vogrich. Yes, Vogrich could have gotten stronger and more athletic and been a better player but Nik’s averages as a freshman were about in line with Vogrich’s best games. What Nik accomplished in his freshman year was, for the most part, impressive stuff.

      • Champswest

        I think what he was saying, is that the things Matt needed to work on, but didn’t, are the same things that Nik needs to work on.

  • umich153

    Dylan- how do you go about getting stats from synergy sports such as ppp off of pick and rolls?

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