Mar 22, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Nik Stauskas (11) lays the ball up in the first half of a men

NBA Draft: Nik Stauskas could be Suns’ guard insurance


Strengths

If Doug McDermott is the best shooter in the 2014 NBA Draft, then Michigan Wolverines guard Nik Stauskas is surely the second-best. The 6-foot-6 guard’s stock exploded during his sophomore season as he averaged 17.5 points and 3.3 assists per game. The 44-percent three-point shooter took the point guard slot vacated by 2013 lottery pick Trey Burke and surprised scouts who saw him as a one trick pony.

Stauskas showed he could be a primary ball handler, but he enters the NBA as a shooting guard because of his deadly jumper that helped him score, according to Draft Express, 1.51 points per possession on catch-and-shoot attempts. Stauskas helped himself at the draft combine, where his athletic testing went better than expected. While he’s not an elite athlete, the Michigan product certainly isn’t a stiff.

Weaknesses

With a less-than-spectacular 6-foot-7 wingspan, Stauskas’ height becomes less of a an impressive number. That and his inability to move well laterally will make him a defensive liability off the bat. Stauskas weighed in at 207 pounds, which might lead to him getting bullied by stronger shooting guards. The ability for Stauskas to stay in front of faster players might be a bigger worry, however. His defensive posture and size isn’t too dissimilar from the Suns’ own Goran Dragic, who has gotten better on that end of the court but still at times struggles chasing smaller point guards.

As a point guard, Stauskas had reasonably solid assist numbers yet sometimes struggled to get a talented group of teammates involved. With swingmen Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert spreading the floor, he arguably could have done better. Robinson’s regression from his freshman season was partially linked to the absence of Burke.

X-factor

Stauskas’ ability to break defenders down off the dribble is an issue because of his lack of outright athleticism. He hasn’t learned how to brush players off screens or wiggle his way past them as a bigger guard, and because of that he very well could be limited as a playmaker for others and a slasher. If he can add a few tricks to get into the paint and to the foul stripe, his outside shooting attempts will open up a tad and his drive-and-kick game would improve. He may not ever be a point guard in the NBA, but learning how to diversify his offense could take him from bench microwave to NBA starter down the line.

How would he fit with the Suns

There’s no doubt Phoenix would love Stauskas’ shooting ability, and his projects as a sort of hybrid guard that could bring the ball up the court to push the break or work off the ball to score coming off screens. There has been increasing noise that the Suns are interested in backcourt upgrades to cover anything that goes against them in Eric Bledsoe’s free agency or Goran Dragic’s potential opt-out a year from now. Phoenix has looked at a number of point guards that are lottery talents. It might be surprising to select Stauskas and his limited ceiling over a defensive-minded point guard in Elfrid Payton or a true floor general like Tyler Ennis, but the Michigan product is that good of a shooter. Plus, Phoenix might believe he has higher upside than his physical limitations might indicate.