In spite of the importance of defense with respect to prospect value, not all prospects who project as liabilities on that end have limited value. Stephen Curry, Steve Nash, and Ryan Anderson are examples of players who provided elite value at their draft slots that would have been missed with steadfast refusal to draft such types. In this year’s expected crop, the prospect with the best odds of paying similar dividends is Nik Stauskas. Not only is he an elite shooter and floor spacer, but he has also shown tremendous ball handling and passing skills this season, which offers a dimension to his game that other defensively challenged prospects such as Rodney Hood and Doug McDermott are lacking. I compiled a video briefly touching upon his defensive limitations, but mostly glazing over them and highlighting his offensive strengths.
If anybody was hoping to see his offensive shortcomings, he doesn’t have any striking flaws beyond his physical limitations. If there is any complaint to be made with his offense, it is that he does not shoot enough as he hardly makes any mistakes at all. He is boasting an astronomical 67% TS and a miniscule 11.3% turnover rate. That efficiency is unprecedented for a player who serves as an offensive centerpiece for a team that has played the 8th toughest schedule in the nation. Here is how he statistically compares to historical perimeter prospects with questionable tools, as well as Hood and Ougie. Opponent D-Rtg is based on the player’s team strength of schedule as per Kenpom.com. The far right column is how the player’s O-Rtg compares to that of Stauskas once you normalize to his SOS and usage rate, using 1.25 points of O-Rtg per 1 percent of usage as the conversion rate to offer a rough estimate:
|Player||Season||Usage||O-Rtg||Opp D-Rtg||Adj O-Rtg|
I used each player’s final season of college except for Curry, since his sophomore season is a more pertinent comparison to Stauskas, and I do not believe he progressed enough as a junior to drastically boost his value. Not only do Stauskas and Curry have similar mannerisms as they maneuver through the opposing defense, but they are the two premier offensive prospects in this sample as they were able to achieve dominance at an earlier stage of their careers than others on the list. Granted that Curry did take on a larger role in his offense, Stauskas’s ball handling ability likely would enable him to do likewise if necessary.
The closest comparison is senior Redick, as he has a usage closer to Stauskas’s range and they were both centerpieces of elite major conference offenses. The fact that Stauskas is performing on the same level as a sophomore is quite the feather in his cap, as Redick’s senior year is acclaimed as an all-time great college season. The same adjusted O-Rtg for Redick was 125 as a sophomore, and 126.5 as a junior.
Senior Jimmer grades out the highest, but he is also the shakiest comparison given his monstrous usage. It’s not certain that he had the basketball IQ to play such mistake free ball at a more moderate usage, as he posted just a 112.5 O-Rtg on 24.8 usage as a sophomore.
Of course bottom line production matters, but the distribution of point production is also important for translation concerns:
The interesting bit in this sample is the strong correlation between percentage of points from 3 and NBA value with respect to draft slot. 3’s translate, but scoring inside the arc with shaky tools may be a problem. It is not a mystery why Luke Babbitt failed as a prospect, as he dominated inside the arc as a 6’9 mid major player and went on to shoot 37% from 2 as an NBA player. This does not bode well for McDermott, who attempts the majority of his 2’s at the rim and has worse tools. Hood is less of a translation concern than Ougie with superior tools and a greater frequency of two point attempts coming from midrange, although his inside the arc translation still can’t be taken for granted.
On the other side of the spectrum, it is easy to see why Curry is such a force in the NBA as he was able to sustain high efficiency on a large workload with a huge % of his attempts coming behind the arc. This is where he sets himself apart from Stauskas, as nobody else is a pure enough shooter to be that good on that volume behind the arc.
Once again Stauskas mirrors Redick’s senior year, as they have near identical point distributions. Their assist and turnover rates are not horribly different either (Stauskas 21.3% assist 11.3% TOV, Redick 15.7% assist 13.0% TOV).
Steals, blocks, and height:
This is a friendly reminder that in spite of Stauskas’s solid instincts and ability to jump a little, he still does not stand out in this collection as a defensive playmaker. He remains a significant defensive liability.
Curry again sets himself apart from Stauskas. Even though he was correctly projected to become a bad pro defender, his defensive playmaking at the collegiate level gives him an additional edge. He was also a better rebounder in spite of being smaller. Curry is clearly the overall better prospect, although Stauskas is not as far behind as current perception would suggest.
On the other hand, he continues to equate to senior Redick. Redick had more steals, quicks, and speed, Stauskas more blocks, size, and athleticism. And like JJ, Stauskas has the benefit of a strong work ethic. It is difficult to envision how he was able to chisel his body and improve his handles and passing to the extent that he did and still have time to eat and sleep this offseason. It is not a guarantee that he reaches the same level as Redick in the pros given that JJ likely achieved the upper bound of his NBA range. But given Stauskas’s work ethic and feel for the game, his odds seem favorable. And given that he achieved this level of success two seasons earlier and 15.5 months younger, he clearly has more upside.
Overall Nik Stauskas’s prospect value as well as style lies somewhere in the middle of JJ Redick and Stephen Curry. If he achieves his upside as they did, he offers an excellent offensive piece to fit in any NBA offense that will make his defensive woes worth stomaching. He still has plenty of time for his stats to lose a bit of luster, but if he continues to perform at this level through the rest of the season he likely will have value worthy of the back end of the lottery.