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Can Nik Stauskas Crack the Trail Blazers Rotation?

Considered a draft bust, Stauskas has shown flashes during preseason. Maybe he just needed to find the right system.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers-Media Day Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

As the eighth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings, Nik Stauskas has, frankly, been a disappointment to this point in his career. He bounced from the Kings to the Philadelphia 76ers, and then to the Brooklyn Nets - unable to show that he deserves significant court time with any of them.

When the Portland Trail Blazers signed Stauskas to a one year, $1.6 million deal this summer, a collective “meh” rose up from the Portland faithful. But Stauskas might be just what the bench ordered.

Will Stauskas ever spark the bench with 17 points per game in 30 minutes? Well, no. But the reserve squad is a fragile bunch, desperately needing shooting. Stauskas can provide that.

So far in the Trail Blazers preseason, Stauskas has shown a bit more offensively than most expected. His 3-point shot has been hit-and-miss; he’s 2-8 beyond the arc through three games. But I’m not worried about that. Shooting 3’s is the one thing Stauskas has done consistently over the last couple of years. Mor3e surprising have been his decent handle, adequate floor vision, and movement without the ball this preseason.

Of course, he does still have some significant limitations. Nik is not a plus defender. He doesn’t move his feet well laterally, tending to reach to make plays with his hands. Like many suspect defenders, he lets his man get by him, then hacks him as he drives into the lane.

But it’s clear why Stauskas was added to this team. Terry Stotts is serious about getting more 3-point looks up, and with Evan Turner best able to integrate as the lead ball handler in a reserve unit surrounded with 3-point shooting, Stauskas will see meaningful minutes.

We’re probably talking in the 14-18 minutes per game range. Any more than that and the wheels have completely fallen off...or Stauskas has been a complete revelation. Neither is likely, though stranger things have happened than a player of Stauskas’ background finding his niche with a new team. Players that come from the Sacramento Kings—not to mention the Brooklyn Nets or even the 76ers from just a couple years ago—should come with a disclaimer attached: “I came from an organization that is a mess. I haven’t learned any winning habits. Please handle with care.”

Stauskas’ future beyond this season is, much like Portland’s, very much up in the air. But for this one season at least, the pairing makes sense. He’s done some nice things in the preseason: some expected, others less so. Looking up and down the Blazers bench, I can’t help but think he’s going to get minutes, giving him the chance to redeem his earlier career struggles. Sometimes it’s just a matter of fit and, at least for this season, Stauskas fits in Portland’s rotation.