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Trail Blazers Guard Nik Stauskas Learning to Operate Within a Role

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It’s taken a few stops, but Stauskas is getting comfortable in the system and in his own skin.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers guard Nik Stauskas is averaging 7 points in 17 minutes per game this season, shooting 42% from the field and 36% from the three-point arc. Those numbers are a far cry from what might have been expected when the Sacramento Kings drafted him 8th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, but they’re plenty good for a player whose career was all but lost just a season ago.

Michael Grange of SportsNet Canada picks up on this theme in an article about Stauskas, chronicling his early struggles and his new life in Portland. Grange writes:

Stauskas has gone from a lottery pick to spare part to nearly forgotten. Where draft night was a fresh suit and hugs from Mom, this past summer he was a free-agent grateful to get a one-year deal for the veteran minimum from a good organization.

Along the way, Stauskas has learned some hard lessons.

“When I first came in the league I didn’t watch film the way I do right now because I didn’t think I needed to,” he said, almost embarrassed at the thought. “It’s crazy because when you’re that young you definitely need to watch film but you just don’t. You don’t know what you don’t know. For me I thought I would figure everything out easily and that’s just not the case in this league.”

As Grange relates, even the journey to Portland wasn’t clear. Stauskas had doubts coming into a backcourt already populated by two high-scorers: Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

“This was my ego talking, me being the eighth pick, me being in my early twenties,” he says. “I was still set on ‘what do I have to do to be the man and get all these touches and all these minutes’”

It was his long-time agent Mark Bartelstein who clarified things.

“He said ‘look, we’re not coming in anywhere to be a starter and be the go-to guy’,” recalls Stauskas. “‘This is where you build your reputation, on a winning team that’s been in the playoffs five straight years and you come in off the bench, you have a significant role, you play good minutes and you earn your reputation from there.”

Stauskas is signed with the Blazers through June, making $1.5 million.

Grange’s article goes into far more detail, tracing Stauskas’ Canadian heritage, the pain of his NBA decline, and his drive.