By Sam Pardys

At the age of 23, Canadian born shooting guard Nik Stauskas is playing the best basketball of his young NBA career. Originally selected by the Sacramento Kings with the 8th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Stauskas appears to be playing up to his lofty spot expectations. Stauskas made the jump to the NBA after just two years at the University of Michigan. In his time at U of M, Stauskas earned all Big Ten second team honors after his freshman year and was named the Big Ten Player of the year along with being a consensus All-American after his sophomore year when he averaged nearly 18 points per-game.  After declaring himself eligible for the NBA Draft, the expectations were high for Stauskas to continue his high level of play in the NBA.

However, Stauskas entered the NBA into the arms of the worst locker room in the league.  The Kings were in the middle of hiring their fifth head coach in seven years and big man DeMarcus Cousins was voicing his displeasure with the team and desire to play elsewhere.

Stauskas was unable to take his game to the next level averaging only 4.4 points per game while shooting just 32% from the field during his rookie campaign.¬† This lead to many people around the NBA wondering whether he had what it took to ‚Äúmake it in the NBA.‚ÄĚ Stauskas himself admitted that it was a frustrating situation.

After his rookie season, Kings’ management gave up on Stauskas and unloaded him to the 76ers as part of a underwhelming blockbuster trade that sent Stauskas, along with Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, a future first round pick, and the rights to swap first round picks in 2016 and 2017 in exchange for the rights to Arturas Gudaitis and Lika Mitrovi.  Both the 76ers and Stauskas hoped that a new environment would help jump-start his career.

During his sophomore season Stauskas saw a slight increase in his numbers but still seemed to be struggling averaging only 8.2 points per game. Unfortunately, Stauskas began to hear the same comments from 76ers fans that wondered about the performance of the 8th overall NBA pick and Big Ten Player. By the end of his second season, Stauskas’ window to prove that he belonged in the NBA was quickly closing.

Rumors quickly began swirling around that the 76ers would look to move Stauskas if his play didn’t improve, leaving the guard to potentially¬†look for his third NBA team in his third season. With that, he¬†arrived at the new 76ers complex ready to compete. Right off the bat, head coach Brett Brown said that Stauskas “had a swagger and displayed a level of confidence that he had not seen since college”. Now nearing the halfway point of this season, he¬†is averaging nearly 10¬†points per game, shooting 52% (!) from the field. Needless to say Stauskas is now showing that he is capable of being that star studded Michigan player, shooting the ball from behind the arc and take the ball to the hoop on a nightly basis.

As the first quarter of the 2016 season passes, Stauskas ranks 10th in the NBA in three point percentage at 45% this year.  For the first time in his career Stauskas is coming off the bench and he appears to be embracing the role, providing a much needed spark for a team that is loaded with young talent. Hopefully for the 76ers (and Stauskas), he will continue to grow into that go-to guy for the team and have a major role in bring this young team to the next level.

Photo: Jesse D. Garrabrant (Getty Images)

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