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18 Days Till Sixers: Nik Stauskas Needs to Recapture His Michigan Form

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It's a time of Sauce Castillo mania at Liberty Ballers. Can Stauskas eschew his year in the basketball hell that is Sacramento and turn himself back into the 2014 Big Ten Player of the Year?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the 2014 NBA Draft, one that seemed to be stacked with highly-touted players, the 76ers were poised to land two top talents with the third and 10th choices, respectively, that year. Andrew Wiggins looked destined to be a Sixer from the moment he stepped on the court at Allen Fieldhouse. Brett Brown thought so as well, and there was even another name he believed the team was taking that night with their second first rounder:

Going off the infamous Kings draft war room video from Grantland, it appears that the Sixers attempted to trade up and get NIk Stauskas, offering two second rounders in addition to the 10th-overall selection to move up to the eighth pick. What Vivek Ranadive wants, Vivek Ranadive ultimately gets, as the Kings picked Stauskas amidst a creepy chorus of "NIK ROCKS!"

After a totally lopsided salary-clearing trade between the Kings and the Sixers in July, Brown finally has his man, the guard he's been searching for to handle the rock and drop threes from deep, the floor-stretching complement alongside the quick release of Robert Covington and the gravitational force of Jahlil Okafor.

Talking about the way Covington benefits from Okafor's brute force in the post should apply to Stauskas as well. Here's what I said about Big Shot Bob's possible relationship with Big Jah last month:

When Jah Rule is pounding post defenders into dust as he does above, he's sucking help defenders into the paint and turning opponents inward. If one of them happens to be Big Shot Bob's man, the Sixers are in a perfect position offensively to take a high-percentage shot and execute, whether that be through Okafor willing himself to the rim or Jah finding Covington very open or an easy three-point basket.

Looking at Stauskas through the prism of being the 2014 Big Ten Player of the Year and a top pick in a loaded draft class, it felt like he had star potential in the NBA and that he could be the player I depicted above when discussing Covington. That went out the window the moment the Kings called his name on draft night. His numbers as a sophomore at Michigan and a rookie in Sacramento have a huge discrepancy (per-40 minute stats for Michigan, per-36 minute stats for Sacramento):

Season School Conf G FGA FG% 3PA 3P% FTA FT% AST STL BLK TOV PTS
2013-14 Michigan Big Ten 36 12.3 .470 6.5 .442 6.4 .824 3.7 0.6 0.3 2.1 19.7
Career Michigan 75 11.2 .467 6.3 .441 4.7 .832 2.8 0.7 0.3 1.8 17.2
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CBB: View Original Table
Generated 10/10/2015.
Season Age Tm Lg G FGA FG% 3PA 3P% FTA FT% AST STL BLK TOV PTS
2014-15 21 SAC NBA 73 9.5 .365 4.8 .322 2.0 .859 2.1 0.6 0.5 1.3 10.2
Career NBA 73 9.5 .365 4.8 .322 2.0 .859 2.1 0.6 0.5 1.3 10.2
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/10/2015.

Are these two lines even from the same player? A sharpshooter with the ability to pull up off the dribble, he looked like a cross between pre-2015 Klay Thompson and pre-2014 Stephen Curry coming out of Michigan. It feels like he's a forgotten NBA player at this point with minimal talk of how he fits with the Sixers and their 2009 Magic-esque offense scheme built around Okafor.

Am I less confident about his ability to become an All-Star type player now? Definitely. Do I still think he can be a very, very good starter in this league? I absolutely do.

His style works perfectly with Brown's all-threes-and-layups shot selection and with Okafor zinging passes out of the post to open shooters running around the arc. I want to be dousing myself in Sauce Castillo hot sauce when he drops 25 against the Kings on December 30. Stauskas is a fun offensive player, something the team has woefully lacked over the last two seasons.

Until Stauskas suits up for the team, Sixers fans are left dreaming of what it could mean for the franchise if the Wolverine version of Sauce Castillo is back for good: