Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Michigan sophomore and Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas has impressed NBA scouts this season, and he is widely regarded as a first-round pick who may go just beyond the lottery should he opt to come out.
Chad Ford has Stauskas at No. 15 to the Boston Celtics on his Big Board, while Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com has Stauskas at No. 20 to the Toronto Raptors.
Along with fellow Canadians Andrew Wiggins of Kansas and Tyler Ennis of Syracuse, Canada could have three of the top 15 or 20 picks come June.
A strong candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year honors, Stauskas is averaging 17.3 points, 3.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds for the Big Ten regular-season champion Wolverines. He’s shooting 49 percent from the field and 46 percent from beyond the arc.
“Stauskas is one of the top five shooters in college basketball,” one veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv. “A player who can score in a variety of ways whether it be catch-and-shoot, coming off a screen, mid-range game as well as a game off of the dribble. He has demonstrated the ability to handle the ball and make plays either for himself or his teammates.
“He can play out of pick-and-roll action as the ball-hanlder. He is a surprising athlete who can finish at the rim. Opponents now game-plan for him and develop schemes in order to take the ball out of his hands and have the other four players on the floor beat them. He is a talented offensive player who can hurt with or without the ball in his hands. He needs to get stronger an develop a more consistent effort at the the defensive end of the floor every night.”
You don’t have to tell Illinois coach John Groce about Stauskas.
The sophomore went off for 24 points on 7-of-9 three-point shooting on Tuesday when No. 12 Michigan overwhelmed Illinois, 84-53.
“I think what makes him unique is obviously his size,” Groce told SNY.tv. “I mean, he’s a legit 6-6. I think people labeled him early as a shooter. Watching him grow and develop now, he’s as much of a scorer now as he is a shooter. He’s got great versatility. And in addition to his ability to score and shoot, he leads them assists. I mean, he can pass. His skillset’s very well-rounded when you add the fact that he’s got great size and he’s extremely intelligent.
“You watch him and almost everything he does has purpose. He’s not just running around out there playing hard. He has great feel…He’s just a player. I do think he handles it, passes it and shoots it at a high level. And he’s got great size at 6-6. And he’s got a brain to go with it. And he really plays with great purpose.”
Depending on who comes out, it’s possible Stauskas’ stock could rise still further.
“He could rise depending on the rest of the year and who else comes out,” the NBA scout said.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.