Realistic Expectations for Nik Stauskas’ Rookie Season with the Sacramento Kings

The Sacramento Kings selected shooting guard Nik Stauskas with the No. 8 pick in the 2014 draft. Now they need to find the best way to utilize him in what figures to be a crowded backcourt. 

Of course, the team selected another shooting guard the year before in Ben McLemore. McLemore‘s presence alone made the position an intriguing one to watch. It’ll be interesting to see whether the two youngsters can develop with what’s likely to be some sort of timeshare. 

Veteran guard Ramon Sessions was also signed by the Kings this offseason. While Sessions has been primarily a point guard during his seven-year career, he’s also logged time at the 2. His presence could also have an effect on the way Stauskas‘ rookie season shakes out. 

With all things considered, what type of role is Stauskas looking at as a rookie, and in light of playing time, what type of production can the Kings expect from him? 

Those are the two questions we’ll examine. 

 

Stauskas‘ Skill Set

Before we look at the other players on the roster, let’s look at what Stauskas brings to the table. After all, his ability will be a major determining factor in how much he plays and how productive he can be. Regardless of who’s in front of him, the Kings will find time for the rookie if he’s effective. Likewise, his playing time will wane if he doesn’t maximize his opportunities.

In way of his skill set, one thing is clear of Stauskas: He can shoot the ball. No wonder he’s a shooting guard.

The 20-year-old knocked down 44.1 percent of his three-pointers during his two years at Michigan. It wasn’t like he did it in a small sample size either. 

Stauskas played 75 games at Michigan and launched 390 three-point attempts. That averages out to more than five three-point attempts per game. 

What’s interesting about Stauskas, however, is his effectiveness from all areas of the three-point arc. Unlike some players who stick to only one or two areas for their production, Stauskas is lethal from nearly everywhere. 

Just take a look at his college shot chart, via ShotAnalytics.com. 

As you can see, there’s red bordering the whole arc, with the exception of straight away. The shot chart also indicates Stauskas utilized each of the areas with frequency. 

While his shooting touch is a nice attribute, there’s more to it than that. For one, Stauskas isn’t simply a spot-up shooter. He can knock down shots off the dribble as well. Here’s what Draft Express’ Matt Kamalsky wrote about the guard’s shooting versatility and how he stacked up against other guards in his draft class:

“Scoring a sample leading 1.156 points per-jump shot, Stauskas was tremendously consistent both off the catch (49% FG%) and off the dribble (38% FG%) as a sophomore.”

In addition to his shooting prowess, Stauskas was effective as a ball-handler in Michigan’s offense, specifically in pick-and-roll situations. Once again, here’s Kamalsky with the breakdown:

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Stauskas‘s profile is that he led this group of players with 29.5% of his possessions coming as the ball handler on the pick and roll. Averaging 4.6 pick and roll possessions per-game, up from just 1.5 per-game a year ago, the Canadian shooting guard picked up much of the slack left behind by Jazz point guardTrey Burkein Michigan’s half-court offense while continuing to shoot the ball in spot-up and off screen situations at an All-American level.

That ability means Stauskas can help the team in more ways than one. It should also help him carve out playing time in an increasingly crowded backcourt. 

 

The Competition

There are a couple players likely to impede Stauskas‘ playing time, chiefly McLemore. After being drafted highly a year ago, he was the Kings’ starting 2-guard for much of last season. That experience is what will likely give him the upper hand as the season opens. 

McLemore‘s rookie season was underwhelming in a lot of ways. Most notably his production on offense was lacking. 

The shooting guard only averaged 8.8 points per game and 11.9 points per 36 minutes. He also only knocked down 37.6 percent of his field-goal attempts and 32 percent of his three-pointers. 

However, he did pick it up a bit down the stretch. Over his last 21 games, McLemore averaged 12.4 points on 40.7 percent shooting from the field and 32.7 percent from downtown. He also chipped in 3.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists over that time frame. 

Perhaps no game was as encouraging as his last of the season, though. In it, he scored a career-high 31 points on 9-of-20 shooting. But what stood out most were his 15 free-throw attempts. In order to be effective, McLemore needs to attack and get to the line. 

As pretty as his jump shot may look, it wasn’t very effective, as McLemore only made 31.5 percent of his jumpers as a rookie. But as Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro told Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling, he likes McLemore‘s progress and thinks he can shoot the ball much better than he showed:

We’re really happy with Ben. We’re seeing continued progress with him. You can see when guys get to their second year, the level of comfort becomes a lot greater. Nik eventually will experience the same thing. But Ben is very different from Nik. Ben is an incredible athlete, and he can shoot the ball very well but struggled last year.

That comfort level may be what pushes McLemore over the top as the season tips off. However, if, as D’Alessandro suggests, Stauskas begins to experience the same thing, it should open up more playing time for him. 

Yet Stauskas also has to compete with Ramon Sessions. 

For the first five years of his career, Sessions was primarily a point guard. That’s changed over the last two seasons, however.

In 2012-13, Sessions played 46 percent of his minutes at the 1 and 54 percent at the 2. Last season, he logged 52 percent of his time at the point and 48 percent at shooting guard. You can expect a similar breakdown with the Kings.

Sessions will get a lot of minutes due to his ability to handle the ball. That’ll allow him to share the court with both point guards and shooting guards.

It’ll also allow the Kings to employ a position-less approach, which they’d like to implement.

What sets Sessions apart is his ability to create for himself and for others. It’s a unique skill set that makes him a true combo guard.

As a scorer, Sessions has averaged 16.4 points per 36 minutes. But it’s how he gets those points that’s noteworthy. 

Take last season as an example. More of Sessions’ field-goal attempts came at the rim (462 of 769) than in any other zone. Yet only 42.2 percent of those were assisted. The rest were opportunities he created for himself. 

That also explains his 6.6 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes.

Yet he can also create for others.

Throughout his career he’s averaged 6.5 assists per 36 minutes and 4.7 per game. That includes last year, where he saw those numbers dip to 5.5 and 4.1, respectively.

That versatility will ensure Sessions gets plenty of playing time. But it will also make it so he can be paired with either Stauskas, McLemore or Darren Collison

In other words, Stauskas won’t be competing for minutes with Sessions as much as he will with McLemore.

 

Stauskas‘ Role and Expectations

There isn’t much to go off in forecasting Stauskas‘ role with the team. About the only thing we do have are summer league stats. They’re somewhat helpful since both the rookie and McLemore were on the team together. 

In the Las Vegas Summer League, McLemore averaged 29.1 minutes per contest, while Stauskas played 28.9 minutes a night. Those two figures were tops on the team. 

What you can glean from that is the Kings tried to give McLemore and Stauskas equal playing time.

However, those figures are problematic for a couple reasons. First, it’s summer league. While the Kings wanted to perform well—and they did, winning the summer league title—they were also focused on development. 

Secondly, both Stauskas and McLemore were starters on that team. That won’t be the case in the regular season. 

But just because they both won’t start, it doesn’t mean they won’t share the court together at times. D’Alessandro indicated as much when the Kings drafted Stauskas

It’s worth mentioning that was prior to the addition of Sessions. That’ll likely cut into their shared court time, but it’s something we’ll see, especially if the Kings pursue their position-less approach. 

Of course, the other component is how Stauskas will fare when he’s on the court. That’s a bit harder to forecast, but we have a few indications. 

For one, we know he has the ability to knock down shots, both off the dribble and in spot-up opportunities. That should provide some scoring for the shooting guard. 

Furthermore, it’s a skill the Kings are lacking, considering they only made 33 percent of their three-pointers in 2014-15. That’ll provide more opportunities than he might otherwise get. 

We also know he’s a decent ball-handler and distributor for a shooting guard. He showed as much running the pick-and-roll at Michigan last year and during the summer league, when he averaged 2.0 assists per night. 

With Sessions and Collison on the team, that won’t be Stauskas‘ primary role, but it’s one he’ll fulfill in spurts. 

So what does all this mean for Stauskas‘ expectations as a rookie?

It means you can expect ample playing time, some scoring and more efficiency than we saw from McLemore a year ago. 

It won’t be a Rookie of the Year-caliber season for Stauskas—he won’t have the same liberty that other rookies like Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker may get—but it’ll be a good foundation for what’s looking like a promising career. 

 

Unless noted otherwise, all stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.

What are your expectations for Nik Stauskas? Let me know on Twitter @SimRisso

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Sacramento Kings sign guard Ramon Sessions

Sacramento Kings sign free agent guard Ramon Sessions

      
 

 

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Sacramento Kings sign guard Ramon Sessions (Yahoo Sports)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Sacramento Kings have signed guard Ramon Sessions.

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Sacramento Kings Find Free-Agent Steal with Ramon Sessions Signing

The Sacramento Kings opted to work out a sign-and-trade that sent former point guard Isaiah Thomas to the Phoenix Suns rather than pay him the four-year, $27 million contract he ultimately commanded.

And while the addition of Darren Collison goes a ways toward offsetting that loss, the organization remained in need of backcourt depth—particularly after agreeing to trade 15-year veteran Jason Terry to the Houston Rockets.

With the 2014-15 season suddenly around the corner, Sacramento has taken action.

Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports that, “Free-agent guard Ramon Sessions has reached agreement on a two-year, $4.2 million deal with the Sacramento Kings, league sources told Yahoo Sports.”

The deal—which, as Wojnarowski notes, uses the biannual exception—is a low-risk venture for the franchise.

Sessions remains a capable rotation player and has proven throughout his seven-year career that he can start in a pinch. The 28-year-old averaged 12.3 points and 4.1 assists after splitting time between the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) and Milwaukee Bucks.

After playing his first 55 games (and the 2012-13 season) in Charlotte, Sessions’ playing time swelled to 32.5 minutes per contest in 28 games with Milwaukee, yielding a corresponding spike in production and efficiency.

Given the right opportunities, the Nevada product has certainly had his moments.

The Kings reportedly view Sessions as a combo-guard.

USA Today‘s Sam Amick notes that he, “will be used at both the point guard and shooting guard positions,” a testament both to Sessions’ versatility and the extent to which Sacramento may view him as an integral part of the rotation. 

NBCSports.com’s Brett Pollakoff went so far as to suggest that, “It could easily be argued that Sessions is the best point guard on the roster, and deserving of a spot in the team’s starting lineup.”

Though Collison—who’s scheduled to make $16 million over the next three seasons—figures to have a better shot at that starting job, the point remains that Sessions probably won’t have to beg for playing time. The last two summers’ lottery picks—Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas—should see plenty of minutes at shooting guard, but Sessions’ experience makes him an attractive option at both backcourt positions.

Reserve point guard Ray McCallum—taken with the 36th overall pick in 2013—is entering just his second season.

As The Sacramento Bee‘s Jason Jones notes, “The Kings were looking for a veteran ball-handler to go with Collison, because McCallum is still a young player, and the only other option to run the offense might have been rookie Stauskas.”

So there’s a very real need for someone of Sessions’ pedigree.

To be sure, Sessions won’t radically alter Sacramento’s fate. This is still a team coming off of a 28-win season. It’s still a team that gave up 103.4 points per contest last season, ranking 23rd in defensive efficiency according to Hollinger’s NBA Team Statistics.

The 6’3″ Sessions affords head coach Mike Malone some valuable size (and skill) at the point guard spot, but he certainly won’t reverse the club’s fortunes single-handedly.

If we’re being honest, there’s a reason he was still available this late in the offseason despite being in the prime of his career. While the Houston Rockets were reportedly interested in acquiring him from Milwaukee via sign-and-trade, the market for Sessions’ services has been anything but robust.

He’s not a top-shelf defender, and his inability to stick with a franchise for any extended period of time has to make you wonder. 

A career that’s spanned five different teams and a variety of roles on and off the bench has yet to translate into a long-term home. That once seemed bound to change when Sessions was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012.

After 23 regular-season games and mixed postseason results, however, the two sides parted ways when Sessions opted to pursue a more stable situation elsewhere.

“It was one of those situations I looked at like, ‘If I do come back what if they trade me?’” Sessions told Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears after signing with Charlotte. “There were talks about getting Deron [Williams]. They always wanted the bigger-named guy. What if I get traded to a team and it’s my contract year?”

Ultimately, Charlotte wasn’t the answer, and Sessions was traded in February along with Jeff Adrien to Milwaukee in exchange for Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour.

Sessions has come a long way. He was drafted with the 56th overall pick in 2007 and spent time in the NBA Development League with the Tulsa 66ers during the 2007-08 season. 

Just remaining in the league is an accomplishment in its own right. Nothing has come easily for Sessions.

But as early as 2008, he dropped 24 assists in a game with the Bucks. In 2009, he scored a career-high 44 points in an overtime loss against the Detroit Pistons. Later that season, he posted his first triple-double (which included 16 assists) against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Those are signs of undeniable talent, and finding the right team fit may very well pave the way for similar results.

Is Sacramento that fit?

Possibly.

Malone has cultivated some much-needed stability and toughness, perhaps laying a foundation for the kind of defensive transformation that might finally elevate this team into the playoff picture for the first time since 2006.

Center DeMarcus Cousins has matured before our eyes and will be coming off of a successful tour with Team USA at the FIBA World Cup in Spain. Kings teammate Rudy Gay joined him in Spain and will look to build upon last season’s solid debut during his first full season in Sacramento.

And promising youth abounds. Beyond McLemore, Stauskas and McCallum, 23-year-old forward Derrick Williams is still looking to vindicate his selection as the No. 2 overall pick in 2011 (by the Minnesota Timberwolves).

Again, if we’re being honest, things could go either way for the Kings.

This could be the season they turn the corner, perhaps doing their best impersonation of last season’s surprising Phoenix Suns. But it could also be just another step in what’s become a protracted rebuilding process.

Either way, Sessions should have every opportunity to prove he belongs.

While he may not be an overnight sensation in Sacramento, there’s little doubt he’s the kind of bargain that could make a front office look good. 

And as an affordable last-minute addition, he certainly won’t make this front office look bad. 

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Sacramento Kings sign Casspi, Hollins

Sacramento Kings sign Omri Casspi, Ryan Hollins

      
 

 

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Sacramento Kings sign Casspi, Hollins (Yahoo Sports)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Sacramento Kings have signed forward Omri Casspi and center Ryan Hollins.

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Sacramento Kings to retire Stojakovic’s jersey (Yahoo Sports)

MIAMI - JANUARY 22: Peja Stojakovic #16 of the Sacramento Kings grabs a rebound against the Miami Heat on January 22, 2006 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Sacramento Kings are planning to retire Peja Stojakovic’s No. 16 jersey.


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Early Predictions for Sacramento Kings’ Starting Lineup Next Season

As things currently stand with the Sacramento Kings, much is still up in the air with the team’s starting lineup. 

We know DeMarcus Cousins will be the starting center. Darren Collison is the only real option to be the starting point guard to open the season. It’s also clear Rudy Gay will be a starter, but where he plays is still up in the air. 

The good thing is Sacramento has some depth on the team and a few players with the versatility to play multiple positions. That’ll give head coach Michael Malone the flexibility to tinker with things during training camp and preseason until he finds what fits best. 

The downside, at least for our purposes, is that it makes predicting the starting lineup a difficult task. Still, using the knowledge at hand and some educated guessing, here’s an early prediction for the Sacramento Kings’ starting lineup next season.

 

The Prediction

Point guard: Darren Collison

Shooting guard: Ben McLemore

Small forward: Rudy Gay

Power Forward: Reggie Evans

Center: DeMarcus Cousins

 

The Reasoning

Point Guard

There are only two realistic options to start at point guard for the Kings: Collison and Ray McCallum. In actuality, though, Collison is the only one who has a shot to start the season as the starter. 

The Kings didn’t sign him to a three-year deal and let Isaiah Thomas walk only to have the point guard come off the bench. Plus, Sacramento pretty much told Collison he’d be the starter when it signed him back in July.

Not to mention Collison is the more experienced player at this stage of the game. 

McCallum showed some nice things as a rookie—especially at the end of the season, when he averaged 13.5 points and 6.8 assists over the final 12 games—and during summer league, but he needs more experience before he can be counted on as a long-term starter at point guard. 

Other than those two, there’s nobody else on the team who could fill in on an extended basis. Shooting guard Nik Stauskas can play some point guard, but it will only be for short stretches of time. Ben McLemore isn’t suited to be a point guard, either.

That leaves only Collison and McCallum, and we already know who’s going to start between the two. 

 

Shooting Guard

As with point guard, the two options are pretty clear. There’s the second-year player in McLemore and the rookie, Stauskas. Unlike point guard, however, this position could go either way as far as the starer is concerned. 

At the current time, all we have to go on in comparing the two is summer league stats, as both players were on Sacramento’s Las Vegas Summer League team. 

Interestingly enough, both McLemore and Stauskas played more minutes than any other players on the team, and they were both pretty close in playing time and production. 

Stauskas played 28.9 minutes and averaged 9.9 points, 2.0 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.9 turnovers. He also shot 43.4 percent from the field and 47.8 percent from downtown. 

McLemore, on the other hand, averaged 29.1 minutes and scored 12.6 points, grabbed 4.1 rebounds, dished out 1.3 assists and committed 3.9 turnovers per contest. The second-year player also shot 44.8 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from three-point range.

As you can see, each player had his strengths. Stauskas was the better shooter and distributor while McLemore was the better scorer and rebounder. However, the reason McLemore gets the nod is because of his experience.

It showed after the first couple games of summer league, when the shooting guard started to slow things down and let the game come to him.

“He stopped trying to do too much, too quickly,” Malone said, per Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. “He slowed down, attacked, shot the ball, he was under control and he played terrific. I was really proud and happy because he’s worked so hard this summer.”

The head coach was only speaking of one game, but those traits held up throughout the summer league. After only making 33 percent of his shots in the first two games, McLemore was much more efficient throughout, leading to the nearly 45 percent field-goal percentage.

Ultimately, though, the reason McLemore gets the nod is because of his NBA experience. He’s got a full season under his belt and was the starter for the second half of last year. 

There will be plenty of opportunites for Stauskas from the get-go. If either McLemore falters or Stauskas plays better than expected, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the rookie supplant him in the starting lineup.

 

Small Forward

Rudy Gay is penciled in as the starting small forward mainly out of necessity. You may wonder why it’s a necessity since Gay is one of the team’s best players and logged 78 percent of his minutes at the 3 last year. 

The reason is a lack of depth at the position. Omri Casspi, who has yet to sign but is reportedly still in the plans, is probably the best option other than Gay. 

Granted, Derrick Williams can play some small forward, but he only made 28.6 percent of his shots from 17 feet or further from the basket. 

With Cousins manning the post, the Kings need someone who can stretch the floor with his shooting, and Williams’ jump shot won’t do the trick. 

There is another option, which we’ll get to momentarily, of where Gay could play. Yet the most important thing is getting their best players on the floor to start the game, and having a frontcourt of Gay and Reggie Evans is better than having one of Gay and Casspi

Plus, Casspi‘s three-point shooting (career 35.2 percent) would be a nice addition to stretch the floor with the second unit—especially with players like Carl Landry, Jason Thompson and Williams on the floor, who do most of their work near the hoop. 

 

Power Forward

Between Evans, Thompson, Landry and Williams, the Kings have four options to start at power forward. 

Despite four possibilities, the Kings really only have one. What’s meant by that is they all play similar close-to-the-basket games. With that being the case, Sacramento should go with the one who does it best. 

While Evans isn’t much of a scorer, perhaps he’s the Kings’ best rebounder. The power forward averaged a team-high 13.3 rebounds per 36 minutes last year. Of those options, Thompson is next with 9.5, followed by Landry (8.8) and Williams (6.4).

Another option, which was alluded to previously, was the idea of playing Gay at power forward. It’s something he’s done with Team USA at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, and it would help spread the floor more than having any of the other players in there.

But starting Gay at power forward would require either Casspi or Williams starting at the 3. Since there are more viable alternatives at power forward, the Kings would be better off with Gay playing on the wing. 

 

Center

This is the one position that’s undoubtedly set in stone. Barring some sort of injury, Cousins will be the Kings’ starting center in 2014-15. Hell, DMC will be the team’s starting center for the three years following that, too. 

Simply put, there aren’t many centers better than Cousins in the league. He was first in scoring, second in free-throw attempts per game, fourth in rebounds, third in assists, first in steals and second in double-doubles. 

If there’s maybe one or two centers better than Cousins in the league, none of them play for the Kings. That makes him a no-brainer as the starter. 

As things currently stand, the most likely backup is Thompson. Nearly one-third of his minutes came at center last year, and that was with Aaron Gray also on the roster. With Gray now gone, that only leaves Thompson as the backup.

Of course, JT will also get playing time at power forward as well. But given so many options at that position, playing center will allow him a way to get on the court. 

There’s a chance my long lost—and much bigger—brother, Sim Bhullar, could make the team and get some time at the 5.

However, despite his immense size (7’5″), Sim went undrafted (I get to speak in the third person), so it’s hard to imagine him making the roster out of training camp. He seems more like a project player. 

If the Kings are going to take on a project, it might as well be someone like Bhullar, who could be a handful if he ever figures it out. 

 

Final Thoughts

This is just one prediction. The Kings could go in any number of directions. And with training camp and preseason still left to play out, there’s plenty of time for one or more players to distinguish themselves. 

In a way, that’s a nice position to be in. It means there are a few players who are capable of contributing. Yet it also means there aren’t many players, with the exception of Cousins and Gay, who truly stand out. So while Malone has flexibility on the roster, the coach may prefer less options if it meant more players were head and shoulders above their teammates. 

 

Unless noted otherwise, all stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.

Who do you think should be in Sacramento’s starting lineup? Let me know on Twitter @SimRisso

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Ranking the 10 Best Sacramento Kings Point Guards of All Time

The Sacramento Kings have a rich tradition of top-class point guards comprised of deadly scorers, ball-handling magicians and pinpoint passers. Some will likely be remembered only by true Kings fans, while others will dominate the record books for decades.

The ranking system includes players who represented the Kings at any time during franchise history, including when the team was known as the Rochester Royals, Cincinnati Royals or Kansas City Kings.

Players were evaluated by what they did while members of the Kings organization, not the accomplishments they had with teams around the league. They also had to play point for most of their tenure with the Kings, so hybrid guards like Tyreke Evans weren’t considered.

Those who stuck around for longer were rewarded, even if their long-term stats fell a little short of others’ spurts of brilliance.

Begin Slideshow

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Sacramento Kings: Rajon Rondo Still A Possibility?

What’s Happening With Rondo And Boston? I’ve lost track of just when all these Rajon Rondo rumors began, but it was quite a while ago now. The Boston Celtics seem to have looked into the possibility of moving Rajon Rondo for the best part of a year now, but still he remains in Beantown. One […]
Sacramento Kings: Rajon Rondo Still A Possibility? – Hoops Habit – Hoops Habit – Analysis, Opinion and Stats All About The NBA

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