SACRAMENTO (AP) — When Nik Stauskas upgraded his game to add playmaking skills to his elite outside shooting, he vaulted himself into the NBA lottery.
But it’s still that unlimited range that made him so valuable to the Sacramento Kings.
The Kings looked to fill their shooting void by taking perhaps the best marksman available in the draft when they selected Stauskas with the eighth overall pick Thursday night.
“As much as I’ve expanded my game over the past couple of years, shooting is definitely the thing I do best,” he said. “I take pride in that. I feel like when I get my feet set and I get a good look at the basket, there are not many people in the league who can knock down shots like I can. I’m looking forward to bringing that skill-set to Sacramento.”
It’s much needed on a team that made the third-fewest 3-pointers in the league last season with 491 and had the fourth worst accuracy from long-range at 33.3 percent.
This marks the second straight season the Kings used a top 10 pick on a shooting guard. But Stauskas is a much more accomplished shooter than last year’s seventh pick Ben McLemore, who shot 38 percent from the field and 32 percent from long range as a rookie, and also showed last year that he has the ability to run an offense as well.
“I think I can play multiple positions,” he said. “I think I can play a little bit of one and also the two. I know this team has kind of struggled shooting the ball. Obviously, that’s probably the best part of my game to this point. Knocking down shots and spreading the floor is something I’m excited to do for this team.”
The 6-foot-6 Stauskas became one of the nation’s most well-rounded offensive players, averaging 17.5 points last season on the way to winning Big Ten player of the year honors.
Stauskas shot 44 percent from 3-point range in two years in college and improved his ball handling and defense considerably in his second season when he took over a big share of the playmaking role with the departure of star point guard Trey Burke to the NBA.
Stauskas excelled as a shooter and passer in pick-and-roll situations that are so prevalent in the NBA.
“That’s the reason why teams have been intrigued with me in the draft is because I made those improvements,” he said. “I feel like I’m a smart basketball player. I have a high IQ for the game and I like making the right plays.”
Stauskas grew up in Mississauga, Ontario, and followed top pick Andrew Wiggins as the second Canadian taken in the draft. A third Canadian, Tyler Ennis, was taken 18th by Phoenix.
The Kings are coming off their eighth straight losing season but are looking for improvement in the second season under owner Vivek Ranadive, general manager Pete D’Alessandro and coach Mike Malone.
There was little progress in the first year under the new leadership as Sacramento went 28-54 for a second straight season as Malone was not able to turn the Kings into the defensive-minded team as he had hoped.
Sacramento is looking to build around a core led by temperamental power forward DeMarcus Cousins, small forward Rudy Gay and point guard Isaiah Thomas. Cousins signed a four-year, $62 million contract extension before last season, Gay exercised his $19.2 million option earlier this week and Thomas is expected to stay despite being a restricted free agent.
The Kings have struggled in recent years to add to the core as first-round picks Jimmer Fredette (2011) and Thomas Robinson (2012) are no longer on the team and McLemore struggled as a rookie.