From the moment Nik Stauskas was drafted by the Sacramento Kings, rumors surrounded the future of Ben McLemore. It’s not very often you see a team use a top ten pick on players in the same position two years in a row, but that’s exactly what the Kings did.
Sacramento insists it believes the two of them can contribute, and even play together in the NBA.
As a result, Kings fans were eagerly awaiting the opportunity to see Stauskas and McLemore in action together. It’s always hard to know what to take from Summer League, but if the last ten days are anything to go by, Sacramento fans should be quietly optimistic.
After losing their opening game in Las Vegas against the Spurs, the Kings proceeded to go on a six-game winning streak, which was enough to make them Summer League champions. Although it’s a nice achievement for the squad, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as with the likes of Derrick Williams, Quincy Acy, Ray McCallum and MarShon Brooks involved, they weren’t short of NBA experience.
So, how did Stauskas and McLemore contribute to the team’s success? Well, neither player was particularly spectacular, but they adjusted to what the team needed them to do, and certainly didn’t get in the way of the team winning.
Taller by one inch, it was Nik Stauskas who took the plunge and moved to small forward, while McLemore stayed in his more natural position of shooting guard. It might have worked for the Kings here in Las Vegas, but it’s hard to see an NBA lineup that would let them away with that though.
Sure, with both Stauskas and McLemore on the court the Kings would have a dynamic offensive flow, with a mixture of sharp-shooting and athleticism, but it’s on the defensive end where the problems begin. Stauskas is a poor defender, and isn’t physically big or strong enough to cope with guarding the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Paul George.
This means that despite the Kings insistence that the two can fit together, it won’t be at the two and three spot anyway. That leaves the option of Sacramento playing with size in the backcourt. There’s been no evidence to convince anyone that Stauskas and McLemore are good enough ball handlers to run plays for significant chunks of time at the NBA level. Plus, with Darren Collison and Ray McCallum on the roster, you’d have to feel the Kings have better options at point guard.
This leads into a question of, how do they fit then? Or even, who’s the better player? Both of those questions are tough to answer, and my feeling would be that the Kings will hope to learn the answers to them on the fly as the season progresses. McLemore has a lot of talent, and on paper he probably has more going for his game. Yet he’s already had one year in the league, and struggled to make the impact that many expected.
Coming into the draft, many experts were quick to emphasize that there was more to Stauskas than his shooting. Yet even if that isn’t the case, there’s not a lot wrong with being an elite shooter. Stauskas shot 47.8 percent from deep in Summer League, showing no signs of struggling with the adjustment to the professional three-point line. If those numbers are anywhere near replicated in the NBA, Stauskas will be a valuable weapon.
The Kings off-season has puzzled most observers, and they need to think really hard about their next move. It might be too soon to make any final judgements on McLemore, but unless the front office feels certain that he’s going to pan out, it could be wise to move him while he can still yield a respectable return. If the Kings are as enamored with Stauskas as they’ve led everyone to believe, there shouldn’t be much hesitation either.
On the other hand, if they stick with the two of them, and wait it out to give them every chance of success as a duo, expect a really long and tough season ahead for the Sacramento Kings.