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2015-16 Sixers player evaluation: Nik Stauskas

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2015-16 Sixers player evaluation: Nik Stauskas

Over the next few weeks, we'll evaluate the Sixers' roster after the 10-72 season.

Up next: Nik Stauskas

Position: Guard

Status: Under contract 2016-17 for $2.99 million

Signature game
Depends on your perspective. If you tend toward the negative, then you’d probably pick one of the early-season efforts where Stauskas hoisted double-digit three-point attempts while only making a few and generally looking lost. If you’re more positive, the mid-March effort against Oklahoma City was a good personal outing for Stauskas even though the Sixers got smacked by the Thunder. Stauskas scored a career-high 23 points that evening, going 9 of 15 from the field and making five out of seven three pointers. He also added four rebounds, three assists and three steals, which is the kind of non-shooting production that was often absent this season.

Stauskas in 2015-16
Tough start. Stauskas was cold to begin the year. He shot 27 percent from distance in November (on 5.9 attempts per game) and 29.2 percent in December (on 3.2 attempts per game). As a result, Brown had him on the bench more than on the court; Stauskas played only 20 minutes per game in December. It got better for a moment midway through the season. Stauskas made 40.9 percent from three in January and 44.4 percent in February. Then the bottom dropped out again. He shot 32.1 percent from deep in March and 25 percent in April. Like a lot of shooters, Stauskas was streaky.

There was an expectation – or maybe just hope – that Stauskas would leave a grim situation in Sacramento (where he played only 15.4 minutes per game his rookie year) and make the most of an opportunity in Philadelphia. His minutes increased with the Sixers to 24.8 per game, but he didn’t contribute much. He averaged 8.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists. He was frequently non-existent on defense. And while his 9.2 PER was better than his awful 7.5 rookie season, it was still ugly and telling. When he wasn’t making threes, Stauskas was more of a hindrance than a help – and that was true sometimes even when he was making threes.

Prospectus
Before the palace coup, then president and general manager Sam Hinkie pulled off a trade that was almost universally regarded as something between an artful steal for the Sixers and an outright victimization of the Kings. Stauskas was shipped to Philadelphia in a deal that also netted Carl Landry and Jason Thompson, but the players were almost incidental to the deal. In exchange for absorbing nearly $16 million in salary, the Sixers got a first-round pick from the Kings (which won’t convey until 2018, at the earliest) and the rights to swap first rounders with Sacramento in this draft and the next. That is a massive haul all by itself, and all it cost them was some cash they had to spend anyway.

Stauskas, a former lottery pick, was a bonus. If he worked out and developed into a viable player, great. If not, if he bombed the audition, they could toss him aside like so many other players and move on to the next casting call. Maybe his first screen test with the Sixers wasn’t a total failure, but it wasn’t anything remotely resembling a success, either. If your main contribution is outside shooting, if it’s something approaching your only contribution, you’d better be pretty good at it. Each year, NBA players and teams take more three-pointers than ever. Everyone shoots them. Being average at it means you’d better do something else at an above-average level, otherwise you’re wholly replaceable. At present, there isn’t anything that makes Stauskas stand out, including and especially his shooting.

On Nik Stauskas
“This whole league is about two-way players. You can roll out the prettiest shooters you want, but if they can’t guard there is no place for them in big games.” (see story) - Brett Brown

“When people think of my game they think of me as a shooter and someone who needs to get open threes. I don’t necessarily need to get open threes to get myself involved in the game. I can get in the paint, I can make plays for the other guys on the team, I can tough it out on defense, I can rebound and all of those things can help us win games. It doesn’t have to be just shooting threes.” – Stauskas, who was ostensibly serious (see story).

Cavs stuck in 'Strugglesville' but still manage to survive

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Cavs stuck in 'Strugglesville' but still manage to survive

CLEVELAND -- There was none of the usual postgame chatter or music in the Cavaliers locker room.

The mood was somber and quiet, not the same place.

"Right now we're in Strugglesville," LeBron James said. "But it felt like a win. We needed it. Definitely."

Isaiah Thomas made two free throws with 11 seconds left and Cleveland came up with a defensive stop in the frantic final seconds after blowing a 23-point lead to beat the Orlando Magic 104-103 on Thursday night and snap a four-game losing streak.

After Thomas made his shots, Orlando's Elfrid Payton missed a contested layup with three seconds left. The three officials ruled there was an inadvertent whistle and held a jump ball at midcourt.

Magic forward Aaron Gordon grabbed the toss and sank a 45-footer as the horn sounded and Cleveland's crowd shrieked in disbelief. But Gordon committed a jump-ball violation with the move and Cleveland only had to inbound the ball to come away with a victory following a crazy and exhausting final sequence that left everyone dazed.

"No, I don't," said Thomas when asked if he knew what happened. "It was a lot of back and forth. I'm just glad we just came out with the win" (see full recap).

Rockets cruise past Timberwolves in Harden’s return
HOUSTON -- Eric Gordon scored 30 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 116-98 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night.

James Harden returned to the Rockets' lineup after missing seven games with a left hamstring strain and finished with 10 points on 3-for-15 shooting, and added seven assists, two steals and two blocks in 26 minutes. Houston went 4-3 in his absence.

Chris Paul had 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds, and Clint Capela added 20 points for the Rockets. Houston has won 15 of the past 17 meetings with Minnesota, including a 10-game winning streak at home.

Gordon closed out a big third quarter by hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer off the glass from a step behind the half-court line. After hitting the shot under heavy pressure from Andrew Wiggins, Gordon gave a high-five to Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who was sitting courtside near the shot.

Gordon's 3-pointer helped the Rockets finish the third quarter on a 16-4 run to take an 89-70 lead into the fourth with their largest advantage of the game. Gordon made 11 of 19 shots, including 7 of 13 from 3, and fell just short of his season-high 33 points against Utah on Dec. 18.

With Rockets small forward Trevor Ariza sitting out the first part of a two-game suspension for a postgame locker room incident on Monday night in Los Angeles, Luc Mbah a Moute started in Ariza's place, scoring 14 points in 32 minutes.

Along with Ariza, reserve guard Gerald Green was also serving the first of a two-game suspension for the altercation with the Clippers (see full recap).

Blazers top Pacers for 5th straight home win
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Damian Lillard scored 26 points and eight assists, Jusuf Nurkic had 19 points and a season-high 17 rebounds, and the Portland Trail Blazers won their fifth consecutive home game, beating the Indiana Pacers 100-86 on Thursday night.

C.J. McCollum added 16 points and Shabazz Napier 13 for Portland, which seems to have its homecourt mojo back, winning five straight after dropping six consecutive home games in early December. The Blazers also beat Indiana for the ninth consecutive time on their home floor.

Victor Oladipo and Darren Collison scored 23 points each for Indiana.

Portland took control late in the third quarter, when the Blazers held Indiana scoreless for more than five minutes. It was part of Portland's 21-2 run, during which Napier scored eight points to help erase a six-point deficit and give the Blazers an 89-76 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Indiana was without forward Myles Turner, the team's second-leading scorer this season. Turner has missed five consecutive games with a right elbow injury (see full recap).

Sixers suddenly beating once unbeatable teams

Sixers suddenly beating once unbeatable teams

BOX SCORE

BOSTON — What a difference two games make.

The Sixers entered this week 0-8 against the top three Eastern Conference teams: the Celtics, Cavaliers and Raptors. By Thursday night, they had picked up two straight wins over them.

The Sixers followed up Monday’s victory over the Raptors with an 89-80 win over the Celtics (see observations)

“I think we are in a good position right now,” Ben Simmons said. “Still a lot of improvement, a lot of things we’ve got to pick up on, but I think we are doing really well and getting better.” 

All season long, a downfall of the Sixers has been giving up leads. Ten, 15, 20 points have been erased just like that. 

The Sixers’ largest advantage was 21 points in the last two games, and in both instances their opponents fought back. The Raptors cut the lead to one with three minutes to play; the Celtics got within seven with two minutes on the clock.

Unlike in the past, the Sixers held on for wins.

“We’ve been in that situation too many times,” Joel Embiid said. “We just have to stay calm and keep moving the ball. We made a couple mistakes, but everything was fine and we got the win.” 

The game was missing two key players. The Celtics were shorthanded without their leading scorer, Kyrie Irving (shoulder). The Sixers were down starting shooting guard JJ Redick (leg). Brett Brown considered their absences “almost a wash.” 

Newly-announced All-Star starter Embiid led all players with 26 points, 16 rebounds and six assists, his 19th double-double of the season. 

“They are still a great team,” Brown said of the Celtics. “For us to come in here and build a lead, hold onto the lead, close out the game, and at times not in a pretty way, is a fantastic result for us.” 

With the win, the Sixers snapped a seven-game losing streak at TD Garden dating back to April 4, 2014. They also avoided a regular-season sweep by the Celtics. 

The Sixers moved above .500 (21-20) and into the eight spot in the East. The Celtics and Raptors could be postseason pairings if the Sixers hold their ground in the standings, a scenario they are well aware of in these regular-season games. 

“I don’t know what seed we are going to be, but that’s a potential matchup in the playoffs,” Embiid said. “We always want to come out and try to dominate and let them know that it’s not going to be easy.”