The year was 2017. THEY were once again sleeping on the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Blazers ended up with 48 wins and the third seed in the brutal Western Conference, shutting down critics and keyboard warriors alike. Until…
Jrue Holiday happened.
The Blazers went on to drop the series in 0-4 fashion, but the bad news was just beginning. The offseason was just as bleh as the first round of the playoffs.
Now we’re just weeks away with more questions than answers as it pertains to the 2018-19 edition of Rip City Season. Jared Wright and Bryant Knox of Oregon Sports News are back with their in-depth Portland Trail Blazers 2017-18 Season Previews for each player.
Today, we take a look at Nik Stauskas, who, at 24 years old, is looking for his forever home—and still looking to recapture the magic that was “Sauce Castillo.”
Nik Stauskas’ 2017-18 season was mostly notable because he was part of the deal that finally got Jahlil Okafor the heck out of Philly. Stauskas, who had played just six games for the Sixers, was traded on Dec. 7 and ended up scoring a team-high 22 points in his first contest for the Brooklyn Nets just a few days later.
Although Stauskas’ numbers for the year aren’t overly impressive, he did start to make a name for himself in a regular rotation. No, the Nets weren’t competing for anything meaningful, but those situations sometimes give young journeymen a chance to shine.
The 6’6”, 205-pound guard went on to shoot 57.3 percent from the three-point line in his first few weeks with the team and also recorded a 7-of-10 night from deep against the New Orleans Pelicans just 12 days after making his Nets debut.
That showing set a franchise record for triples off the bench, and that particular skill is what likely earned him free agency interest from Trail Blazers general manager, Neil Olshey.
What He Brings To The Table
Stauskas is in a next-man-up situation in Portland. The Blazers have gone through a number of backup guards in recent years, and “Sauce Castillo” now has a chance to be what everyone in Rip City hoped Pat Connaughton could become.
ICYMI, “Sauce Castillo” comes from an unfortunate yet amazing television error. See for yourself:
Needless to say, the incredible nickname stuck:
What the Blazers are hoping sticks, however, is his ability to knock down shots from distance. Nobody would consider Portland a bad shooting team when looking at the damage Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum can do, but while the team sat in 11th last year for three-point percentage, it was also a near bottom-10 squad in terms of attempts from deep range.
That’s a problem. More specifically, it’s failing to tap into what could be.
This team, like most squads across the Association, needs shooters. It got an extra one this offseason in Stauskas, and now it’s a matter of utilizing him in a more efficient way than we saw with the Connaughtons of the past
What To Expect In 2018-19
Stauskas is likely going to be the backup shooting guard to start the year. But he’s going to have competition.
Gary Trent Jr., son of former Trail Blazer Gary Trent, is a duke kid looking to join fellow Blue Devil Seth Curry in a secondary role behind a star guard. Trent is a bucket-getter who comes from a Krzyzewskian system that teaches you to get to your spot, constantly move and anticipate opponent moves on the less glamorous side of the ball.
But the job is Stauskas’ to lose. According to Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman, this is also a make-or-break season for the former Michigan Wolverine.
“Through four seasons, Stauskas hasn’t featured sharp enough three-point accuracy to offset his inefficiency inside the arc,” Wasserman stated. “Lacking strength, explosiveness and length, the 6’6″ guard has struggled to blow by and attack or separate and convert in the mid-range, as he never shot better than 34.8 percent on pull-ups, per NBA.com.”
Wasserman continued: “To carve out a role in Portland and attract more interest next summer, he’ll need to build off last year’s 40.4 percent three-point percentage for the Brooklyn Nets and emerge as a reliable shot-making specialist.”
If Stauskas can build himself a reputation as a lights-out shooter, he’ll have plenty of teams calling his camp during the 2019 offseason.
If he does well enough in that category, the Blazers just might be one of them as they seek their permanent replacement behind Lillard and McCollum in the rotation.
Check out the other players in our Portland Trail Blazers Player Preview Series: