Nik Stauskas is showing the Kings signs of his value

Photo by Blake Ellington

Nik Stauskas has been efficient and has played under control through the first three games of the Summer League.

Nik Stauskas hasn't completely "wowed" so far in the Las Vegas Summer League, but what he has done is prove he belongs.

Through three games, the rookie is averaging 13 points and shooting 48 percent from the field and 55 percent from three. He's also added two assists per game. Most tout his shooting (and rightfully so), but it is the way he plays under control and makes good decisions that really stands out. Stauskas has played within himself. He knows when to shoot, when to pass and when to drive to the lane. This type of decision-making is something the Kings have desperately needed more of.

His passing from the shooting guard position is definitely going to help the team and he is good at driving into the lane and passing out if he can, or making his defender foul him.

And other than a brief slump at the start of Monday's game, he has been consistent so far.

His defense is what continues to be questioned, and he does get beat more than you would like, but he has shown glimpses of being a capable defender.

He admits the defensive side of things has been an adjustment for him.

"It's been tough, and I think the main thing is the physicality of that part - a lot of switches on the bigs and just playing some help-side defense," Stauskas said. "I'm just going to have to continue working on it my whole career. I don't think I'm ever going to be like Bruce Bowen, I'm not going to be locking people down, but if I can go out there and show them I'm a capable defender and I can get after it, then it's going to help me get minutes."

Head coach Michael Malone praised Stauskas' ability to grasp what the team is trying to accomplish on defense.

"He's shown that he has a very high IQ, he can pick up our team defense, our philosophies very quickly," Malone said. "He's working hard. As he continues to get stronger and put some weight on, he's only going to become that better of a defender."

The questions about Ben McLemore and Stauskas playing together have continued. That strategy couldn't have gone better than it did during Monday's game. The two shooting guards combined for 33 points on 13 of 18 shooting. McLemore was the same guy we saw in the last game of the season. His shot looked good, he looked confident, he grabbed rebounds and he did it for the entire game. It also appears his ball handling has improved.

Not surprisingly, Malone liked what he saw out of his two guards.

"It's two guys that are playing off of each other - drive and kick basketball, space the floor, make the extra pass, they're basketball players," Malone said. "We don't look at them like ‘who is the shooting guard?' Forget that, both of those guys can make plays, they can both shoot the ball and the fact that both of those guys did it today at the same time was a big reason we were able to get the win."

But even though Stauskas and McLemore may play together at times in the regular season, one of them has to get the bulk of the minutes.

Malone outlined what he wants out of his starting shooting guard.

"That guy has got to be able to knock down shots, he's got to shoot the ball consistently...he's got to be able to value the basketball, not turn it over and he's got to be able to guard his position," Malone said. "The guy that can do that for me the best is going to be the guy that probably gets the minutes."

Stauskas can shoot the ball consistently, but can't guard his position all that well yet. And despite his improved ball handling, McLemore continues to turn the ball over. (He has 16 turnovers through the first three games of Summer League.) So there are definitely some things that need improving by both players.

Consistency is something McLemore will have to maintain if he wants to keep the starting job. So far, it looks like Stauskas is fundamentally sound and will be able to play fairly consistent basketball. It will be interesting to see if Stauskas can keep it up and if McLemore can build on his 18-point performance on Monday.

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