Mississauga’s Nik Stauskas gets long awaited opportunity with Nets

CAMDEN, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25: Nik Stauskas
CAMDEN, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25: Nik Stauskas /

At just 24-years of age, 2014 first-round pick Nik Stauskas finds himself at a crossroads in his young career.

The Mississauga-native was thrown in with Jahil Okafor in a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers to the lowly Brooklyn Nets earlier this month. Philadelphia also sent over a second-round draft pick for Trevor Booker.

The Nets will be the third team in four seasons for Stauskas, and if he fails to deliver in Brooklyn it may be his last.

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After two seasons playing off the bench in Philadelphia, the former University of Michigan star was reduced to a very limited role with the 76ers. Stauskas appeared in only six games for Philadelphia this season, averaging 7.5 minutes a game, with 0.7 points.

The 6-foot-6 shooting guard made his Nets-debut Friday against his hometown Toronto Raptors, as his mom and dad watched from the crowd at the Air Canada Centre.

Stauskas’ performance was one of the few bright spots during a 120-87 drubbing at the hand of the Raptors. He led Brooklyn with 22 points and seven rebounds, and had by far his best game of the season.

"“Maybe (being in Toronto helped) a little bit. But for me, it was more excitement to be back out there,” Stauskas said. “I don’t think I played more than seven, eight minutes this year in a game.“Just to play meaningful minutes in a game back home was really exciting for me.”"

To put his season in perspective, his first game with the Nets was the first time he had recorded a point since October 28 against the Dallas Mavericks.

Stauskas played 28 minutes and four seconds on Friday, eclipsing his season high of 9:45 in Philadelphia.

"“Once I saw the first one go down, that’s when my confidence started growing, and I just let them fly from there.”"

Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson had praise for his two newest players.

"“There was some good stuff and some mistakes, which is normal for two guys who’re just starting out with us,” he said. “But there definitely were a few bright spots, especially on offence. They made some nice moves.“Stauskas showed real pop in the pick-and-roll, hit some good shots.”"


It seems fitting that Stauskas was traded along with Okafor, who was also a first-round pick (third overall), that had fallen out of favour in Philadelphia. It seemed like both men needed a new beginning.

Okafor spoke to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski in late November about his situation with the 76ers.

"“I would like for them to just send me somewhere where I can get an opportunity,” Okafor said prior to the trade. “I’ve done everything they’ve asked of me, and I would just like to get an opportunity to play with a trade or a buyout.“I just hope something happens quickly.”"

Getting a new opportunity on a new team could be exactly what both these players need. A rebuilding Brooklyn team that has no real established stars, will allow Stauskas and Okafor to show off their skills.

"“It just felt great to be back on the basketball court,” Stauskas said after Friday’s game. “I hadn’t played that much in Philly, so it felt good to run up and down again. And to see the ball go in a few times is always a great feeling as a player.”"

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But if Stauskas doesn’t establish himself in Brooklyn he may not get another new beginning in the NBA.