Jim Jackson on Nik Stauskas: 'From the perspective of if he's ready, I think he can compete at the next level, no problem.' (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Ann Arbor — After watching Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. go in the first round of the NBA draft last season, Michigan fans could see at least one — or maybe multiple players — from the current team look to declare early for the draft after this season.
Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary also considered leaving for the NBA after last season’s run to the NCAA championship game but returned for their sophomore seasons. There could be another name added to the list of potential early departures: Nik Stauskas.
Stauskas, a 6-6 guard who leads the Big Ten in scoring (18 points), could be pondering an early jump to the pros, according to his father, Paul Stauskas.
“He sees the brass ring, like three inches away from his nose,” Paul Stauskas said in a Sports Illustrated story. “He knows all he has to do is keep his nose to the grindstone for another couple of months, and there’s a really good possibility he might be able to go pro. He’s working really hard to achieve that.”
ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford ranks Stauskas as his No. 43 prospect and lists him as a “potential first-round pick” in his latest projections.
Ford lists Stauskas’ positives as a “versatile scoring guard, excellent shooter with deep range and incredible free throw shooter.”
Ford’s negatives on Stauskas included, “Needs to add strength and not an elite athlete.”
Jim Jackson, a Big Ten Network analyst who played 14 years in the NBA, says Stauskas’ positive attributes and upside as viewed by general managers outweigh concerns about his game.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of if a guy’s really ready compared to what the upside and potential is,” Jackson said. “If you look at a lot of the guys that go into the draft, I would say that a lot of them are not ready, but the potential and upside is what a lot of GMs are looking at as far as drafting.”
Jackson cautioned, though, that a lot depends on whether the player can be a good fit on the drafting team.
“From the perspective of if he’s ready, I think he can compete at the next level, no problem,” he said. “It’s a matter of which team you get drafted to, which is so important.
“He has really good size, he’s more athletic than people realize and in today’s world, he has a quality about him — being a shooter — that a lot of teams are looking for.
“He has a toughness about him, which I like.”
One NBA scout said Tuesday that Stauskas has first-round talent.
"He has good size for an NBA 2-guard and he's an NBA shooter," the scout said. "He's a better athlete than you realize; his shooting and character are at a premium. He has a shot at being drafted 20-30."
No. 21 Michigan (13-4, 5-0 Big Ten) got a big boost from Stauskas in Saturday’s 77-70 win over then-No. 3 Wisconsin. Stauskas scored U-M’s last 11 points, including a step-back 3-pointer that boosted the lead from one to four in the final minute. He added six free throws in the final minute to help put the game away.
Stauskas averaged 11 points as a freshman, but lamented his lackluster performance in the Final Four win over Syracuse (scoreless in 18 minutes) and against Louisville in the title game (three points in 19 minutes).
This season, though, Stauskas has turned things around, with eight games scoring at least 20 points. He had a career-high 25 against Houston Baptist as he’s embraced his new role of ball-handler, distributor and scorer.
Robinson, averaging 13.9 points, still is considered a first-round draft possibility. The draft status of McGary, who had back surgery and is out indefinitely, remains uncertain. If he recovers and rehabs in time to work out for the draft, a team could take a chance on him.
Michigan continues a grueling stretch in the conference schedule with a home game against No. 10 Iowa on Wednesday and a showdown at No. 3 Michigan State on Saturday.
At the top of Michigan’s scouting report is slowing down Iowa’s pace. The Hawkeyes lead the Big Ten in scoring (86.8) and are outscoring their opponents by more than 20 points. They also get it done on the defensive end, allowing a league-best 37.2 percent from the field.
Senior Roy Devyn Marble (16.3 points) is eighth in the league in scoring and leads one of the most experienced groups in the conference. Marble is averaging 20 points in his last four games.
“This is a high-powered team that’s coming in here with six juniors and seniors that are very hungry to get Iowa to the NCAA Tournament and beyond,” Michigan coach John Beilein said Tuesday.