Swish. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
In the last three games, Michigan earned their status as the team to beat in the Big Ten by sandwiching road wins at Wisconsin and Michigan State around a home victory over Iowa; all three teams ranked in the AP top ten when they played the Wolverines and sit at #6 (Iowa), #8 (MSU), and #14 (Wisconsin) in the latest KenPom rankings. Michigan ranks #7 on KemPom themselves after entering the Kohl Center at #19.
This brilliant three-game stretch also vaulted Nik Stauskas up the NBA Draft boards (from unranked to #14 in Chad Ford's latest rankings[$]), gave him the inside track for Big Ten MVP, and landed him the #8 spot in the KenPom POY standings. Before I get to the video breakdown, here are Stauskas' numbers from the last three games:
68 total points (22.7/game) on 10/19 2-pt, 12/24 3-pt, 12/13 FT shooting
13 assists to five turnovers, 11 rebounds (one off.), three blocks, three steals
28 points generated by assists (includes FTM)
96 points generated on 74 possessions used* for a mark of 1.30 points per possession
Let me state that again: 1.30 POINTS PER POSSESSION
Keep in mind that, while Wisconsin is struggling defensively (#10 in B1G defensive efficiency), Michigan State and Iowa rank first and third in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency. Those numbers are patently ridiculous; just as impressive is the variety of ways Stauskas generated those points. I compiled a video of every point Stauskas produced in the last three games, broken down by how the shot originated. It is highly recommended viewing:
Apologies for the slight audio issues in the Iowa clips.
Stauskas scored in just about every fashion imaginable, regardless of how opponents tried to defend him, and created most of his points himself—only six of his points and two of his assists came off non-transition spot-up opportunities. The "Not Just A Shooter™" meme is a tired one at this point; that doesn't mean it's not fitting.
For further examination of how Stauskas is this outrageously productive, hit the jump.
[JUMP, AS IS TRADITION.]
Some of the clips filed under "transition" in the video could also be filed under ball screens or handoffs, but I wanted to stay consistent with how hoop-math and other advanced stat sites track transition baskets—any shot occurring within the first ten seconds of the shot clock after a steal, defensive rebound, or opponent score.
This is how Stauskas most reliably got good looks from the outside, a credit to his knack for finding the open spot and his teammates' ability to get him the ball at the right time. Four of his 12 three-pointers came in transition, right about in line with his season numbers—on the year, 38.8% of his made threes have occurred in transition, per hoop-math.
Stauskas also got a generous portion of his assists on the fast break—five of his 13—and a couple of them were simply magnificent: namely, the jump-pass to Jon Horford in the second clip and the perfect lead outlet to Derrick Walton that led to an and-one. His court vision and passing ability are nearly on par with his shooting acumen, which also shows up in the next category...
We've known since last year that Stauskas is extremely effective working the pick-and-roll; regardless of how Wisconsin/Iowa/MSU attempted to defend it, Stauskas found a way to produce points in these situations. A full rundown of this section:
1. After Stauskas takes a handoff from Horford on elbow, Horford flips the pick, Frank Kaminski is forced to help on Stauskas, who hits Horford with a running jump-pass for an open dunk.
2. Stauskas fakes left, spins back right into a high middle screen from Max Bielfeldt, spins back left into the paint, and hits a fadaway from just inside the free-throw line over Josh Gasser.
3. Stauskas resets offense, gets a high middle screen from Jordan Morgan, takes advantage of a soft hedge by Kaminski with a quick pull-up jumper from 18 feet.
4. Stauskas works around a high middle screen from Morgan, backs out when Kaminski switches onto him, then blows by Kaminski—drawing in Gasser—and deftly avoids a charge with a quick shovel pass to Morgan for a layup.
5. Stauskas resets offense, gets a high middle screen from Glenn Robinson III, nails a three over Zach McCabe after Iowa switched.
6. Iowa hedges hard against a high middle screen from Morgan, Adam Woodbury gets back to Morgan while Stauskas is still matched up on Aaron White; Stauskas creates a Morgan and-one after a filthy crossover gets him by White and draws in Woodbury. (GIF'd above.)
7. Stauskas gets pass on wing, dribbles around a high screen from Morgan; Iowa is playing zone(!), Mike Gesell gets caught on the pick, leaving Stauskas open for a pull-up 18-footer.
8. Same action as #7 except on the other end of the court. Iowa still playing zone. This time Gesell gets over the pick and Roy Devyn Marble helps aggressively, so Stauskas immediately passes off to Spike Albrecht, who's wide open for a triple.
9. Stauskas starts in the left corner (aka Stauskas Corner), gets a dribble handoff from Albrecht, crosses over and declines the pick just as Gesell is working over Morgan's high screen—blowing past Gesell in the process—and flies in for the and-one finish between Jarred Uthoff and Melsahn Basabe.
10. Stauskas resets offense as shot clock starts to wind down, Gary Harris runs smack into the high screen from Morgan, Matt Costello (Morgan's defender) inexplicably sags into the paint, Stauskas pulls up for a three-pointer.
11. Stauskas is well-defended by Harris, who gets over Horford's screen, and Alex Gauna, who cuts off the drive while also taking away the interior passing lane, so Stauskas just stops on a dime and drills a pull-up from just inside the arc.
Stauskas burned Wisconsin's soft hedging with pull-up jumpers, worked off the dribble against hard hedges by Iowa and MSU, obliterated Iowa's zone with his three-point shooting and quick passing, and punished State with a three when they screwed up their defense. Even when MSU played both the drive and the rolling big perfectly in the last clip, Stauskas simply pulled up and shot right over them. There's no consistently correct answer for how to defend Stauskas off the high screen; his combination of shooting, passing, and ball-handling is near-impossible to slow down at this level.
John Beilein's offense contains a lot of built-in handoffs for players cutting off the ball; not only are these a good way to get Stauskas the ball with a full head of steam (and hopefully a step on his defender), they also often double as a screen by the player handing the ball off—and sometimes Beilein builds in a screen after the handoff, which just seems unfair.
Two of Stauskas' second-half threes against State came on near-identical handoffs on the left elbow; the third came on a little flip from LeVert in transition. One thing I noticed about Stauskas while going through the film that makes these plays work so well: when he's spotting up in the corner, he goes from a complete standstill to jetting around the corner in such a short period of time that it's very difficult for his defender to react quickly enough to keep up with him. That usually provides the one-step advantage Stauskas needs to get off a shot.
I ended up filing just one play under this category, in which Stauskas gets a side off-ball screen from Morgan, who flips the pick to force Woodbury to defend the baseline—Stauskas threads a pass between Woodbury and a recovering White (his initial defender) and Morgan rattles home a 15-foot jumper(!).
Only three makes fell under this category; all showed off Stauskas' impeccable shooting form when he pulls up, especially the above dagger against Wisconsin—being able to stop on a dime, cross over against his body's momentum, and rise up with the same form as his normal spot-up shot is just ridiculous.
Now that he's the number one offensive option, Stauskas gets far fewer spot-up opportunities than he did with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. drawing much of the defensive attention last season. He only had two catch-and-shoot makes in these three games; one came when Iowa rotated late while playing their ill-advised zone, the other occurred right after a chaotic sequence featuring a Spike Albrecht offensive rebound. The brevity of this section makes his numbers even more remarkable.
He made them. The "Stauskas/Michigan can't hit free throws in the clutch" belief is officially dead, yes?
*Based on play-by-play data