It’s a tad early to compare Sacramento Kings Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas to Mitch Richmond. But the Hall of Famer and Kings minority owner shared kind words about his fellow two-guards in front of the Sleep Train Arena media scrum before Thursday’s contest.
“I’m very impressed (with McLemore),” Richmond announced. “He struggled a lot last year, he struggled a lot this year. Like I said on the radio show the other day, that with no cameras, with no one around, Ben is in the gym working on his game and trying to get better. He knows the things that he got to get better at. And I think the most important thing when you get to this league, you can’t stop working. And Ben has not stopped working.”
“And I think Stauskas is going to be one of those guys, because he loves the gym, and he’s going to get better,” He added. “So you can’t worry about college anymore, it’s another step. Everyone can jump, everyone can run, everyone’s very physical. So you have to find your niche and I think Stauskas is going to be able to find his niche at some point in time.”
Richmond averaged 23.3 points, 4.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game as a King from 1992-1998. He is the best shooting guard in franchise history, so his words should hold a significant weight when discussing two young men trying to fill his shoes.
The 49-year-old became an owner in summer 2013, joining Vivik Ranadive in their takeover from the Maloof brothers. Richmond oversaw the selections of lottery picks McLemore and Stauskas, and emphasized patience with the two.
“I always say the draft is 50-50,” Richmond said. “Sometimes you want to get a guy who’ll help you right away, but I say now you have so much young talent coming in that you have to develop him. And it might take him two or three years. Some guys, it might not take two or three years, it might take two or three games. But some guys, you just got to wait on, but you know if their work ethic is there, are they putting in the time, they want to get better, and then that’s the best thing you can ask for a kid.”
Production from the two-guard position has been uneven to lackluster since Tyreke Evans was traded away on July 10, 2013, two weeks after the club drafted McLemore. The Kansas Jayhawk struggled on both ends of the floor his rookie year, but he came back visibly stronger for training camp. Improved shooting and shutdown defense made him a serious candidate for the Rising Stars Challenge before a January swoon revived poor play.
Stauskas, on the other hand, is in a slump of biblical proportions. Touted as an elite scorer at Michigan, the rookie has reached double-digit points only four times in 46 appearances. Stauskas is shooting 33.5 percent from the floor and 26.7 percent from behind the arc, and his defense has been a target for opponents.
Richmond had no such adjustment issues, dropping 22 points a game his rookie campaign with the Golden State Warriors. But on the Washington Wizards, the star watched as 1999 seventh pick Rip Hamilton worked past a slow rookie start to essentially take his job (along with some Jordan guy) by 2001. Richmond knows well a prospect’s light bulb can turn on in any moment.
That’s the hope with the Kings duo. Stauskas has shown flashes in spurts, but more often it’s been a flicker. As for McLemore, despite his recent downturn, he’s positioned himself to get a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.