The Trail Blazers’ memorable postseason run might be over, but the the 2019 NBA Draft is right around the corner. Portland’s President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey currently has the No. 25 pick in the draft at his disposal and he will look to supplement the Blazers’ roster with a talented prospect in the latter stages of the first round. Regardless of Portland’s lack of a pick in the second round, Olshey has shown a willingness to negotiate his way back into the selection process. Today we look at Michigan Wolverines forward Ignas Brazdeikis.
- Height: 6’7.25”
- Weight: 220
- Wingspan: 6’9.25”
- Shooting Hand: Left
- Position: SF
- Age: 20
- Projected draft range: 50-60
- PTS: 14.8 | Per 40: 20.0
- REB: 5.4 | Per 40: 7.3
- AST: 0.8 | Per 40: 1.1
- FG%: 46.2
- 3P%: 39.2
- FT%: 77.3
Torn from the pages of a middle-aged recreational league all-star’s guidebook, Brazdeikis overcomes his lack of top-level athleticism by stringing together crafty moves on offense. Without the ball, the Wolverines standout stays in motion along the perimeter to make himself available for passes. Once Brazdeikis has the ball, he can attack opposing defenses in multiple ways. Armed with a quick release, he is an adequate finisher in catch-and-shoot situations. If a defender closes out too hastily, Brazdeikis is quick to put the ball on the floor and attack off the dribble. Defensively, his game revolves around anticipation and court vision. Brazdeikis does a good job getting into opposing passing lanes and he often positions himself correctly to corral rebounds.
Physical limitations pose a huge question for Brazdeikis’ upside in the NBA. He doesn’t have the size and wingspan to move to power forward and he lacks the quickness to stay in front of athletic wings. Offensively, Brazdeikis is a straight-line dribbler. Against professional defenders, his penchant for moving directly towards the basket will draw offensive fouls. If he is properly covered, he struggles to create space for midrange attempts. That hurdle will get larger against athletic small forwards. Brazdeikis was far from a ball stopper at Michigan, but he also didn’t display the skills necessary to be a part-time facilitator in half-court sets.
Brazdeikis, a 20-year-old freshman, took the Big Ten by storm in first year in Ann Arbor. He produced double-digit point totals in all but two of the Wolverines’ 17-game winning streak to start the season. During that stretch, Brazdeikis erupted for 24 points in a high-profile victory over North Carolina. His work on the perimeter was crucial to Michigan’s run to the Sweet 16 in NCAA Tournament. At the conclusion of the season, he secured a place on the All-Big Ten Second Team and took home the Big Ten Rookie of the Year award.
Regardless of his obvious physical shortcomings, Brazdeikis was a consistent producer in his single-season stint with the Wolverines. His three-point shooting and solid decision making will allow him to occupy a spot as a role player in the NBA. On defense, Brazdeikis’ limited versatility will remove him from the action during crunch time. His status as a one-and-done prospect is slightly deceiving when evaluating his ceiling. Brazdeikis will turn 21 years old halfway through his rookie season in the NBA.
Brazdeikis fits two qualifications for the Blazers: he can space the floor and he is expected to play at forward. Equipped with the ability to make quick and efficient decisions on offense, Brazdeikis’ skill set could boost Portland’s wing rotation. His lack of top-end quickness and length will push him into the second round on draft night. If the Blazers secure a second round pick, Brazdeikis would provide the Blazers with a project forward that could someday blossom into a reserve contributor.
Brazdeikis attended the Blazers’ final pre-draft workout on Sunday.
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