Welcome back to the Film Room friends. We missed you dearly.
As basketball seasons across the world continue to progress, we find ourselves starting to get an idea of some names who are cementing themselves as prospects for the 2021 NBA Draft. We always prefer to let the season develop before getting too attached to premature draft boards and mock drafts based on the number of variables that can occur throughout a basketball calendar year. The 2021 class has been gaining a serious amount of hype, even since before the 2020 draft took place...so this upcoming class is already approaching the stage with some lofty expectations. While it's still early...the hype is starting to look well deserved.
We will spend PLENTY of time this year diving into some of the top names that are generating interest in the collegiate basketball world. But for now...let's take a trip overseas to talk about a prospect who has been generating some buzz as of late. International prospects continue to become a bigger part of the scouting world. Each year, it's important to educate the basketball world on some prospects outside of the collegiate ranks, who could be making some noise as potential selections on draft night. In fact, the 2020 NBA Draft would have 5 players selected in the first round who were playing basketball overseas.
While the star power of this incoming international class might not be as intriguing as last year, there are still some fascinating players to keep an eye on. One of those names is Rokas Jokubaitis. The 20-year-old left-handed guard has been opening some eyes with his impressive play in the EuroLeague for Zalgiris. A popular theme with young players on veteran EuroLeague teams...is that you have to have an open mind when you're looking at stats. Most of these prospects are still earning their minutes off of the bench. When it comes to Rokas, the early sample is impressive. In just 20 minutes per game, Rokas is averaging 7.5 PTS, 3.0 AST, and is shooting 48.8% from the field. While the stats might not make you fall out of your seat, the tape will leave you intrigued with his ability, especially for a 6'4" combo guard.
While some can get caught up chasing stats or boxscores, it's always important to take a look at the potential that a specific prospect has in his game. When it comes to a player like Rokas Jokubaitis, his ability in the pick & roll game stands out. Rokas isn't the greatest athlete in the world, and will most likely scare some evaluators away with his lack of "pop", but he does a fantastic job of creating space with his strong feel for the game. When it comes to Synergy rankings, you'll find that Rokas ranks in the 80th percentile as a P&R ball handler. So it's important to take a look at his ability here and see if there's potential for him to become a valuable weapon. Love this possession here from Rokas for a number of reasons. He makes a strong drive here and does a great job of creating this secondary angle for the P&R. The thing that impresses me about Rokas is his patience with plays. He understands the importance of letting something develop in order to create the perfect opportunity to attack. Great job here of putting the ball on the money and making it almost impossible for the defender to stop this lob.
The amount of overall shiftiness that Rokas has in his arsenal stands out in a major way. It's crucial with ball handlers that some might think don't have the elite quickness or athleticism that is necessary to survive in the NBA. Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic had the same concerns as an overall prospect by some basketball evaluators. Now I'm not saying that Rokas is Luka, so let's put those pitchforks down boys and girls. If you don't have elite quickness, there are still some other ways you can make up for it. If you have the ability to sell defenders using hesitations, it can go a long way towards making you a threat with the ball in your hands. This clip is a great example of that. Once Rokas creates some momentum coming off of the initial P&R, he realizes he has some daylight to work with. Rokas then does a fantastic job of selling the secondary defender with a quick body fake before blowing by for an easy two.
When evaluating prospects that get limited playing time on veteran teams, it's always a good idea to take a look at aspects of their games that might not have the best numbers. As of now, Rokas is currently shooting 32.7% from 3 in 28 total games this year (via RealGM). So what does that tell us? Well if we are only boxscore chasing, it would tell us that Rokas can't be a threat from outside. But we don't just chase box scores here. Above we get a good look at the shooting form of the left-handed guard. Looks to be solid and nothing too scary. As of now, Rokas is only averaging around 1.8 3PA per game, so it could just be as simple as a small cold shooting streak. If you're obsessed with stats, it's important to point out that Rokas shot 45.7% from downtown last year.
While Rokas might not be the type of player who plays above the rim, he still impresses with his finishing ability. An aggressive take to the hoop here off of the skip pass. Yes, it's a bit of a circus shot here but as you'll see later on, this isn't the only time that Rokas has shown some creativeness in his finishing ability. It's also a great job here of shielding the basketball away until the last possible moment.
FEEL FOR THE GAME
Just a great display of patience to get to his spot here. Rokas does a great job of setting this up with some hesitations and lateral quickness. Once he feels that his defender is caught trying to catch up from behind, Rokas makes the secondary defender react to his attack. Once Rokas sees the big man sitting back in coverage, Rokas takes a simple pull-up jumper from short. It's not the sexiest shot, but it shows some maturity with Rokas to stress patience in letting the play develop and taking the highest quality of shots.
It's also important to see the ability to survey the floor in transition. While this play might not look like much, I love the decision making here. Sure, you'd love to find yourself getting a layup in transition, but Rokas shows the ability to still get a high percentage shot here. Love the confidence as well to hit the pull-up.
This play was a bit chaotic but it shows the ability that Rokas has to maintain composure. A great drive here off of the bobbled catch and love the awareness by the 20-year-old to see the potential opening here. The lefty has some Goran Dragic in his game, in which he can take advantage of an over-aggressive defender with his ability to take advantage of small windows in the defense.
This is one of my favorite overall clips I've come across when evaluating Rokas so far. As stated before, the lefty is at his best when he's involved in the pick and roll game. Here Rokas does a great job of not panicking considering the shot clock winding down in a hurry. In fact, Rokas backs the ball out to signal for the P&R with around 5 seconds remaining on the shot clock. A couple of beautiful hesitations set this angle up and the most important detail here is the finish. Rokas realizes he's going to have the big man chasing from behind for a big block attempt, so he finishes beautifully on the other side, using the rim as protection.
If you were looking for a perfect example of how shifty Rokas Jokubaitis can be as a ball-handler...then this is it. Notice the patience and ability to set up the defender with this sequence. Rokas gets some defensive pressure put on him immediately in transition but keeps an active dribble. There's a purpose behind each of his movements here as he does a great job of getting the defensive to react. A strong take followed by another great finish on the reverse.
The next couple of clips are going to be focusing on the vision that Rokas had displayed in his game. Although this play didn't end up as an assist, it's still a beautiful read. These types of plays are always important because it shows you that there's some playmaking potential in the arsenal. This is also your classic example of a play that is 20x more difficult if you were to go out on a basketball court and attempt this pass at full speed.
VISION PART II
This pass by Rokas stood out to me for a couple of reasons. Now when you first watch it, you probably expected a drive and kick to the corner. But when you watch it on replay, you actually notice how great of a read it was by Rokas. As you re-watch this, watch the help defender in the corner. He times it perfectly to chase the corner, and most young guards might not have reacted to the defender sliding over as Rokas did. Once Rokas sees the defender help in the corner, he knows his next read and hits his teammate on the wing for a quick three. Impressive sequence and timing.
VISION PART III
Another beautiful read here that stands out by Rokas. Each of the hesitations is important to take in here as they are executed with a purpose to create this drive. The read for this assist is perfect and simple but it's also crucial to take notice of the pass. There's not a lot of room here for a sloppy pass, especially with limited space and the fact that this shot needs to go up in a hurry before the defense has a chance to react. Right on the money.
If you watch this clip and don't give an "oooooh" towards the screen then are you even a basketball fan? Textbook usage of body fakes and hesitations in this isolation opportunity by Rokas. As stated before, Rokas might not be the quickest or have high-flying athleticism...but he beats you with his anticipation and ability to sell you on fakes. This is just a beautiful job of stressing patience and getting the defender to look silly.
The 2021 Draft Season is still young across the world and there's plenty of time for prospects to heat up or cool down. This current class is shaping up to be an extremely talented one, especially when it comes to the talent that is currently stateside (including the G-League). While there's not an international prospect with as much hype as Luka Doncic and Deni Avdija recently, there's still some fascinating talent that is starting to generate some buzz in draft circles. Rokas Jokubaitis looks to be a name to keep a close eye on thanks to his impressive feel for the game and his upside as a role-playing combo guard.