Ignas Brazdeikis might struggle to find his footing with the New York Knicks to open the 2019-20 NBA season.
Ignas Brazdeikis had no expectations when he debuted for the New York Knicks at the 2019 Vegas summer league. His first game was quiet, but the follow-up performance saw him post 30 points and play like the organization’s latest second round steal, finishing with 15.4 points on 51 percent shooting.
It was as promising of a start as possible from the 47th overall pick in the NBA Draft, keeping Knicks fans excited after Mitchell Robinson‘s display last season.
Brazdeikis proved to be a hard-nosed scorer capable of finding points anywhere on the court in the summer league. The competition level is obviously inferior to the NBA regular season, but he looked more comfortable as the games progressed.
However, the path to playing time is hardly clear for Brazdeikis, creating uncertainty for how — or where — he will open the regular season.
Stuffing the roster with seven free agents impacts the Michigan product’s positioning. No longer does he have an open path to forward or two-guard minutes, given all the frontcourt pieces added and RJ Barrett and Wayne Ellington‘s arrivals, respectively. More than likely, it will take an injury, poor play from someone in that group or Brazdeikis playing over his head and beyond the veterans.
The Knicks capped out their roster at 15 players. With Reggie Bullock‘s injury, it drops to 14 for opening night. Only 12 players can dress for a game, so a pair must sit at the end of the bench. So, after the money spent on players like Ellington and Taj Gibson, Brazdeikis, with his smaller financial commitment and as a second-round rookie, may place him on the outside, looking in.
The alternative and the best chance for Brazdeikis to find consistent playing time is for the G League’s Westchester Knicks. With the opportunity to start, he can find 25 to 30 minutes per game immediately, instead of fighting for scrap time when the Knicks are down or just trying to suit up for one night.
Like other recent draft picks, Brazdeikis can find NBA reps in the developmental league and find a full-time main roster role down the line when his talents are needed and with the experience to back it up.
This is an often-taken route by the San Antonio Spurs’ first-round picks, including Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV. Murray and White found success in their first full NBA seasons, while Walker vies for a larger role in 2019-20. Brazdeikis did not land in Round 1, but the Knicks can still stay patient with one of their youngest players, especially if dividing rotation minutes is an issue.
Perhaps Brazdeikis carves a spot with the New York Knicks later this season, after the trade deadline passes — if they sit outside the playoff picture. It will return the “developmental” stage of the rebuild, which opens opportunities for players like him.