The New York Knicks already have an important piece of the puzzle in Ignas Brazdeikis. Letting him play could mean fixing the offense.
New York Knicks rookie Ignas Brazdeikis has posted impressive numbers everywhere he’s been. The only problem is: He hasn’t gotten a real crack at the NBA yet.
After posting 18 points per game on 55 percent shooting at Summer League, Brazdeikis has spent the majority of the season in the NBA’s G League. He’s done nothing but put up big numbers.
In his 24 games in the G League this year, Brazdeikis has averaged just under 21 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the floor. He’s been a dominant scorer.
The Knicks haven’t been so dominant. They are currently the second-worst team in the league in points per game, seventh-worst in field goal percentage, and the fourth-worst in assists per game.
Bizarre rotations, a slow pace, and the lack of shooting and playmaking have all been factors as to why the Knicks’ offense has been so anemic.
Brazdeikis can play a big part in fixing it.
He Should Have A Prominent Role Right Away
Of course, Brazdeikis can’t turn the Knicks around all on his own. He can, however, provide an offensive game that the Knicks don’t currently have from their wing players.
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The Knicks’ recent rotations of forwards have typically consisted of Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Kevin Knox, Moe Harkless, and Reggie Bullock. Not a single one of those players gives you any confidence as a ball-handler.
Brazdeikis already has a wide array of moves in his bag. He’s more than capable of taking defenders off of the dribble. Moreover, Brazdeikis can score from any angle. He may be left-handed, but he’s shown the ability slash to his right side.
He’s far from the fastest player on the court, but his quick first step and hesitation moves make him difficult to guard. He can also do something that many Knicks’ players have had trouble with this season: Shoot the 3.
While Brazdeikis’ current 34.4 three-point percentage in the G League isn’t anything special, his 26.1 percent usage rate is telling of how many difficult shots he’s been forced to take. That percentage would go up in a secondary role in the NBA.
Brazdeikis’ ability to score has been documented since the draft. His profile on NBADraft.net said:
“Has the NBA-coveted ability to create his own shot … Makes the most of his natural athletic gifts Will battle more athletic players and closes the talent gap with intangibles and heart …Has a really good feel for the game. Should be a productive pick-and-roll guy at the next level.”
If he lives up to that billing in the NBA, the Knicks would have a valuable contributor on their hands.
Strides As A Playmaker
This is where Brazdeikis’ offensive game gets even more exciting. The Knicks need players who can pass the ball effectively and make the right reads on offense.
Brazdeikis started the season averaging 1.6 assists per game from November through December. In January and February, he bumped that number up to 4.1 per game.
As of this moment, the Knicks don’t have a forward on their roster who can create for others like Brazdeikis can. New York’s playmaking during the 2019-20 season has only consistently come from Elfrid Payton and RJ Barrett.
Having someone on the wing who you can trust to run a pick-and-roll can create matchup problems for opposing defenses.
Can Brazdeikis Be A Stretch 4?
This is where some evaluators may disagree, but in a league where P.J. Tucker can play center, I believe Brazdeikis is more than capable of playing the 4.
What he lacks in height he can make up for in his frame. Brazdeikis is always listed as either 6’6″ or 6’7″, but with a 6’9″ wingspan. He has a wide build that will continue to fill out.
He’s an excellent rebounder. Brazdeikis uses a combination of his length, strength, and positioning to effectively box people out. He’s averaged over seven rebounds per game for the Westchester Knicks.
Of course, the most important part of playing the stretch 4, is, well, stretching the floor. Brazdeikis needs to be accounted for at all times as a shooter. Watching his tape, he shows a great feel for how to get open and find creases in the defense.
The Bobby Portis experiment hasn’t worked. Julius Randle’s slow processing hampers the entire rhythm of the offense.
Brazdeikis’ ability to play multiple roles on the wing is something the Knicks are severely lacking. His perimeter shooting and ball-handling will not only open shots up for others, but it will also take some ball-handling responsibility and pressure off some of the younger players like RJ Barrett and Frank Ntilikina
Ignas Brazdeikis is an offensive sparkplug who the New York Knicks desperately need.