The New York Knicks drafted Rokas Jokubaitis with the No. 34 overall pick in 2021. The FC Barcelona six-foot-four point guard was named the Rising Star Trophy winner for his performance thus far in 2021-22. New York’s draft-and-stash pick is the first Lithuanian to win the prestigious award.
In recent years, the Knicks have drafted players like Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, and Jokubaitis. New York took a risk on Jokubaitis, but it’s evident that the 21-year-old has the potential to make a name for himself in the NBA.
The award is voted on by coaches around the EuroLeague (no media) and the point guard is in good company. Most notably, Luka Doncic won the award in 2017-18 and again in 2018-19.
New York Knicks draft pick Rokas Jokubaitis is EuroLeague’s 2021-22 Rising Star Trophy winner.
Jokubaitis is averaging 7.2 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in the 35 games that he’s played in this year. He’s shooting 55.6% from the field, 59.5% from the 3-point line, and 75.7% from the free-throw line. Those percentages aren’t so bad, huh?
Jokubaitis and FC Barcelona will face Real Madrid in the Final Four on May 19. If they win, they’ll advance to the championship game and will go up against either Anadolu Efes Istanbul or Olympiacos Piraeus on May 21.
The guard’s arrival in New York is still yet to be determined. He was granted permission by his club to play in three games in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas in 2021. Jokubaitis averaged 6.3 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 0.7 rebounds across that span.
When he was asked what he’d bring to the Knicks after spending some time with part of the team in Vegas, he said:
“What can I bring?, Jokubaitis said. “From a few practices that I had with the Knicks in Vegas, I can bring this calmness, controlling the tempo at the point guard position, bring some cold-mind, to tell my teams where to go, what do we have to be better, to be a second coach on the court.’’
In terms of when he’ll feel as if he’s ready to make the transition to the NBA, Jokubaitis said:
“Some people thought this was my thinking about titles, but I meant something else. It will happen when I feel inside that I have reached my maximum in terms of my improvement.
There are many bad examples, like Kevin Pangos, who dominated in the EuroLeague. It’s the NBA where even the best European players don’t fit in. Two years or so will pass, and I’ll talk to my agent about going to the NBA.
But before that, I’ll have to feel 100 percent confident that at least I’ll have a chance to fight for the minutes. For example, I come to the US, and they say that you will play in the G League, and sometimes you will be with the main team. Then it’s better to improve in the EuroLeague.”
That was his belief back in March. It’s good that he’s ensuring that he’s going to be prepared to make the transition because it’s a different level of basketball than what he’s used to playing.
Jokubaitis could be New York’s answer to its point guard solution, which is something that the front office is likely keeping in mind as they navigate the offseason, especially the 2022 draft.
The Knicks have been on hand to watch Jokubaitis play and have kept in contact with him. While it could be another year or so before he makes his NBA debut, the point guard could be well worth the wait. Things are looking up in New York.