In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs in mid-October. Around 100 prospects will be profiled in this space. Today, we dive into the play of Žalgiris Kaunas guard Rokas Jokubaitis.
Rokas Jokubaitis is one of the more off-the-radar international prospects in the 2020 NBA Draft pool. Jokubaitis made himself available for the NBA Draft in late April. While there’s been no word of him pulling out of the draft yet, that is certainly in play as he is just 19 years old and is one of Žalgiris’ most coveted assets to be sure.
Jokubaitis profiles as a scoring combo guard who also possesses excellent floor vision. He is around 6’4, left-handed, and extremely crafty offensively. A solid shooter, he’s a legitimate offensive force for Žalgiris when he’s rolling.
Pick-and-roll ball handling
Jokubaitis operated quite a bit as a pick-and-roll ball handler this season for Žalgiris Kaunas, and he was rather effective. Per Synergy, the 19-year-old generated almost one point per possession in derived offense out of pick-and-roll. He was a little better operating with high screens, scoring 26 points on 25 such possessions, though that sample is obviously very small.
In pick-and-roll, he can have a tendency to put his head down and go for the score. Would be good to see him keep his head up and look to the roller a bit more. When he does hit the roller it’s typically in rhythm, just sometimes seems he predetermines the read. That is a bad habit that can lead to bad shot attempts as well as turnovers.
While Jokubaitis did not have a ton of spot-up attempts due to a heavy role on ball, Synergy did rank him in the 95th percentile on catch-and-shoot, 89th percentile on spot-ups overall. His short, compact release honestly favors the shooting mechanics of Luka Dončić, though a left-handed version obviously. He is not that level of shot creator or movement shooter.
Jokubaitis doesn’t get the most elevation on his jumpers, but if he’s open his release is quick enough that it doesn’t matter. He may struggle with closeouts from longer defenders but he has the ability to go off the dribble if he has to. The additional spacing of the NBA compared to his current league could enhance his ability to score in the paint.
If he can get a little more elevation on his jumpers, and improve on the move, he could become a dangerous shooting weapon. Right now, he’s a good catch-and-shoot/spot-up guy with a quick release.
Jokubaitis is not the most vertical leaper by any stretch, but his creative bag of euro-steps and pull-ups might be enough to maintain efficiency. He’s not as quick as a young Goran Dragic, but genuinely gets his offense in a similar manner despite the cliche euro-to-euro comp, and Dragic is also left-handed of course.
His first step isn’t the quickest, but he uses moves to get where he wants to go in that area as well. Fakes, hesitations, etc., Jokubaitis often finds a way to shake loose to towards the rim.
Jokubaitis is a really, really creative passer. To do the things he does at his age, you have to be gifted. He does however still force the envelope at times and tries to pull of the spectacular when it’s not necessary. That said, he’s a gifted playmaker with excellent vision of the floor.
His passing could end up being his most valuable skill if he chooses the NBA route. Jokubaitis anticipates rotations and can throw passes from a variety of angles and typically maintains accuracy when passing on the move.
If he stays in Europe, think he will be a prominent scorer and one of the better international players in the world when he hits his peak.
The biggest knock on Jokubaitis is that he is not the best or most explosive athlete. He does however make up for that with very, very good skills on the ball. Defensively, there is also a huge question mark, due to his lack of burst and speed.
If he does come over to the NBA this summer, it will be interesting to track body changes over the course of his rookie season. Perhaps an extended period in an NBA strength and conditioning program would bring out untapped athletic ability we haven’t yet seen from Jokubaitis. At the very least, if he could speed up his first step a little, it could go a long way on both ends of the court.
Jokubaitis is strong, but is not the most fluid player defensively. He’s probably 6’5 in shoes, so there is potential for him to guard multiple positions. On the other side, he may be a negative on that end in the NBA and someone you just have to hide the best you can while they’re out there.
This obviously probably isn’t the best mesh with Trae Young for that reason, though with stash potential, he may be worth a flier at No. 52 anyways for the Hawks.
Jokubaitis probably projects as a rotational combo guard in the NBA as a realistic ceiling. He will be able to score, but to what level he can compete defensively at the highest level is obviously a big question mark. He could also obviously elect to play next season with Žalgiris and experiment with the NBA Draft again next summer. He’s probably set to have a big role with Žalgiris if he stays.
His floor is most likely as a good EuroLeague player. The speed/burst concerns are legitimate, but the skill is real. But, if Jokubaitis is barely able to hang in any NBA rotation, or becomes less than thrilled with a rotational role, he probably has the option of being one of the premiere guards overseas in the long-term.
Fit with the Atlanta Hawks
It is currently unclear if Jokubaitis is just testing the waters or has legitimate interest in coming over to the NBA, whether he’s drafted or not. While Jokubaitis even going in the 30s wouldn’t be the craziest thing based on his talent alone, for the Hawks, there may be better fits in the second round.
At No. 52 overall, it is still not a no-brainer for Atlanta. Someone they like with more defensive upside could be there at No. 52 — if they decide to hold on to that pick — and it would be hard to blame the Hawks for going that direction with their final pick given the current roster construction.