In advance of the 2021 NBA Draft, the Peachtree Hoops staff will profile several prospects. Today, we take a look at Roko Prkacin, and international prospect out of Croatia. For the full list of prospects we have scouted so far, click here.
The NBA Draft always presents a difficult conundrum.
Playoff teams spend their whole season trying to find their best rotations and lineups, eventually consigning those who show too many weaknesses to the end of the bench/out of the rotation, or even out of the team entirely if they’re cut.
Then the season ends and the attention of executives and the such shifts to the NBA Draft.
In one sense, executives and scouts are tasked with evaluating players not just on their current level of play — as they’re used to all season — but also what they could become in the future, which generally means overlooking the, usually, many shortcomings prospects have presently.
That brings us to today’s prospect: Croatia’s Roko Prkacin.
At 18 years old — turning 19 on November 26th — 6’9 power forward/center Prkacin stands to be one of the youngest players in the entire draft. He produced solid numbers last season with the team he has spent his young career so far with — hometown team KK Cibona in Zagreb, Croatia — but was not old enough to submit himself for the draft.
A year later, Prkacin has stepped up his role and his production across the board to become one of the more interesting international prospects this season.
Across 54 games last season (starting 48 of them), Prkacin averaged 12.9 points per game on 50% shooting from the field on 9.8 field goal attempts, 35% from three on 2.9 attempts, 61% from the free throw line on three free throw attempts, seven rebounds, two offensive rebounds, 1.9 assists per game, 2.3 turnovers and 2.7 fouls in an average of 26.5 minutes per contest, per RealGM.
Other than perhaps his free throw percentage and the turnovers/fouls, those are extremely impressive numbers for an 18 year old. Prkacin’s splits from the Croatian domestic league versus the very competitive Adriatic League are similar, in fact, they’re overall better in the Adriatic League, which makes Prkacin’s season even more impressive.
That’s probably enough dilly-dally, let’s jump into the film and see what’s what from Prkacin. Given his age as well, there will be a lot of grains of salt here — quite a bit will be looked at through that lens.
Before we start, a disclaimer: I do not claim to be an expert here. I see what I see and I go on what I feel about a prospect and we go from there, I don’t look at anyone else’s thoughts or words on a prospect I’m covering until the end of the process. What you see might be different to what I see, which is exactly why I show too much: you can form your own thoughts.
With all that said, Prkacin wears the number 17, and I hope you have an easier time spotting him on the court than I did at times.
We looked at the splits earlier but a solidly efficient output for Prkacin: 50% from the field on just under 10 shot attempts per game is really solid, as is the 35% shooting from three on just under three attempts — a solid volume, not a massive volume but solid volume with a solid percentage. The 61% shooting from the free line isn’t ideal but it does come on three attempts per game, which is decent volume for someone who’s not a go-to player (Prkacin was Cibona’s third leading scorer last season).
One of the things that struck me with Prkacin played/loomed on the perimeter a lot. Prkacin wasn’t involved in a lot of pick-and-roll but plenty of pick-and-pop to shoot those threes.
Let’s start with the three-point shooting. In the games I was able to get for film, ironically Prkacin shot poorly in those games but we can work with those too, even just for a look at the form.
The pick-and-roll towards the wing opens the space for Prkacin above the break, where he receives the ball and hits the catch-and-shoot three:
Here, a (rejected) screen-and-fade draws the defense to the ball-handler before it’s kicked back to Prkacin for the three-pointer:
Again, off of the ball, Prkacin ducks into the paint before drifting back out, exploiting the defense’s overload of the paint, receives the ball and hits the catch-and-shoot three-pointer:
For someone who drives a lot and even brings the ball up the floor at times, Prkacin really didn’t — from what I saw — take any threes coming off of screens or off of the dribble: the majority of them were catch-and-shoot. I guess it’s better to walk before you run.
Let’s look at a few misses from outside the arc from Prkacin, just for reference.
On this possession, Prkacin gets a good look at a three above the break after the screen/lack of urgency defensively opens up the opportunity but misses:
Again, notice that Prkacin is away from the on-ball action/screening action and again drifts inside before drifting back out to the perimeter before receiving the ball and missing the catch-and-shoot three as he’s closed out:
As a teammate operates in the post, Prkacin looms on the perimeter, receives the ball but misses the catch-and-shoot three:
I think you get the idea.
Let’s move onto Prkacin’s drives, a prominent part of his offense.
Away from the play and on the wing, Prkacin receives the ball, drives towards the baseline, hangs and hits the jumper, drawing the foul for the ‘and-1’:
This time Prkacin brings the ball up the floor and after draining some clock, attacks off of the dribble before one-handing the runner off of the glass and home:
Prkacin shows good quickness at 6 foot 9 as he does make use of a screen this time, attacking the rim off of the drive and rises with authority to dunk the ball but is fouled to prevent him doing so, earning the free throws instead:
This time Prkacin sets the screen (no switch) before receiving the ball and driving inside, smartly adjusting his body to free himself of the defender and buy him the opening to squeeze the runner up and through for the basket:
In the corner this time, Prkacin does a good job switching from his right-hand to his left-hand on the baseline drive and is able to switch back to his right as he’s able to score at the rim:
You might recognize the player Prkacin beat to the rim as Marko Simonovic, who we covered last year at Peachtree Hoops ahead of the draft, and selected by the Bulls in the 2020 draft.
Away from the on-ball action again this time, Prkacin receives the ball and puts together a strong drive heading to his left, displaying a good turn of pace to get to the rim first ahead of Simonovic to score at the basket:
Prkacin is able to get into solid positions consistently but isn’t always able to finish, lacking a bit of a mature touch at times.
Here, Prkacin gets into the paint off of the dribble, halts, spins and gets a decent look at a jumpshot in the paint but can’t convert:
On the catch at the three-point line, Prkacin attacks off of the dribble, sheds his defender, gets to the paint, the help defense meets him and Prkacin rises into the jumpshot (nice high release point on the shot) but can’t hit:
Then there are shots where Prkacin is a bit out of control/falls a little short.
On the drive from the wing, Prkacin gets into the paint, makes a bit of contact with Simonovic and ends up a little of control as he attempts to get a shot up in the lane:
Again, a strong drive going to his right, Prkacin gets into the lane, makes contact and puts up the runner but misses, almost getting the fortunate roll:
On the rebound, Prkacin takes the ball coast-to-coast to the rim against size and length but is blocked at the rim:
Prkacin also enjoys getting to post positions and some of offensive scoring work can be found here too.
This first clips probably segues well from the last play as this first play from the post probably isn’t a great one but Prkacin backs down in the paint and hits the fadeaway jumper, plus the foul:
Not in the post, per-sae, but Prkacin shows nifty feet to work into an easy opening in front of the rim despite the crowd:
Again though, Prkacin gets into decent spots in the post but can’t always convert.
In the post, Prkacin attempts to back down a longer opponent, losing the ball on the way up before somehow getting another crack at an attempt mid-air but the end result is a miss:
On the pick-and-roll switch, Prkacin backs down in the post, loses his footing as the chair is slid away but Prkacin manages to maintain the ball, misses at point-blank range but is on-hand to clean up at the rim and scores the second chance:
There’s a really solid offensive baseline here from Prkacin at 18 years old and with his already solid percentages on a medium volume, there’s a good scope for improvement/upside long term with Prkacin offensively.
Prkacin showed a solid feel when it comes to passing the ball, averaging just under two assists per game.
We looked at Prkacin in the post and a number of assists/opportunities for his teammates came from these scenarios too.
Here, Prkacin operates in the post and draws the second defender before spotting the advantage and firing a pass to the perimeter for the assist on the three-pointer:
Again, Prkacin is keen to get into the post on the switch and his presence makes the opposing team uncomfortable, forcing the rotation. When Prkacin fires the ball out to the perimeter, the extra pass is made and the corner three is made:
He won’t have gotten the assist for the play but it starts from the post.
On the block, Prkacin shows patience (maybe too much) as the movement around him and eventually finds his desired cutter with a pass inside but his teammate is blocked at the rim as the bounce takes away the momentum:
Looking at some non-specific playmaking plays, you can see that Prkacin has a really solid feel for the game and is capable of making intelligent reads and passes.
Off of a missed three, Prkacin is able to steal the offensive rebound from the defensive player as the ball is loose and is met with the verticality of the defense. In a fluid motion, he drops a nice bounce-pass to the cutter for the assist at the rim:
Here, the drive from Prkacin is a bit messy but from that mess Prkacin executes a lovely behind the back pass to his teammate at the rim, who draws the foul and free throws:
On the catch on the perimeter, Prkacin executes a nice bounce-pass inside to the cutter for the assist at the rim:
Again, Prkacin finds another cutter for the assist at the rim:
I like the idea of Prkacin playing a high-low game with a pick-and-roll center: he’s a good passer with a solid feel and high-IQ, he can hit outside shots and it would seem to fit more with his game given that he’s not a primary pick-and-roll player like most bigs.
A bit more of a mixed bag on this end of the floor for Prkacin but to start off, I was impressed at times with Prkacin’s verticality.
Here, Prkacin rotates as the help defender on the drive and puts up a strong vertical challenge at the rim to help force the miss:
This time in the post, Prkacin allows the post-player to make significant progress in the paint but puts up a good vertical challenge on the shot near the rim, resulting in a missed shot:
Here, it may not have affected the shot as much as the others but a solid contest from Prkacin helps make life more difficult at the rim:
Moving away from vertical challenges and onto more general defensive highlights, Prkacin does a good job on this possession of sliding over to cut off the driving lane and force the pass (only for the three to be made on the pass outside):
On the move this time, Prkacin sticks with drive and contests on the stop and fadeaway jumpshot:
Here, Prkacin produces a great one-on-one defensive possession as he stick with the drive inside and puts up an excellent contest to help force the missed jumpshot:
In the post, Prkacin holds his ground well enough and contests the turnaround hook:
To start the third quarter, Prkacin shows good awareness to help spring a trap in the corner and gets a hand on the pass out of the trap:
Perhaps on another possession, this leads to a steal but not this time for Prkacin.
Matched against the larger Simonovic on this possession, Prkacin is able to intercept the entry pass and comes up with the steal:
Prkacin can be a little prone to being beaten off of the dribble/on switches on the perimeter.
Here, Prkacin is gotten the upper-hand of on the drive, forcing the rotation from the rim protector and when the pass is made it’s an easy finish at the rim:
On the switch on the perimeter, Prkacin loses ground on the crossover and when the three is launched and made:
Again on the switch on the perimeter, the step-back is Prkacain’s undoing as he loses ground and the three is hit:
Though the three is made on this possession, this was a much better contest after the switch:
I don’t think this is a massive area of concern for Prkacin but just worth noting at least some defensive foibles.
In addition to that, Prkacin can be a little foul prone at times, averaging just under three a game (with a five foul limit), we’ll show a few for variety.
On the defensive rebound, Prkacin is called for the foul as he tries to contest the rebound:
Again on the rebound, Prkacin brazenly goes over the back on a contest he was never winning, earning himself a foul:
At the rim, Prkacin shifts his focus to the offensive player driving down the lane and when the pass is made to a teammate in the paint, he returns his attention to his man but commits the foul at the rim leading to free throws:
In the post on a switch, Prkacin is called for the foul:
On the drive, Prkacin commits the foul on Simonovic, leading to free throws:
And he’d do so again later in the game, the length of Simonovic causing problems for Prkacin:
There’s an awful lot to like here when it comes to Prkacin.
At 18 years old, Prkacin is able to score in a variety of ways already, including on drives, in the post and on the perimeter — efficiently. That can’t be stated enough and buying into the upside here should entice teams.
Not taking into account the post scoring, the majority of Prkacin’s work offensively is done off of the ball. On drives, it’s usually a scenario where Prkacin is away from the pick-and-roll and then receives the ball, attacking on closeouts and creating openings caused by a somewhat scrambled defense trying to rotate. In saying that, His driving speed is impressive at his size/position and while he’s able to do this in Europe, there would be a concern whether he could do this at the NBA-level.
On three-point opportunities, Prkacin is mostly catch-and-shoot and, again, these come away from the action. When he is involved in ball screens, it’s more screen-and-fade than pick-and-roll. I wouldn’t describe him as a pick-and-roll big diving to the rim every screen — it’s not that he can’t but it just seem to be utilized, so there’s potential here possibly too.
That said, I think Prkacin is better suited right now feeding another big in a high-low situations because his passing is quite impressive and I think should be an area Prkacin looks to develop further because a big-man that can pass is always helpful, especially where Prkacin is deployed on the perimeter a lot, waiting for those opportunities to come to him.
It’s great that Prkacin can be as effective as he is for someone who plays off of the ball as much as he does but this also means sometimes he drifts through games and it could be minutes before you notice Prkacin/see Prkacin contribute. I wouldn’t say this is a whole negative but some of it is part-and-parcel given how Prkacin isn’t one to demand the ball and how he plays off of the ball.
Defensively, there’s a strong baseline to work with. I like his verticality and I think his help defense is solid too. There’s good potential to switch from small-ball 5’s to 4’s but I’d be a little concerned on switches to 3’s. I think Prkacin’s lateral movement is decent but on switches obviously issues can be caused. The fouls are a little bit of a concern but many young bigs have this issue too.
Add all of that to the caveat that Prkacin is 18 and doesn’t even turn 19 until late November. There’s a lot to work with here and makes Prkacin a very desirable and tantalizing prospect. I feel a little concern about what position he may play or a role, much like Juan Hernangomez when he came into the league.
Anyways, let’s take a look at where draft experts/outlets have Prkacin mocked and what/if anything they had to say about the intriguing Croatian prospect.
Starting with Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, who has Prkacin mocked at 35th overall in his latest mock and 25th on his latest big board, with this to say about Prkacin, noting the convenience of the selection for Denver right now.
Prkacin is a high-IQ forward who can really do a lot of different stuff. He excels without the ball, which is really important for a role player at the NBA level. He finds good cutting areas and soft spots in the defense. He moves well into open areas to get little looks. And when he receives the pass, he’s great at moving it quickly on his own. He’s also improved as a shooter this past season, as he’s up to nearly 36 percent on 3 attempts per game. The idea here is a point forward who can do a lot of different stuff.
The fit: The idea would be to take a flier on someone who can eventually play in a frontcourt with Michael Porter Jr. and Nikola Jokic. Having said that, I also think a stash pick would probably be interesting to Denver this season given its cap situation. Every dollar is going to count, and the Nuggets are already damn near the tax threshold with 11 players likely to be retained.
Vecenie notes Prkacin’s in the ‘point forward’ territory, which is an interesting thought. He has good feel and does bring the ball up on occasion but to take that next step I’d like to see more of Prkacin facilitating pick-and-roll, not something he seemed to do a ton of. He’s good at moving the ball onward on good reads but I’d reserve the ‘point forward’ tag until there’s a bit more consistent pick-and-roll action.
ESPN has Prkacin ranked in a similar area in the second round, listing Prkacin 36th in their ‘Best Available’ rankings (as of July 10th). ESPN’s Mike Schmitz wrote at length Prkacin back in late April, discussing his shooting improvements, his skills as well as areas of improvement he can make in the future.
The youngest international prospect in the draft, Prkacin is a versatile forward with great size at 6-9, an excellent frame, huge hands, a strong feel for the game, and an improved shooting stroke, making him an attractive draft-and-stash option for teams in the early 2nd round.
Prkacin does a lot of things well on the floor as he’s able to push in the open court, thread bounce passes through tight windows, and function as either a pick-and-pop big man or a ball screen initiator in spurts, with Cibona using him anywhere from 3 to 5. He’s also capable of beating switches in the mid-post area. Although not overly quick or shifty with the ball, he’s a good leaper in space with a big reach, which has resulted in his fair share of highlight dunks this season. With that in mind, Prkacin isn’t the most fluid mover, has a lot of room to improve his defensive range, and can play with a more consistent motor, needing to put his strength and 6-11 wingspan to use with more regularity defensively. Often compared to former Cibona standout Dario Saric growing up, Prkacin could stand to show more consistency in the energy department, which was a staple of Saric’s game at a young age.
Prkacin is trending in the right direction as a shooter this season, though, boosting his percentage from 26% to 36%. He still fights an inconsistent follow through and has a tendency to shoot on the way down at times, but he has the touch to eventually become a reliable floor spacer. Despite his strong frame at 220, Prkacin shouldn’t be expected to have an impact in an NBA game tomorrow, but he plays a highly coveted forward position, has a strong track record both on the FIBA circuit and in the Adriatic League, and ticks a lot of the boxes teams look for in an international prospect. Hybrid forwards get a lot of bites at the apple to prove themselves in the NBA, which bodes well for a guy like Prkacin long term. I’d be interested to see what he looks like in an NBA Combine setting, where we saw Luka Samanic turn himself into the 19th overall pick with his play in Chicago. Maybe Prkacin can find similar success.
Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated mocks Prkacin 37th overall, the same kind of range we’ve seen from both ESPN and The Athletic.
Prkačin is one of the more skilled bigs in this draft and doesn’t turn 19 until November. Penciling him into a role requires a little bit of imagination, but with the way he can handle, pass, screen and make decisions at his size, Prkačin has a pretty interesting offensive profile and has benefited from facing primarily older competition in the past few years. There are some key concerns here: His jump shooting has improved, but he’s a ways away from being a reliable floor-spacer. Prkačin doesn’t bring a ton to the table defensively and won’t protect the rim much, although his feel for positioning is fairly sound and should give him a chance to make it work. Even without an elite skill, he may be a player with a wide enough array of strengths to make a difference in the long run. He’s an intriguing investment in this part of the draft, but there’s a chance he could stay in Europe and make another run at the first round in 2022.
The main thing I’d agree here with Woo that I didn’t touch on is that while Prkacin doesn’t have one elite skill, his variety and quality in that variety helps makes up for that.
I have no idea where Prkacin is going to land in the draft but I am fascinated to see where he is selected and which franchise is the one who selects him. I would imagine Prkacin remains overseas and though I would love to see him brought over early and develop through the G League for a while, I imagine with the uncertainty over current events and where the G League fits into that, that Prkacin remains overseas.
Prkacin is probably not a player in play for the Hawks with their selections at 20 and 48 but the NBA Draft can always surprise...