Mindaugas Kuzminskas Hopes for Shot at NBA

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As NBA teams continue to expand their international personnel on the bench and the hardwood, Lithuanian small forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas keeps falling between the cracks. However, he hasn’t fallen off the radar.

Let’s rewind back to 2011. On his third outing at the Adidas EuroCamp showcase, Kuzminskas, according to a report from scouting guru Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress, showed the ability to score in bunches.

The slim-framed, 6-foot-9 wing erupted with 32 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the perimeter over a pair of showings, drawing immediate NBA attention.

But while players like Milan Macvan, Chukwudiebere Maduabum, Tanguy Ngombo and Ater Majok heard their names called in the 2011 NBA Draft, Kuzminskas went undrafted. Now, those four drafted prospects seem like long shots to play in the NBA, while Kuzminskas remains hopeful.

Fast forward to last summer, to September 11 of all dates, as Team USA bulldozed over the Lithuanian national team, 96-68, in the World Cup games in Espana. Despite the loss, Kuzminskas recorded his best game and his only double-digit scoring performance with 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the floor, along with a game-high nine rebounds.

That game, in addition to a few solid seasons in the Euroleague with Zalgiris Kaunas and Unicaja Malaga, significantly raised Kuzminskas’ NBA stock, sources told Basketball Insiders.

NBA scouts are asking about the length of Kuzminskas’ contract in Spain. The Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz, among others, have inquired, a source shared with Basketball Insiders.

Kuzminskas, who is in his second season with Malaga (the No. 1 seed in the ACB League), averages 10.2 points and 3.9 rebounds in 21.6 minutes per game in the Euroleague – and 9.6 points along with 4.1 boards per contest while shooting north of 38 percent from deep in the Spanish competition.

“Kuzminskas has been very productive this season and there is NBA interest for sure. Teams have spoken with Malaga, but nothing is imminent at the moment,” Lithuanian based agent Tadas Bulotas told Basketball Insiders.

Kuzminskas becomes a restricted free agent next summer as Malaga owns his rights for next season, but according to Bulotas, the Spanish power-club might opt against exercising his extension.

“Kuzminskas could leave Malaga, but there is a heavy NBA buyout and a even higher Euroleague buyout,” Bulotas said. “If Malaga [does] well in the ACB and the Euroleague, it might be worth it for the club to lower the buyout and sell Mindaugas. Otherwise, Kuzminskas could leave after next season for free.”

Kuzminskas, I’m told, is open to test the NBA waters at the next Summer League showcase in Las Vegas. His agent confirmed this, saying: “We’re thinking about sending him, the Summer League came up in discussions.”

Kuzminskas, though, is also comfortable in Malaga.

“He’s in the best league in the world outside the NBA, he loves the city and plays for a coach that recruited him out of Lithuania. It could go either way,” Bulotas said.

So what does Kuzminskas want?

“I’d like to get a chance to move to the NBA,” Kuzminskas told Basketball Insiders. “I feel like I matched up against Team USA pretty well. USA have a lot of talent and great players, but they’re humans, not robots. I’m not thinking too much about the NBA because I have a contract with Malaga for next season. I’m trying to help the team win in the Euroleague Top 16, and to be consistent and improve in order to think about what is next.”