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NBA Daily: Ignas Brazdeikis Plans On Being Himself

Drew Maresca assesses Ignas Brazdeikis’ resume thus far and his potential fit on the Knicks roster.

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Most second-round picks are either projects, relatively unknowns or some combination of the two.

Ignas Brazdeikis doesn’t exactly fit any of the above categories.

The Knicks traded up eight picks in the 2019 NBA Draft to select Brazdeikis, who was projected by many as a late first-round pick. In return, the Knicks sent the Kings the 55th pick (used to select Kyle Guy) and cash considerations.

Brazdeikis is a 6-foot-7 forward who posted 14.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game with a 21.4 PER while at the University of Michigan.

The 20-year-old forward features a toughness and willingness to compete unlike most rookies, but the former Wolverine is also a natural scorer who was praised leading up to the draft for his ability to create his own shot. He led his college team in scoring and is averaging 14.6 points per game through three summer league games. His full skill set was on display in Sunday’s game, posting a strong and encouraging 30 points in 32 minutes.

“I really appreciated that (confidence in me),” Brazdeikis told Basketball Insiders. “With that kind of freedom, I felt like I had the ability to do what I did tonight.”

While second-rounders making headlines in summer league isn’t overly unusual, Knicks head coach David Fizdale is already encouraging Brazdeikis to continue doing what he does.

“Just be myself,“ Brazdeikis said of Fizdale’s advice. “Coach Fiz talked to me and said you just have to be yourself and no one else. Be aggressive, don’t be afraid to make your plays and do what you do.”

In addition to creating his own shot, Brazdeikis also shoots the long ball at an above-average clip. He shot 39.2 percent from three-point range in his lone collegiate season. And he demonstrated his hot hand on Sunday as well, when he made three of his six three-point attempts against the Suns – including a game-game tying triple in the closing seconds.

“I was like ‘Damn, there’s a lot more space than I’m usually used to,’” Brazdeikis said. “I came into this game thinking to trust your instincts and trust who you are. And that’s what I did.”

Brazdeikis was also praised for his ability to move without the ball leading up to the 2019 NBA Draft, and he should be able to continue leveraging that in the NBA, as well, given the increased spacing.

“The spacing is a lot different,” he said. “The three-second rule, too. In college basketball, it’s so compact and everyone is in the paint. It’s hard to get in there. Here it’s a lot different.”

But he did slip to the 47thpick for a reason. Brazdeikis is far from the prototypical, modern wing able to switch on most other players on the court and initiate pick-and-rolls – mostly due to a lack of perimeter quickness. His average speed and leaping ability, and his 6-foot-9 wingspan will make it more difficult for him to cover NBA forwards.

Additionally, Brazdeikis will have to continue developing his ball-handling and playmaking abilities – Brazdeikis averaged only 0.8 assists per game last season at Michigan while totaling 1.2 turnovers per game.

But what Iggy lacks in athleticism and natural ability, he makes up for in confidence and grit.

“I’m a guy who always believes in myself fully,” he said. “Every time I step on the court I feel I’m the best player. There’s no doubt in my mind.”

And while Brazdeikis might not be a key piece in the Knicks lineup immediately, there is ample time for patience and development. The Knicks locked Brazdeikis up on a three-year, $5.7 million deal with a third-year team option.

New York is a tough market for rookies to develop in. There will probably be moments of doubt, especially considering that Knicks fans are a knowledgeable and engaged bunch who still demand and appreciate effort and fearlessness. But they will boo feverishly if they feel it’s necessary.

Fortunately, Brazdeikis claims to have the requisite thick skin and desire – a mentality tailor-made for New York.

“I’ve always had this kind of mentality where I don’t care what people think about me and I just got to be myself,” he said. “And I just want to win.”

It has been six years since the Knicks made the NBA Playoffs, 20 years since they made the NBA Finals and 46 years since they won a championship.

If he is a part of a winner of any sort, Brazdeikis won’t have to worry about what Knicks fans think of him – because he will be universally loved by them across the globe.

Basketball Insiders contributor residing in the Bronx, New York.

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