Ignas Brazdekis had a solid start to his professional career with the Westchester Knicks, but it’s time for him to get some burn with the New York Knicks.
As Brad Pitt said in Se7en, “What’s in the box? What’s in the box?!” It’s definitely one of the thoughts the New York Knicks front office has about Ignas Brazdekis because, to some extent, he is an unknown asset to the team.
The Knicks are clearly aware of Brazdekis’ success in college and the G League. But, he’s so early into his career that it’s too soon to determine what type of contributor he will become on the team (or in the league, for that matter). This is why the franchise should bring up Brazdekis from the Westchester Knicks to evaluate the young small forward.
When the New York Knicks traded with the Sacramento Kings to get Brazdekis with the 47th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, they knew they were getting a stud in the second round. The former Wolverine stood out at the University of Michigan because he demonstrated that he could shoot the three, create his own shot, and attack the rim in transition or the half-court.
Through 37 games, Brazdekis averaged 14.8 points with a slash line of .462/.392/.773 and 5.4 rebounds in 29.6 minutes per game. And because of his scoring ability, he made Big Ten Freshman of the year in 2019, the Big 10 All-Freshman team, and the second-team All-Big Ten.
However, the concern coming out of school was his playmaking and defense. He didn’t create for others in college, which is why he averaged .8 assists per game. And defensively, he doesn’t possess the quickness and body measurements to stick to defenders like white on rice (but those defensive traits aren’t necessary to be successful in the NBA).
Regardless of Brazdekis’ deficiencies in scouting reports, he would go on to have a successful G League season. In Westchester, he averaged 20.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3 assists, 49.9 field goal percentage, and 34.4 3-point percentage within 33.5 minutes per game. Now, not only was he able to maintain and improve his scoring acumen, but he was also able to improve his playmaking and slightly tweak his defense as well.
But even though he improved on some of his weaknesses noted in scouting reports, there are still some areas of his game that need work to have a smooth transition to the Knicks.
For one, Brazdekis will need to slightly improve his 3-point shooting (mostly since the Knicks were dead last in hitting threes). He averaged a 34.4 3-point percentage for the entire Westchester season while making 1.9 3-pointers on 5.5 attempts per game.
Now, it shouldn’t be too hard for Brazdekis to accomplish this goal because the NBA 3-point average is 36 percent, so he is near the range. Also, looking a little deeper into his 3-point shooting numbers, he maintained a 37.5 3-point percentage while making 1.8 shots on 4.8 attempts during November. And by January, he averaged a 36.4 3-point percentage while hitting 2.4 shots on 6.6 attempts. So, he can hit threes at a high volume, which should only improve with repetition.
Yet, to be fair, he did have slight dips in 3-point percentages in December and January (28 percent and 34.7 percent, respectively). But like any shooter, they have their slumps, and it’s clear that Brazdekis can pull himself out of the gutter.
The last area that Iggy needs to work on his free throws. Brazdekis didn’t get to the line a lot considering he only averaged 2.8 free throw attempts per game. And when he got to the charity stripe, he made 68.7 percent of his free throws.
Most of the games that the New York Knicks lost were because of missed free throws. The team as a whole was averaging a 69.4 free throw percentage, which had them dead last in the league. So, Brazdekis will need to improve his free throw shooting to 77.0 percent or greater because scoring in the NBA will be more difficult than in the G League, and he will need to take advantage of every opportunity to earn points.
With all of that said, there should be little doubt that Brazdekis can’t carve out a role on the Knicks. That doesn’t mean he’ll enter the starting lineup or instantly carry his G League averages to the team. But the path is there to be successful considering there have been many G League Alumni that enter the NBA and become critical assets for a team.
Fred VanVleet, Danny Green, Seth Curry, and Spencer Dinwiddie are notable examples, who all averaged around the same numbers as Brazdekis and have had successful NBA careers thus far.