2021 NBA Draft scouting report: Rokas Jokubaitis

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20 year-old Lithuanian guard Rokas Jokubaitis is no stranger to the NBA Draft process.

An early entrant in the 2020 NBA Draft, Jokubaitis ended up withdrawing his name from consideration, electing to spend another season with Lithuanian and Euroleague side Zalgiris, where he has spent his entire professional career with thus far.

With an extra year with Zalgiris came a season which has served a springboard for Jokubaitis, showcasing what he could do in a larger setting with a larger role, his minutes increasing from 13 per game to 20 as he played in 74 games last season, 31 coming in the Euroleague, including five starts there.

Across all competitions, the 6-5 Jokubaitis averaged 7.5 points per game on 46% shooting from the field on 6.3 attempts, 35% from three on 1.8 attempts, 71% from the line on 1.3 attempts, 1.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 turnovers in 74 games in total and eight starts, per RealGM.

You’d be forgiven for wondering what there is to look at here because on an average of six field goal attempts a game, how much is there to see?

Well, let’s not waste any time today and get stuck into what there is to see from Jokubaitis. Before we dive into film, since Jokubaitis’ splits between the domestic league and the Euroleague are very similar, going to use footage from the Euroleague since the level of competition that Jokubaitis is playing against.

For reference in the videos, Jokubaitis wears No. 31.

Offense/scoring

The thing that immediately stood out to me with Jokubaitis was the fact he doesn’t really force anything, or chuck at high volume. What Jokubaitis did this season compares to what Theo Maledon did last year — low volume, nothing massively fancy but plays solid minutes for a Euroleague team.

Jokubaitis wasn’t always the primary ball-handler when on the floor, so when it comes to three-pointers, for example, Jokubaitis was more so a catch-and-shoot three-point shooter than coming off of the dribble.

After good ball movement from Zalgiris, the ball ends up Jokubaitis who hits the catch-and-shoot three:

This next play I think showcases some of Jokubaitis’ IQ as he receives the ball in the corner, drives and kicks out to his teammate on the perimeter. Jokubaitis then opens the space for his teammate to drive with his movement before relocating at the three-point line where he receives the ball and hits a very good looking catch-and-shoot three:

Here, Jokubaitis receives the ball in the corner and as Lorenzo Brown closes out, Jokubaitis makes the extra pass to his teammate just beside him. As Brown changes course to close down the new threat, Jokubaitis receives the ball again and is in a much better position to take the open three-pointer in the corner:

Here’s a look at a three a bit more on the move as Jokubaitis catches the ball on the wing and sets himself on the move to hit the three-pointer in the corner as the first quarter expires:

Let’s look at some of Jokubaitis’ work inside the arc.

On a switch, Jokubaitis shows confidence with the ball before driving inside and finishing with his left hand:

Deployed off of the ball in the corner on this possession, Jokubaitis receives the ball in the corner and punishes Lorenzo Brown for reaching for the steal with a quick-step before hitting the baseline jumper:

On the hand-off turning the corner, Jokubaitis gets to the same spot on the baseline and hits the baseline jumper:

Coming off the screen this time, Jokubaitis plays with a bit more speed heading downhill. When he is unable to get to the rim, he uses the re-screen, hesitates before driving into the paint and stops on a dime to shed the defender before hitting the jumpshot:

Here, Jokubaitis receives the ball on the hand-off and screen and uses the separation to to drive to the free throw line extended where he pulls up and hits the contested jumper from the help defender:

Again, Jokubaitis is not one to force anything very often offensively and the majority of work is done inside the arc when he is. The one thing you would say for Jokubaitis is that he lacks an elite burst to help him skip by defenders one-on-one, or on switches at times.

In transition, Jokubaitis receives the outlet pass but has to pump the brakes. When he tries to take the defender off of the dribble, he’s unable to break through and has to pass it off:

This next possession might be a bit of a stretch, but it’s Jokubaitis struggling to get underneath the defense on a switch in the paint as Jokubaitis jinks right, he’s forced to pass as there’s no way through:

Again, that might be a reach but I do want to highlight Jokubaitis’ lack of elite burst limiting his offense versatility somewhat.

Passing/playmaking

Jokubaitis averaged 3.3 assists per game and an assist percentage of 25.5% while committing 1.3 turnovers per game, per RealGM.

Generally speaking, I found Jokubaitis’ passing to be solid to go along with a good basketball IQ. Again, I wouldn’t say anything is massively high-end but there’s a really solid baseline here.

To start, Jokubaitis sees an extra body off of the screen but is able to duck in and fire a pass deep into the paint for the assist:

On the catch on the perimeter, Jokubaitis drives from the wing but is unable to get to the rim. His dribble is killed on the baseline but he ducks and delivers a nice bounce-pass to his teammate in the paint who draws the foul and free throws:

On the switch on the screen, Jokubaitis drives, forces the rotation and quickly drops a pass inside to his teammate who is blocked near the rim:

Here, Jokubaitis drives but his defender anticipates the direction of the drive. Jokubaitis quickly spins, his defender goes for the reach and despite the fumble from Jokubaitis with the ball, he gets the ball to his teammate near the baseline after drawing the rim protector:

On this play, Jokubaitis executes a perfect link-up with his pick-and-roll big, leading to an open jumpshot at the free throw line:

Again on the pick-and-roll, Jokubaitis is able to connect with his teammate for a shot attempt, this team in the corner for the three-point attempt:

Here, Jokubaitis shows great patience as he assesses the landscape after the pick-and-roll before progressing into the paint, drawing the defense and finding his teammate, who draws the foul:

Again on a switch after the screen, Jokubaitis drives inside and drops a nice pass to the baseline cutter, and the extra pass leads to the basket:

Jokubaitis, again, doesn’t do anything massively out of his lane but does, of course, turn the ball over on occasion.

From the corner, Jokubaitis receives the hand-off, curls but his attempted pass inside over the defense is intercepted and the turnover is committed:

In transition, Jokubaitis links up for the drag screen, gets into the paint but can’t get by the secondary defender. However, this may be one of the few occasions where Jokubaitis gets a little fancy as he tries to drop the pass around the defender but ends up turning the ball over:

Generally speaking, Jokubaitis provides a very steady hand as a secondary ball-handler/playmaker. Nothing is high end but it’s safe, it’s reliable, it’s efficient.

Defense

Defensively, I quite enjoyed watching Jokubaitis. For a 20-year old playing for a Euroleague team against Europe’s best teams, he didn’t look out of his depth and looked at one with the defensive scheme Zalgiris employ.

Off the ball on this play, Jokubaitis does a good job showing off of the pick-and-roll, deterring the ball-handler from turning the corner and helping to force the pass:

In transition, Olympiacos run a pick-and-roll as they try and catch the Zalgiris defense off-guard. Jokubaitis does well to switch the pick-and-roll to prevent the ball-handler from turning the corner and getting to the rim. Forced to pass now that Jokubaitis has stopped him in tracks, he relocates to the three-point line where he receives the ball again. Again, he’s guarded by Jokubaitis who does a good job stepping up to avoid the screen before sticking with the dribble and getting down the floor to earn a jumpball:

On the out of bounds play, Jokubaitis — as the off-ball defender — steps in between the ball-handler and the off-ball offensive player to help create a turnover:

On the out of bounds play, Jokubaitis is behind the front three defenders, covering the middle of the paint/in front of the rim in the zone. As the pass to the weakside corner is made, Jokubaitis does well to close out from his post and contest the three, which is missed:

This was a scenario Jokubaitis found himself in at times, the defender in front of the rim in the zone defense, and he did well to not only man that post but close out here on this possession too.

Faced with a bad matchup inside, a second defender comes from the corner to help Jokubaitis on the block. When the ball is lobbed inside and then kicked back out again, Jokubaitis is alert to the danger in the weakside corner — where the extra defender came from. Jokubaitis gets out quickly to contest as best as he can and the shot is missed:

You can debate that wasn’t the most effective contest but it’s the alertness to a situation that not everyone would have been aware of that I want to highlight as part of Jokubaitis’ solid team defense.

As a team/help defender, I enjoyed watching Jokubaitis: he was quite effective.

He has solid moments as a defender overall. What impressed me watching him was how he was able to fight through/around screens.

Here, Jokubaitis goes through two, nearly three different screens as he tracks his way around to get to the man with the ball and prevents him from getting downhill. Forcing the pass, Jokubaitis then flashes his abilities as a help defender as he shows off of the screen to, again, prevent a corner from being turned:

Again, Jokubaitis is active as he flies around the bodies thrown at him, and while he loses a little on a bit of a push-off, he shows effort to contest the shot which ends up being an airball:

While he cannot prevent the three-pointer from being made on this play, Jokubaitis still does a good job to get around the two screens set in his pursuit and gets a decent contest on the three:

These next defensive clips aren’t related to the clips we’ve shown but worth showing nevertheless.

Here, Olympiacos take the long rebound after a missed shot from Zalgiris and when they get to mid-court Jokubaitis creates a bit of danger as he reaches in and pokes the ball away. Unfortunately for Zalgiris, the ball doesn’t bounce their way and it leads to an Olympiacos basket but good bit of play from Jokubaitis:

As the shotclock winds down, Jokubaitis offers good defense in the post one-on-one and gets a good contest on the fadeaway jumper:

There are occasions where Jokubaitis’ defense leaves a little to be desired.

This possession starts of really well as Jokubaitis picks up from full-court and and hounds the ball-handler before his progress is halted at mid-court. However, Jokubaitis is then beaten by the quick handle and go, leading to the defense having to make up and an open three-pointer created on the pass:

Again, the initial defense from Jokubaitis is very good — displaying great footwork but tails off at the end as he’s beaten on the drive for the basket:

Less impressive from Jokubaitis on this next play as he is very easily beaten off of the dribble for the bucket:

On this play, Jokubaitis loses his man on a cut to the rim and commits the foul on the made basket:

In closing…

While I don’t think Jokubaitis’ ceiling is massive, I think there’s a good chance he’s going to be dependable combo guard for years to come. It might not be in the NBA but it’s possible. I see similarities to Theo Maledon when he declared for the draft last year but perhaps not as high of a ceiling as Maledon.

What I like about Jokubaitis is what you see is what you get. While his ceiling may not be super high, his floor is safe, it’s solid, it’s reliable and that’s what Zalgiris had in the Euroleague last season with Jokubaitis. There is obvious scope for improvement and it would be interesting to see what Jokubaitis could do with a bit more freedom/volume but what has shown will offer as a strong baseline for that at just 20 years old (21 in November).

There is a reason why Europe’s top teams like Barcelona (potentially losing Leandro Bolmaro to the Minnesota Timberwolves) and CSKA Moscow are reportedly vying it out for Jokubaitis’ services, so it’s unclear — if drafted — if Jokubaitis would immediately join the team that selects him.

Regardless whether he comes over or not, the general consensus seems that Jokubaitis will be selected in the second round, with ESPN Jokubaitis ranking 45th on their ‘best available’ list while Sam Vecenie of The Athletic listing Jokubaitis at 41st in his latest mock draft and 38th on his latest big-board.

Earlier in late-April, ESPN’s Mike Schmitz had quite a bit to say about Jokubaitis and the improvements he has made.

The last time we evaluated Jokubaitis in Lithuania was in January of 2018 when he put 31 points on LaMelo Ball and Vytautas in front of 100,000 fans watching on Facebook while playing the Zalgiris youth team. Jokubaitis has developed quite a bit since then, growing to 6-5, filling out his frame, and carving out a real role for Zalgiris in both the Lithuanian League and the Euroleague. It’s rare for 20-year-olds to play at least 20 minutes per night at the Euroleague level, but Jokubaitis is doing exactly that, joining names like Doncic, Saric, Ricky Rubio and Beno Udrih as some of the only sub-21 prospects to have such a big role since 2000.

Playing both on and off the ball this season, Jokubaitis is a lefty combo guard who does most of his damage inside the arc with short pull-ups or scooping finishes. At his best when he can get downhill to his left hand, he’s also a creative passer who can both hit the roll man from different angles or fire cross-court passes to open shooters. Shooting is his clear swing skill, as too often teams will go under ball screens against him without much consequence. He’s improved off the catch, but with his best moment usually coming with the ball in his hands, boosting his off-the-dribble range will be important to his long term success, as he’s shooting just 31% from 3 this season.

But Jokubaitis is a competitor on the defensive end and plays with great spirit overall. A longtime favorite of former head coach and ex-NBA player Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Jokubaitis is beloved within the Lithuanian powerhouse and is an ideal draft-and-stash candidate given his strong development situation in Kaunas, and the fact that his role should continue to grow with the Lithuanian National team. Jokubaitis, who told us he studies Goran Dragic closely, still needs to improve his right hand, shooting stroke and off ball defense, but his game and situational factors will earn him looks as high as the early 2nd round as a pick-and-roll combo guards who brings energy to the court.

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor has Jokubaitis ranked even higher than that, projecting him to be drafted in the first round at 26th overall with this to add when it comes to Jokubaitis’ positives and negatives:

PLUSES

Pick-and-roll playmaking is an untapped area of his development. He has a feel for shifting gears and using fakes to create space, and he throws accurate passes on the move. With his height, he can take advantage of angles that smaller players can’t.

Projects long term as a good 3-point shooter due to his touch pulling up from midrange, his use of floaters, and his performance at the free throw line.

Aggressive finisher at the rim who can use either hand.

Active and aware defender who competes on and off the ball. He makes plays in the passing lanes and if he improves his lateral quickness, he has the traits to be a good on-ball defender.

MINUSES

Must extend his range off the dribble from midrange to 3. He’ll often dribble into deep pull-ups instead of stepping back or to the side for 3s.

He’s a better playmaker than his stats indicate due to his off-ball role overseas, but his lack of great athleticism and burst does put a cap on his shot-creation upside.

The final point on a lack of athleticism and burst is the point I’d come back to when it comes to what limits Jokubaitis as a prospect offensively but there is a lot to like elsewhere like we’ve covered.

I think it’s fair to assume that no one has seen the true capabilities of Jokubaitis but as a 20 year who has played for a Euroleague team all of his career so far — and on the verge of joining the upper echelon teams of the Euroleague (both CSKA and Barcelona topping the Euroleague regular season standings at 24-10 while Zalgiris went 17-17) — it’s possible no one will for quite a while either.

Time will tell where all of that leaves Jokubaitis come July 29th…



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