Not on the NBA Draft radar entering this season, Michigan's Ignas Brazdeikis has been about as quick of a riser as anyone in the 2019 class.
Brazdeikis' ability to handle the ball as a muscular forward allowed him to score at will in college and that potency earned him a trip to the NBA Combine, where he disproved any doubts people had about his athleticism and NBA readiness.
First of all, he measured at 6'7.25" with a 6'9.25" wingspan - Brazdeikis has broad shoulders that make for an illusion of short arms, and while the plus-2" wingspan isn't spectacular, it's enough to suggest he'll be able to play some spot minutes at power forward in some lineups.
Next, he dashed, jumped, and weaved his way through the agility testing, proving to be decently fleet-footed by finishing near the upper-middle of the pack when it came to lane agility, the shuttle run, and the ¾ court sprint, something that countered some opinions that he wouldn't be athletic enough for the highest level.
Brazdeikis' offensive instincts have never been in question and his physical talent proving up to snuff in the NBA Combine will lead to a lot of looks from front offices.
Offences that run through point guards are starting to get less trendy, as small point guards continue to get schemed out of playoff series; teams looking for initiators at forward will like a lot of what they see.
Scorers almost always find a way into an NBA rotation and Brazdeikis' unique offensive repertoire makes him a player many teams would find incredibly useful.
Craftiness is king when it comes to Brazdeikis' offensive game.
He's most effective when playing off the ball where he can get the rock off a ball rotation and attack a closeout. Brazdeikis always drives with purpose and has a dynamic first step that can keep defenders off balance. When he gets to the rim, he's an excellent finisher with good touch when it comes to finger rolls while his wide shoulders allow him to take a bump and protect the basketball.
What also makes him so dangerous when he catches on the wing is his 39% 3-point stroke.
Brazdeikis' release is high, quick, and smooth, and he has one of the more deceitful pump fakes capable of getting defenders helplessly in the air. With an ability to either drill the jumper or pressure defences with the drive, he can create offence without his team needing to run a play for him, giving him the potential to be a valuable secondary option in the league.
A shocking stat from Brazdeikis' freshman season was his shooting a staggering 50% on open jump shots - almost certain punishment if a defence is caught sleeping, and his reliability to hit the open shot gives him value as a floor spacer.
Brazdeikis was also utilized at Michigan as a pick-and-roll ball handler.
Coming off of ball screens gave him the space he needed to pull up for a jumper or the crease he needed to get all the way to the rim. As a forward orchestrating the pick and roll, he often put his defender in an action they weren't used to guarding and he could smell blood in the water once there was a weak point in the coverage.
Brazdeikis' offensive instincts and ability to make shots off the dribble or off movement is what makes him a translatable scorer to the NBA. When his opponents make a mistake, he's not going to leave it unpunished and he's able to put the ball in the hoop whenever he's given space whether it's on the perimeter, the midrange, or around the rim.
Teams will also love the fire and competitiveness that Brazdeikis plays with.
He'll bring toughness to whatever team drafts him, and his willingness to play the villain and get to the dirty areas of the floor will quickly make him a fan favourite. When you look at many of the NBA journeymen that have had long careers, it's their toughness and intelligence that have led to their longevity.
Looking at this draft class, Brazdeikis could be one of those guys.
While Brazdeikis was used heavily in pick-and-roll situations, he wasn't nearly as effective of a passer as he was a scorer. Brazdeikis is a safe player who didn't turn the ball over much but that hesitancy sometimes hurt him as a playmaker, meaning he wasn't a great creator for his teammates. Should he continue to be a pick-and-roll player at the next level, he'll need to develop into a better distributor.
Defence is a question mark for Brazdeikis and he'll have to really compete to get to a league-average level. He doesn't have great hip flexibility to turn while sliding to stop dribble penetration and he struggled to contain smaller, speedier matchups.
He's not a shot blocker and he doesn't come up with steals either which isn't in itself a red flag but it's something that adds to the case of his defensive limitations.
Rebounding also doesn't come naturally to Brazdeikis, which could hurt his stock as someone who could play some 4 at the next level. If he's someone that's going to be locked at the 3 in the NBA, he's going to be face-to-face with the most athletic guys in the league, which could exaggerate his physical limitations.
Even though he was a good finisher at the rim and had a potent midrange jump shot, Brazdeikis settled for a lot of runners in the lane which simply weren't good looks for him. He shot 29% on floaters and he settled a lot for those looks over more efficient shots at the rim or on a pull-up jumper.
As a player without elite explosion, the floater may be a shot he must go to in the NBA; if he can't improve on that percentage, it could be a problem.
Projected NBA Draft Range: 25-40
Projected NBA Role: Secondary playmaking forward.
NBA Comparison: Joe Ingles