The New York Knicks scouting department may have drafted another hidden gem in Ignas Brazdeikis. Underestimate him, and it could be a massive error.
The New York Knicks have placed great trust in their scouting department, and they showed that again when they traded up to select Ignas Brazdeikis with the 47th pick of the 2019 draft. Brazdeikis is a brash and skilled, 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward.
Not short on confidence or personality, the Knicks are hoping one of their newest prospects can bring back the attitude of the 90’s Knicks.
Brazdeikis’s game does not fly off the charts. He does have some elite skills, yet his draft position was most likely limited due to lack of athleticism. Franchises place a premium on wingspan and explosion.
Brazdeikis possesses a 6-foot-9 wingspan and did not participate in the majority of the combine’s agility testing. But Bradzeikis’s energy and other intangibles may lead him to be one of those sleepers teams talk about for years to come.
“Iggy,” as he is affectionately called, stood out amongst other Michigan players like Jordan Poole and Charles Matthews. Brazdeikis led the team in points per game with 14.9 and was second in rebounding with just over five bounds per game.
Additionally, according to Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report, Brazdeikis finished within the 92nd percentile in spot-up shooting and within the 89th percentile cutting to the rim.
Thus far Brazdeikis has been compared to players like Joe Ingles, Paul Pierce, and Dillon Brooks. The Ingles comparison is somewhat accurate, but I would give Brazdeikis the edge in athleticism. Plus, Ingles is a way better passer and play-maker. And if Brazdeikis wants to ever fit the Pierce mold, he needs to improve as a defender.
However, for me, I see three different players, both past and present, that make up the parts of Brazdeikis’ game. Malcolm Brogdon, Toni Kucoc, and a little Danilo Gallinari.
Primarily, all of the three players I mentioned are smart, skilled and move well without the basketball. They are also all winning types of players, which is exactly how I see Brazdeikis. Iggy has a crafty handle, and the size and strength to finish through contact like Brogdon.
Especially, when I see Brogdon lead the fast break or dribble, I can’t help but see the similarities. Brazdeikis also has a lumbering quality to his drives in the paint and little herky-jerky motion and fadeaway that I couldn’t but think back to Gallo’s days with the Knicks.
Brazdeikis, despite lack of athleticism just knows how to navigate in tight spaces, and he does a great job of using his shoulder to create space between himself and defenders. He has a strong base and makes quick decisions. His movements and lefty shooting touch are also similar to Kucoc. Kucoc was obviously taller, but both players shot well from the mid-range.
There’s even some that feel that he may improve as a defender. According to Steve Kornacki of My Go Blue, Michigan assistant Luke Yaklich explains how Brazdeikis converted a huge defensive play during an NCAA tournament game versus Montana.
“That comes from sniffing plays out,” said Luke Yaklich, the assistant coach who coordinates Michigan’s defense. “You see something in the scouting report or a certain action that other teams run that lets you know what’s coming a second or two ahead of time.”
“Iggy sniffed that play out and got the deflection. He got the 50-50 ball, which is a huge thing in our program. That play is indicative of a microcosm of his growth.”
But Brazdeikis also intrigues because he is quite comfortable with playing the villain role. Opposing teams’ fans will love to hate him, throw shade at him because of his looks, but Iggy doesn’t bat an eye, he just gets even.
Scott Allen of D.C. Blog wrote about a Big Ten Matchup at Maryland, where fans showered Brazdeikis with “you are ugly” chants at the free-throw line. Brazdeikis, who scored 13 points in a previous meeting poured in a game-high 21 points in a 69-62 Michigan win.
Ethan Spears of the Michigan Daily also wrote about Brazdeikis bravado where he often toes line the between confidence and arrogance. Perception, of course, lies within the eye of the beholder, yet Iggy, who references characters such as Connor McGregor and the Joker appears unbothered. And more importantly, the more you read about Brazdeikis, it’s his teammates and the fans that support him who also enjoy his attitude and style of play.
The Knicks, after a busy summer in free agency, have reportedly secured a fair amount of depth at the forward positions. Bringing players like Julius Randle, Bobbby Portis Jr. and Wayne Ellington to the team mean that Brazdeikis will have to work very hard to crack the rotation. With that said, there’s no question that Iggy fits the mold of a versatile and skilled forward, who can play multiple positions.
Steve Mills and Scott Perry vowed to bring more talent to the Knicks via the draft and free agency. Time will tell with Brazdeikis, if his time at Michigan tells us anything, he’s not scared and won’t be backing down from anyone.