A 22-year-old Lithuanian basketball player named Rokas Jokubaitis has been a topic of discussion amongst Knicks fans throughout the 2023 FIBA World Cup. The Knicks’ euro stash has played a major role in Lithuania’s 6-2 record, including an upset victory over the United States. However, his performance against the heavily favored Americans was shaky. He was constantly hounded by Mikal Bridges and Anthony Edwards in the backcourt throughout the game, forcing him to give up the ball. The United States held him to nine points on three-of-eight shooting and forced him into two turnovers. Despite his rough shooting night, he grabbed three rebounds, dished out six assists, and had one steal.
Jokubaitis was selected with the 34th overall pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2021 but was traded to the New York Knicks along with Miles “Deuce” McBride for Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. However, Joukubaitis signed a four-year contract with FC Barcelona with an out, which gives him the option to come over to the United States and play in the NBA when he’s ready. As a member of FC Barcelona, he was selected as the EuroLeague Rising Star, All-Spanish League Young Players Team, and a Spanish Cup winner, all in 2022. Here’s a scouting report on the former second-round pick from Lithuania:
At 6-foot-4, Jokubaitis has the ideal size for a modern guard, which helps with his court vision and ability to make advanced passing reads against defenses. The 2022 Euroleague Rising Star is a maestro in pick-and-roll actions and uses his drive and kick ability to create open shots for his teammates. He also shows potential to play off-the-ball despite his pass-first style of play. The euro stash shot 41 percent from three-point range with FC Barcelona last season. He’s not a volume shooter, but the percentage and the mechanics of his shot are encouraging indicators that he could raise his stock as an outside shooter. He’s also a strong left-handed driver.
Jokubaitis, a left-hand dominant player, has a weak right hand and has trouble finishing and passing with his right hand. His left-hand dominance can make him predictable and easy to game plan against. He’s a solid athlete in space but not a great athlete overall. This is evident in his lack of explosion on his first step going downhill. In terms of his decision-making, he makes sound decisions overall but has a tendency to be passive. Overall, he projects as a backup point guard or secondary ball-handler if he decides to play in the NBA.
World Cup Performance
Despite falling short of bringing home a medal, Jokubaitis has shown some encouraging progress since being drafted in 2021. The former second-round pick averaged 12.1 points, 6.4 assists, and 1.1 steals through seven World Cup Games. His 6.4 assists per game ranked in the top ten in all FIBA World Cup players. Jokubaitis also ranked second among World Cup players in three-point percentage (62 percent), albeit on limited attempts (made 10-of-16).
It’s unclear if or when the Lithuanian lefty will play in the NBA. If the Knicks decide to keep his rights, he would add to a unique blend of the balanced attack of Jalen Brunson, the microwave scoring of Immanuel Quickley, and the pesky defense of Miles McBride. The factors that separate Jokubaitis from the current Knicks guard rotation are his size at 6-foot-4, his pass-first mentality, and his ability to play well with other ball-dominant guards. His size and skill set allow for more lineup versatility as well. Nonetheless, he has quietly added to his resume since signing with Barcelona in 2021. He’s now headed into the third year of his contract with Barcelona and could carry the momentum of his World Cup performance into the regular season. There is also a possibility the Knicks could trade his rights if they don’t have space on their roster.
Meyer McCaulsky is a contributor on Back Sports Page. Along with receiving his Master’s degree in Magazine, News, and Digital Journalism, he has over a year in sports journalism and has interviewed a variety of people in the sports industry, such as Chris Williamson, Cameron Thomas, Jimmy Boeheim, and Jeremy Pope. McCaulsky has been a guest contributor on a YouTube podcast called Cut The Nets within BSP’s network. For more on Meyer, his X is @meyermccaulsky and Instagram (@m.mccaulsky).
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