Evaluating Laurynas Birutis in an LKL Basketball Game for the 2017-18 Season

October 18, 2017

By Alan Lu

So far this year, Siauliai’s 7-1 center Laurynas Birutis has been playing reasonably well in the Lithuania’s top professional basketball league, the LKL.  I decided to see how he has been progressing this year to see if he has improved significantly since the last time I saw him.  With thanks to YouTube via LKL TV, I was able to see him in a game against Juventus that was played on September 26th.  Here are my thoughts on how he fared that day, and how he may currently rate as a prospect for the NBA.

Birutis is an active finisher around the hoop, as he can really score on hustle plays.  He will roll to the basket quite often, and he can throw down emphatic dunks, as he possesses fairly good mobility and athleticism to finish plays above the rim.  He also will run the floor, and he can get buckets when he is left open underneath the basket.  He did miss an alley-oop dunk once after getting it on a cut to the hoop, but usually Birutis did a good job of moving off the ball, and scoring on plays at the rim, but he may need to improve his ability to score in the post.

Early in the game, Birutis attempted to drive hard from the high post before pivoting, but he missed a contested fadeaway jump hook.  He did manage to draw free throws after using a drop step on a considerably smaller defender, and it does seem that Birutis has added strength in the off season, but he may have to work on his shooting touch when he looks to score from the block.

He also showed off fairly good playmaking skills for a player his size.  Birutis is an unselfish player as he will look to keep the ball moving, and he may do this to a fault.  Birutis has good patience and he will generally play a mistake-free style on offense.  Early in the game, he managed to find a teammate ahead running the break to set up a score on the break.  Also, he managed to throw an entry pass to pick up another assist in this game.   He does a good job of finding open shooters on the floor, and he will also set numerous on-ball screens to free up his teammates to set up additional scores for them.  He did commit one turnover though, as he threw a soft, up for grabs that ended up being intercepted.

Plus, he possesses an adequate ability to rebound the basketball.  Birutis has looked to make a concerted effort to crash the glass, and he has seemed to improve his awareness to get boards as he was able to leap up to haul in numerous defensive rebounds in this game.  However, he does not always put himself in good rebounding position, and he also may forget to block out, which may prevent him from getting additional chances to haul in boards, but he may have exhibited average at best defensive skills.  Though he didn’t block any shots in this game, Birutis did a fairly good job of contesting shots inside the paint, as he will use his length and positioning to force misses.  Also, he has added strength in the offseason, which has helped him hold his ground in the post, which can enable him to successfully challenge more shots.  Also, he look to defend out on the perimeter if he needs to, as he will close out on shooters to contest jumpers.

However, he may struggle against quicker players when he is on the floor.  Birutis had trouble defending opponents off the dribble, as he would be late on his rotations and would show poor lateral footwork.  He also struggled to help his team defend on screens, and on one occasion, he didn’t call out a screen, which led to a score.  Other times, he would not hustle back on defense, which would lead his team to giving up fast break points.  Also, he would be whistled for fouls a few times when he was defending in the post.

Right now, Laurynas Birutis may project to be a borderline second round prospect for the 2018 NBA Draft.  He is an emerging offensive player that will play unselfishly, and he knows how to move off the ball to get scores around the basket.  He has shown improved physicality and rebounding ability, which has helped him establish more of an interior presence in the paint.   However, he still did not show much of a face-up or low post game, and he seemed to exhibit his fair share of struggles on defense.  If he can work on his jump shot and position defense, he could solidify his chances to be picked on draft day.

Other Notes:

Siauliai’s 6-4 guard, 1996-born prospect Kristupas Zemaitis put forth a very good showing in limited minutes when he was on the floor, as he showed off solid scoring skills in that time span against Juventus.  He is an above average athlete that can score the basketball in a variety of ways.  Zemaitis made an open three off the catch.  He also scored on a quick, crafty drive to the hoop off of a screen, as he did a good job of changing directions and speeds to get past defenders to score on that possession.  Also, Zemaitis was able to cut to he hoop to get to the post off the ball, and managed to draw free throws earlier in the game.

In this game though, he showed off fairly average playmaking skills.  Zemaitis would run the point as he would bring the ball up, and he would look to pass to the open man.  However, he played a bit carelessly on offense at times.  On one occasion, he had a ball swiped away while handling the basketball, and he had to get it back by falling on the loose ball to recover it for his team.  But another time, he threw an ill-advised, crosscourt pass that ended up being intercepted late in the game.

Plus, he showed off adequate defensive skills.  Zemaitis possesses a good motor, as he would be quick to get back on defense, and he managed to contest a three to force a miss once.  But he may need to add strength, and late in the game, he got caught on a screen, which led his team to allow a three-point basket.

Right now, Zemaitis has some intriguing offensive skills that could make him likely to have a solid career overseas in his current league, as he is a combo guard that can shoot, score, and handle the basketball, and he has good foot speed and motor, which could allow him to improve more on defense, but he has not played a prominent role on his team nor has taken many shots on the year, and he does not possess elite athletic gifts.  Currently, he would project to be a long shot to be drafted, but if he plays more, it may be possible that a team could take a flyer on him late in the second round as a draft and stash pick if he produces more later on this season.

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