Observing Laurynas Birutis in Two LKL Basketball Games

May 18, 2017

By Alan Lu

Recently, I decided to take the time to watch Vytautas Prienu’s 7-0 Lithuanian-born center, Laurynas Birutis, who was recently called up to play in the top league in his home country, the LKL in mid-April.  With thanks to YouTube via LKLTelevizija, I was able to see him play once on April 15th versus Pasvalio, and another time on April 20th against Birstono.  Here are my thoughts on how he fared in these games, as well as how he may rate as a prospect for the NBA.

Laurynas Birutis does a really good job of scoring on hustle plays.  He frequently rolls hard to the rim, as he can frequently catch lob passes, and he can throw down an alley-oop dunk if he gets a solidly thrown basketball.  Plus, he can also generate free throws as he will draw fouls on defenders after rolling to the hoop.  But often times his teammates will either not pass him the basketball even if he’s wide open on the move, or they may throw a terribly inaccurate pass that would not get to him.  Also, he does a very good job of scoring on timely put backs, as he is an active offensive rebounder that can take advantage of his opponents not blocking out.  Plus, he will run the floor to put himself in opportunities to score on the break.

He also flashed the ability to score in the post.  Birutis was able to lower his shoulder to score on a jump hook, and he can also draw fouls on his opponents.  However, he may struggle to consistently score on these types of moves, as he may not always be on balance or find his shooting touch to routinely score on the block.  Also, he showed the willingness to take mid-range jumpers, but missed both times he hoisted those shots up.

Plus, he also displayed adequate playmaking skills.  He showed a good willingness to pass the basketball to find the open man.  His best pass of the game was when he passed the ball to a shooter on a dribble handoff, and set a screen to help him get wide open to knock down the mid-range jumper, but sometimes, Birutis would commit a few turnovers due to carelessness, as on one play he held the ball too long, and on another he threw an errant pass that sailed out of bounds that was perhaps due to miscommunication.

Despite having solid length and physical tools, Birutis may surprisingly not be a good rebounder.   He is quite active on the offensive glass though, as he can capitalize on opponents not putting a body on him to quickly get put back scores afterwards, but on defense, he seems to have trouble consistently obtaining rebounds, as he may be out of position to get to those balls, and other times he will just allow balls to fly over him.

Also, Birutis possesses good defensive skills.  He has very good length, athleticism, and instincts, as he can block numerous shots in the paint, and he also can intercept passes and poke balls away to collect steals.  On one play, he even appeared to make a chase down block in transition, only to be called for goaltending despite evidence appearing to suggest that it may have been a clean swat.

He also showed a very good ability to defend the post and drives, as he can use his length and mobility to force misses and difficult passes.  But sometimes, he can be too aggressive in making rotations, as this may lead him to commit fouls or to over-rotate on plays that may cause him to allow scores.  In addition, Birutis has a tendency to sag too far off his man and give up too much space, leading his opponents to score on numerous jumpers.

In general, Laurynas Birutis is an intriguing prospect that has great size and solid physical tools that could make him a second round pick in 2017 if he decides to stay in this draft.  If he withdraws, he could be a potential first round pick next year.  While he will need to continue to hone his game on offense, he is a high motor, energetic rim protector that could possess considerable upside, as he could end up developing into a solid role player in the NBA.

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