Assessing Ariel Hukporti, Rokas Jokubaitis, and Panagiotis Kalaitzakis

February 7th, 2021

By Alan Lu

This time around, I decided to take the time to watch Ariel Hukporti and Rokas Jokubaitis play in a February 2nd LKL basketball game that took place between Nevezis and Zalgiris, and I was able to see this with thanks to YouTube via LKL TV.  Hukporti has been able to get some run in the LKL lately, and he’s seemed to show a more diverse offensive game, so I wanted to watch him play.  It also presented an opportunity to watch Panagiotis Kalaitzakis play.  Among the three draft prospects, I felt that Hukporti played the best, but Zalgiris was able to win handily.  Here are my thoughts on how they fared, as well as how they currently may stack up as prospects for the NBA.

Nevezis’ center, Ariel Hukporti is an athletic, versatile center that could project to go in the late first to the second round range for the 2021 draft.
(Photo:
BNS, via Basketnews.lt)

Nevezis’ German-born center, Ariel Hukporti had a decent showing in his team’s loss to Zalgiris.  He showed off versatile scoring skills, and he was able to show some surprising ball-handling skills, and he scored 14 points and hauled in 5 rebounds in this game.

Hukporti excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  He was able to go coast to coast off of a steal as he led the break, and he drove in to score on a high-flying, two-handed dunk in transition.  He also managed to score on a strong layup off of a cut to the hoop another time.

He also did a fairly good job of scoring in the post.  Hukporti used a quick shoulder fake to score on a turnaround jump hook late in this game.  He also can draw fouls upon his defenders to get to the free throw line.  On another play, he caught a lob pass down low, but was too far underneath the hoop, as he missed on an off-balanced layup at the rim once.

He also showed a decent ability to score off the dribble.  Hukporti was able to use a nifty spin move to score on a powerful two-handed slam.  However, he also had his shot blocked on a running layup attempt on a separate possession.

Plus, Hukporti also flashed the ability to knock down jumpers to provide some floor spacing for his team on offense.  Hukporti stepped back to make an open three-point shot from beyond the arc, and he showed a good-looking shooting stroke when he made the three-point shot that time.  He also made an open, mid-range floater with his left hand from just inside the left elbow early on.  However, he struggled to make jumpers consistently from further out, and he also threw up a couple of unsightly airballs when taking mid-range jumpers from the baseline in this game.

On the downside, he was quite turnover prone on offense.  For the positives, Hukporti is an unselfish player that will look to pass out of the post to find open teammates.  He will move the basketball, and he also will set a few screens for his team.  On the downside, he tended to throw inaccurate passes, as he threw a couple that sailed out of bounds, and another that went into the backcourt that led to an over and back violation.  He also threw an inaccurate interior pass that ended up getting intercepted.  He also had a ball poked away on a drive that led to another turnover.

He didn’t quite get as many rebounds as expected in this game, but Hukporti was able to get his fair share of boards against Zalgiris.  He was able to get multiple boards on both ends of the floor.  He was able to leap up to get a tough defensive rebound in traffic, and he also chased down a ball to get another defensive rebound late in this game.  However, sometimes he would not quite grab balls to get rebounds, and he also got beat to a ball that was in his area, which led his team to allow a put back score early on.

Also, Hukporti played fairly good defense in this game.  He was able to catch an opponent’s dropped pass to get a steal, and he also blocked a shot off of a cut due to possessing solid athleticism, length, and timing.  He’ll play passing lanes to help his team get steals and deflections, and he also would rotate on drives to help his team get stops.  Plus, he also held his ground when defending in the post, and he was able to successfully challenge the shot to force a miss.  However, sometimes he would struggle to defend pick and rolls, as he would over-hedge and then not rotate back to defend opponents on rolls to the rim.  He also struggled to defend opponents off the dribble, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.  Late in this game, he sagged too far off of a shooter, which led his man to score on a mid-range jump shot.

Overall, Ariel Hukporti is an athletic, skilled big man that showed a solid ability to make plays on both ends of the floor.  He is a talented player that may have considerable potential as a prospect for the NBA, and he could especially move up draft boards if he can make more outside shots consistently.  Right now, he may be a solid value pick for a team in the late first to the second round range of the upcoming draft, and in a favorable scenario, he could thrive as a role player at the next level similar to Washington Wizards’ center, Thomas Bryant in the NBA.

Zalgiris’ 6-4 Lithuanian point guard, Rokas Jokubaitis had his ups and downs in his team’s win over Nevezis.  He struggled to make shots consistently, as he struggled more to make jumpers from further out, but he excelled at attacking the basket to score in the paint, and he also showed off some playmaking skills, as well as improved defense in this game.

Jokubaitis did a decent job of scoring off the dribble.  He was able to score on an acrobatic, reverse layup on a drive to the basket.  He also drove up court to score on a reverse, 180 layup in transition late in this game.  He also did a good job of scoring in transition, as he would throw down emphatic dunks on breakaways.  Sometimes though, he would rush his shots, which would lead to misses.

He also struggled to knock down jumpers from further out in this game.  On the plus side, Jokubaitis was able to dribble left around a screen to make a pull-up smooth jumper from the mid-range.  However, he was unable to make mid-range shots consistently, and he also missed both of his three-point shots that he hoisted up from beyond the arc.

Also, he displayed adequate playmaking skills in this game.  Jokubaitis is an unselfish player that can throw solid interior passes to find teammates on the move, and he can push the ball up the floor to set up scores for teammates on the break.  He has solid court vision and he will probe the defense, and he can get the ball to his teammates in an assortment of ways.  On the downside, he would tend to throw ill-advised, jump passes that would get intercepted, and he also over-dribbled and had a ball poked away to commit a turnover another time. Though he didn’t grab many rebounds in this game, Jokubaitis was able to chase down a board to get a defensive rebound, and he also pushed the ball up the court afterwards.

He also played solid defense in this game.  Jokubaitis did a good job of getting his hands on passes to help his team get steals and deflections, and he showed off a solid motor to chase down deflected passes to help his team force those turnovers.  He also would fight through screens and contest threes.  Plus, he also defended an opposing ball handler in the backcourt tightly, and he managed to get his opponent to commit an 8-second violation in the backcourt.  Sometimes though, he would struggle to defend opposing ball-handlers, and there was one play where he gave up on a play that led his team to allow a score in transition.

Overall, Rokas Jokubaitis didn’t have his best game, but he played better defense than in the previous contest that I saw him play in.  He’s a smart, skilled playmaker that can score off the dribble and run a team at the point, but he will need to regain the outside shot that he displayed last season.  Right now, he may be a solid pick for a team in the second round of the 2021 draft, and he could end up being a reliable role player in the NBA.

Nevezis’ 6-6, Greek-born swingman Panagiotis Kalaitzakis put forth an uneven performance in his team’s loss to Zalgiris.  He made some shots early, but he struggled to make them consistently, but he rebounded and defended well when he was on the court.

Kalaitzakis showed the ability to knock down jumpers in this game.  Early on, he used a quick, behind-the-back crossover move to seamlessly make a pull-up three from beyond the arc.  He struggled to make outside shots consistently, and he was unable to make either of the long two-point shots he hoisted up, but he was able to make a corner three later on. He also showed that he can draw fouls upon his defenders when he would take it to the rack to try to score off the dribble.  Plus, Kalaitzakis was able to score on a quick put back after leaping up to grab an offensive rebound.

He also showed off fairly average playmaking skills.  Kalaitzakis can throw solid interior passes to find teammates on the move, and he can throw passes off the dribble to get teammates the basketball.  He also was able to lead the break to find a teammate on the break to set up a score for him.  However, he also was quite turnover prone in this game.  He threw a couple of catchable passes that were dropped out of bounds, and he also threw an inaccurate high pass that got intercepted.  He also lost the ball on a drive out of bounds, as the ball slipped out of his hands on a separate play. Also, Kalaitzakis did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He would chase down balls to get multiple boards on both ends of the floor, and he was quite active at crashing the glass to help his team get boards.

Plus, he also played solid defense in this game.  Kalaitzakis would get his hands on passes to help his team get steals and deflections, and he also managed to back-tap an opposing ball handler to get another steal.  He also would contest jump shots to force some misses, and he also successfully drew a charge late in this match.  On the downside, he had trouble guarding quicker players off the dribble at times, and he also was called for fouling an opponent in the post due to hand-checking.

In summary, Panagiotis Kalaitzakis is a fairly athletic, skilled swingman that has a versatile set of skills, but he will need to be a more consistent shooter and take better care of the basketball in games.  Right now, he may be a borderline second round candidate for the upcoming draft, but if he can continue to hone his game, he could perhaps project to be a 3 and D type of role player in the NBA sometime down the road.

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