Perhaps no player changed last season for the Michigan Wolverines more than freshman star Ignas Brazdeikis. HIs addition quickly turned what projected to be a rebuilding season into a top 10 performance and another trip to the Sweet 16 for the Wolverines.
But after John Beilein’s departure, Brazdeikis opted to remain in the 2019 NBA Draft and will hope to hear his name called on June 20th. Can he get it done? Let’s take a look.
Generally speaking, there’s a lot to like about Brazdeikis’ game. He was a reliable shooter from long range, could drive the hoop, and was a really productive finisher. Even when he couldn’t get the bucket, he was often able to get to the free throw line and convert there. His diverse skillset makes him a particularly tough defensive matchup for opponents. He can take you off the dribble, or shoot over you. Defenders have to pick their poison.
Brazdeikis was also a key part of one of the nation’s best defensive units last season. Unlike many younger players at the college level, Brazdeikis was a plus defender. He’s not an elite shot blocker or pressure guy, but can stay in front of opponents and has enough length to make things uncomfortable. And considering that he was only a freshman, there’s probably some potential for growth there as well.
The biggest question mark about Brazdeikis moving to the next level is how he will be able to matchup athletically with NBA prospects. Brazdeikis isn’t unathletic, but he’s not a guy who’s going to jump out of the gym either. And since his game relies so much on his ability to get past defenders, will that translate against superior athletic defenders? We’ll have to wait and find out once he gets drafted.
Brazdeikis also needs to improve significantly at facilitating. He’s never going to be Magic Johnson at finding open teammates, but his 6.1 assist rate was one of the worst on Michigan’s team last year. It’s also a key reason why he tailed off a bit at the end of the season. Defenders could anticipate that he wasn’t going to be able to pass out of a drive. He’s going to have to improve in that area if he wants to find success in the NBA.
Given Brazdeikis’ current skillset, a team that can space the floor looks like the best landing spot for him. Moreover, a spot where he can work on his passing out of the post and when driving the lane. Teams like the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs seem like solid fits.
However, with that said, many view Brazdeikis as a late second round pick. That likely means no guaranteed deals and the challenge of earning his spot on a roster. Regardless of fit, he’s going to want a team willing to invest to give him a few years to get comfortable.
Despite his remarkable freshman season, expect Brazdeikis to fall to the second round of this year’s NBA Draft. Once there, he will likely spend some time in the Summer League and the G League. That’s where we’ll find out if Brazdeikis can stay in the league long term.