The NBA Draft is coming Thursday, June 22, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and Thunder fans everywhere are hopeful GM Sam Presti can strike gold with the 21st overall pick. While it’s difficult to find mock drafts that resemble one another, a popular name being linked to Oklahoma City is that of 19-year-old Latvian, Rodions Kurucs. In fact, both The Vertical and Sports Illustrated have projected him at 21 in the last two days.
The question is — who is Rodions Kurucs?
Position: Small Forward
Weight: 200 lbs
Current Team: FC Barcelona B
- 24 games / 17 starts / 21.2 MPG
- 9.46 PPG
- 2.7 RPG
- 1.4 APG
- 44% FG
- 32% 3P
- 80% FT
- Per 40-minute Numbers:
- 17.9 PPG
- 5.2 RPG
- 2.7 APG
What They’re Saying
NBADraft.net: “Rodions Kurucs is a really skilled player, who can bring a lot in the table, especially on the offensive end of the floor. His scoring ability and physical attributes are undeniable. If he remains healthy, works on his body and fixes some of his weaknesses (ball handling, court vision, defensive concentration) he can become a really good player in the future. NBA Comparison: Sam Dekker”
The Ringer: “A draft-and-stash candidate who, long term, could exceed expectations as a high-IQ playmaking wing/forward. Best case scenarios: Nicolas Batum, Jonas Jerebko, Chandler Parsons”
Bleacher Report: “Former Barcelona standout Rodions Kurucs has been trending upward a bit in recent weeks thanks to his size (6’8″, 200 pounds) and his upside. The issue is that Kurucs is just 19 years old and will need some time to fully develop before being ready for NBA competition.”
FanSided: “A majority of Kurucs’s shots came off the dribble, which makes sense given his on-ball usage for Barcelona B. This is another contextual piece to keep in mind when assessing his shooting potential. Kurucs struggles to set his feet when he is coming off screens or pulling up, which can account for a lot of his issues on those open catch-and-shoot shots. If he can fine-tune that aspect of his shooting, he may be able to progress into an NBA-level shooter, given how the rest of the motion looks.”
Athleticism — Has a quick first step and his length aids in quickly getting to the rim. Doesn’t look it at first glance, but possesses good athleticism and can finish in traffic.
Shooting — Despite only shooting 32% from long distance last season, Kurucs looks like he has the tools to develop into a formidable shooter in the NBA. The unimpressive percentage is possibly nothing more than a small sample size (27/83), but he looks confident with a defender in his face and in catch-and-shoot situations. When you’re looking at Andre Roberson’s 24% from deep (23% from the corner) in 2016-17, pretty much everything looks like an upgrade. Rodions will let it fly.
Ball Handling/Vision — He looks like a liability handling the basketball right now, and has that Jerami Grant-esque “I’m dribbling but I’m not sure what my plan is” sort of vibe about him. The beauty of playing in a Russell Westbrook-led offense is that he wouldn’t be required to contribute much when it comes to either. (The clip below came out of nowhere, so there is at least hope that he can figure this out.)
Defense — Many clips I watched included him displaying active hands, which is a good sign for his development on the defensive end of the court. He hasn’t fully grown into his body yet, so lateral movements look really awkward at times, and it’s safe to assume he would get blown by frequently off the dribble. He is lauded for his basketball IQ, so my presumption is that his defensive awareness will get better as he goes. Example of those active hands:
- Has missed significant time due to knee injuries.
- At just 200 pounds, he’s unprepared for the size of his NBA defensive assignments in every way, shape or form.
- Struggles to move laterally, and will initially get destroyed off the dribble.
- Doesn’t appear to contribute much statistically outside of scoring the basketball.
- If he wasn’t ready for the highest level of play in Europe, he’s not ready for the NBA.
- At 19 and still extremely raw, he’s in no position to contribute immediately.
Kurucs is expected to develop into a serviceable NBA player, and I share those expectations after looking into him further. However, his reputation as a potential draft-and-stash doesn’t bode well for the current climate in Oklahoma City. Sam Presti is tasked with building a contender around Russell Westbrook as quickly as possible, so taking a flier on a kid that is best served playing overseas for a while longer simply doesn’t make sense. Many think he’ll eventually be viewed as a steal, but timing is everything.
If for any reason Presti feels as though Westbrook isn’t intent on signing his contract extension, Kurucs would immediately begin making a lot more sense. If the Thunder look to completely rebuild, his skill set should translate well to the NBA when it’s fully developed. Injury concerns do exist, and there’s always risk involved when drafting internationally, but Kurucs should come along nicely in time. I just don’t believe it will happen in Oklahoma City.