EuroBasket 2017 has given Knicks’ reserve Mindaugas Kuzminskas an opportunity to strut his stuff and he hasn’t disappointed. Following Sunday’s win over Italy, Lithuania is now 2-1 and the 27 year old has been a big part of their success.
Kuzminskas is averaging 16 points per contest, but alas, he hasn’t exactly been the headlining attraction. Instead, Lithuania is using him as more of a spark plug to give them a necessary injection of life every time the squad’s momentum appears to waver. Time and time again, Kuzminskas has answered the call. He’s scoring in bunches off the bench, much like New York desires him to do on the NBA stage.
How can the Knicks get more of this from him, come October?
Kuzminskas has been relatively efficient, converting on 52% of his field goals and 42% from downtown. Both numbers are highly respectable, but some of the same struggles that the lengthy forward had during his rookie NBA campaign remain. When shooting from deep, Kuzminskas has a habit of rushing his shots, making errant decisions with the ball while clearly in traffic. He can be overzealous, which is something that unfortunately carries over on the defensive end as well.
Because of his size and potential to create mismatches, Kuzminskas is often regarded as a “3 and D” candidate in the NBA, but there’s still a long way to go on both ends of the floor. The good news is that there’s so much more to Kuzminskas and his respective skills. That’s been apparent through three EuroBasket games. As a brand new NBA season approaches, it’s up to the Knicks to tap into the rest of what Kuzminskas has to offer.
The swingman has been excellent at attacking the basket and slashing his way through imposing defenses thus far. The Knicks saw flashes of this last season, but clearly weren’t as focused (or arguably as aware) on giving him such opportunities. Kuzminskas is aggressive when charging at the hoop and all the more effective when slamming the ball home with both hands for two points. Instead of using him to create space, the Knicks need to give him space of his own and let him run. This will lead to fast break buckets, higher-percentage scoring opportunities, etc.
His poor defense makes Kuzminskas somewhat of a liability to stay on the floor during long stretches, especially during crunch time. Still, it’s clear he becomes a much bigger asset for Lithuania when they play to his offensive strengths and call for it at the most opportune of times. If the Knicks are dedicated to seeing his development through (while getting the most out of him in the meantime), they could learn a thing or two from watching the way his country utilizes him. They need to create space, run pick & rolls, and help Kuzminskas get to the basket.
He may have long-term potential as a “3 and D” athlete, but for now, Kuzminskas’ explosiveness could really benefit New York going forward.