Part II of a series analyzing the New York Knicks.
The G-League’s regular season was to end Friday and Knicks rookie small forward Ignas Brazdeikis would have gotten his chance, according to sources.
With the Westchester Knicks out of the playoffs, April games were expected to be a showcase for the 21-year-old Canadian to show why the Knicks moved up in the second round from 55 to 47 to grab him.
“That was the plan — join the team, get an opportunity,’’ an NBA source told The Post. “The Knicks were happy with his development. He kept a real positive mentality, kept his head down and was excited about the opportunity.’’
The coronavirus pandemic, which forced the NBA to suspend its season, ruined that opportunity.
Brazdeikis, the former Michigan star, is home in Toronto, working out at a private gym. He’s waiting to find out if his rookie season is done at just nine NBA games played — all brief, garbage-time opportunities.
Neither David Fizdale nor Mike Miller gave him a chance as he came in with a reputation as a so-so defender. Brazdeikis averaged 1.9 points in six minutes, shooting 27 percent overall — 1 of 9 from the 3-point line.
Even in preseason, the 6-foot-7 southpaw, despite a sharp summer league in which he showed himself to be a slasher and 3-point shooter, got shut out of minutes.
“It was very curious,’’ one NBA personnel man said. “I guess everyone was trying to save their jobs.’’
The good news is the Knicks saw significant improvement in Brazdeikis while with Westchester. Initially he put up good numbers but inefficient ones. That changed across the final few weeks.
In 21 G-League games, the lefty native Lithuanian averaged 21 points on 49.9 percent shooting — 34.4 percent from 3. His defense has been the issue.
“He’s Lithuanian where everything is slanted to offense and then Team ‘D’,” one European scout said.
Joe Raso, a Toronto-based regional scout for multiple teams and a longtime member of Team Canada’s program, sees Brazdeikis as a legitimate NBA scorer.
“When I first saw Ignas play as a youngster at 12, he was a playmaker with size and very high IQ,” Raso told The Post. “As he got older, his offense improved and he flourished in roles of being ‘The Man’ in Michigan and in the G-League.
“Many see him as an NBA role player at best. But I believe he has tools to become a major offensive contributor. His job now is to convince his NBA bosses. He’s a multifaceted, physical scorer with size. His IQ makes him a candidate as a player you can play through a offense. He now needs to prove he can defend a few positions. He loves the game. I hope the Knicks stick with him.”
Brazdeikis signed a three-year deal with a team option after the second season, so he should be back next season at the moderate number of $1.5 million. That doesn’t include the $1 million general manager Scott Perry gave Sacramento to swap picks.
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“He’s got that size and toughness, he can play different positions at times,’’ his former Michigan coach John Beilein said in January before being fired in Cleveland. “He’s a rugged kid. You can play two small forwards and he can guard a lot of the 4–men in this league. Eventually he’s going to be a player.”
New team president Leon Rose may have to wait until summer league to scout Brazdeikis — even if it is played in the fall.
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