The SLC Dunk team is profiling all the prospects who could be in the neighborhood of where the Utah Jazz are drafting at pick #24. The four categories that we’re making our evaluations are Strengths, Weaknesses, Jazz DNA, and Fit.
The end of the first round of the draft is always a bit of a toss-up. Sometimes you draft Rudy Gobert, and other times you draft Sasha Pavlovic. The Utah Jazz have two picks at the end of the first round this year, at the 24th and 30th spots. One name that’s being thrown around between spots 20-30 by the draft gurus is Rodions Kurucs of Latvia, though it’s tough to tell if he’ll actually come to the US if drafted. I had never heard his name until I was assigned to research him.
Here are some highlights and stats for reference:
Before doing any other research, I compiled a list of what I thought his strengths and weaknesses were just based on watching videos. I’ll list those first, and then quote the info I found from other sources.
- Has a smooth shooting stroke, seems to be comfortable with taking shots off the pass and off the dribble
- Has solid footwork in the post
- He’s not the fastest guy, but he uses his footwork to dribble around defenders.
- Game reminds me a bit of Gordon Hayward. Could be comparable if given time.
Here is what NBA Draft.net had to say:
[Versatile] player, who has been used by his coaches in both forward positions and even as a shooting guard
His shooting mechanics are excellent
Can shoot of the dribble and is able to create distance while dribbling for a step back shot
He is not afraid of contact while driving
Possesses an above average first step that helps him blow by opponents
He is not really vocal, but he is a good teammate
I won’t post any more because this pretty much nailed it. However, if you want to look at other websites you can go here, here, and here. It looks like we’ve got a guy here who can shoot, who understands the game of basketball, and has the physical tools to succeed in the NBA if he works hard. I compared him to Gordon Hayward, and I saw that comparison across other sites. Other players mentioned were Sam Dekker and Doug
It’s harder for me, a non-scout, non-coach guy, to evaluate weaknesses just from highlights. Here are a couple, though.
- Doesn’t look very fast, and that’s comparing him to non-NBA players.
- He seems athletic enough, but he’s no Joel Bolomboy. This is worrying, considering his competition to this point.
- His stat line is okay, but certainly not eye-popping. He’s young, though, so that could change as he develops. Again, the issue for me is the fact that he plays in Europe. It’s comparable to a guy who hits .275 in AAA baseball or something.
Here’s NBA Draft.net’s take
He already had two major injuries and he is really close to be labeled as injury prone
His average ball handling limits him on ISO situations against good defenders
He is just an average rebounder
[Occasionally] suffers from tunnel vision while driving to the basket and doesn't make the correct play
He really needs to add some muscle, since he barely weights 200 lbs
Here’s another take from Last Word on Pro Basketball:
Like most European prospects, he is under-weight. Just 190 pounds, he needs to get stronger if he is to thrive at the NBA level. Now, you may think his weight is just one problem, that could be fixed easily. However, his lack of strength causes more than one problem on the court. Defensively he gets out-muscled and pushed around.
This happens on a regular basis, with the Latvian forward often in need of defensive help. As with most “defensive liabilities” he struggles to contribute in the rebounding category. On the offensive end of the court the 19 year old looks smooth and confident. Unfortunately, the defensive side of the ball tells a different story. Lacking lateral quickness, he needs to be less tentative and make smarter decisions.
There’s not a lot out there about who Mr. Kurucs is as a person. The only line I could find in all the scouting reports and draft profiles I could find was the one from NBA draft.net, which said that he is “not really vocal, but he is a good teammate.” I guess that’s a good sign, really. No news is good news, maybe? Ah, well. Here are some tweets:
Retweeted stuff to make fun of Lavar Ball like the rest of basketball twitter. Nice.
LaVar Ball averaged more PPG in college than LeBron, Kobe, KG, T-Mac and Dwight COMBINED.— Hoop Stats (@HoopsStatistics) March 31, 2017
Let that sink in. pic.twitter.com/Kjpbvi7rKS
Retweeted a video of Mario Hezonja dunking in a wide-open lane. Alright.
Mario Hezonja drops the hammer on Enes Kanter. pic.twitter.com/OYmhkn1Vm9— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) March 30, 2017
Retweeted this story from Kyle Hines. If he believes in the principles Mr. Hines is talking about it, his Jazz DNA is strong.
Great insight from my guy @sirhines42 on playing overseas and more importantly understanding how stay positive even when adversity hits! pic.twitter.com/SBg0Akxb0Q— Ball Beyond (@BallBeyond) March 25, 2017
Retweeted (does he ever write his own tweets?) this and a whole bunch of other Spurs stuff, and understandably so.
For the first time in @NBA history two Latvian players are on the court at the same time. (CC: @DBertans_42 @kporzee)— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) February 12, 2017
Okay, now I’m getting pretty far down the Rodions Kurucs twitter rabbit hole, but when he does tweet it’s mostly stuff like this:
Everyone here said me, that Latvia will lose against Slovenia, I said "no way"!!! #proud_and_glad #keepgoing— Rodions Kurucs (@RODIONS1) September 12, 2015
He’s also retweeted some weird stuff that I won’t post here, but I guess we’ll give him a pass. He was 16 when he did it. I’d hope for the same level of understanding. So does he have Jazz DNA? I don’t know, but we can’t definitively say that he doesn’t, so I suppose that’s a good sign.
Here’s the problem: most of the basketball Internet seems to think that Kurucs isn’t ready to come out of Europe yet, and should be looked at as a valuable draft n’ stash. In my opinion, the Jazz need to draft a guy that can contribute, even if only for a few minutes a night, this season. Let’s say he does go to the NBA, though. If he’s as good as he’s billed to be on offense, he could be a valuable wing off the bench to back up Gordon Hayward or–gulp–whomever the starting SF is. He could also be a good backup option at the 2 spot as a long SG. Think Rodney Hood. This leaves Alec Burks out in the cold, but I think he’s gone anyway.
So is he a perfect fit? It’s so hard to tell, because predicting Dennis Lindsey’s moves is not an exact science. However, if he crosses the Atlantic and if he can stay healthy/put on some muscle, he could be at least a good fit.
The Utah Jazz should ...
NOT draft Rodion Kurucs. Here’s why:
- Draft n’ stash is not the route that the FO should be taking right now.
- Reports say that he’s only 200 lbs. That’s awfully skinny for a guy his height. He’d have a lot of work to do to be NBA-ready, and I’d prefer to draft a guy who is a bit farther along.
- The injury-prone thing worries me, especially considering his young age.
Draft n’ stash a young, injury-prone, slowish guy? Forgive me for not being excited. That said, I wouldn’t be angry if the Jazz picked him up at 30 if he were to fall that far.