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2021 NBA Draft Coverage: Roko Prkačin

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A versatile European forward who plays with an unusual fire

Sweden - Croatia: EuroBasket 2022 qualifiers Photo by Elif Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Editor’s note: As of the withdrawal deadline, 7/19, Prkačin has chosen to pull out of the 2021 NBA draft.

Roko Prkačin (Prr [rolled r]-ka-cheen) is an 18 year old up-and-coming prospect out of Croatia, playing for his hometown Cibona squad from their youth development programs to currently captaining their senior team. A youth standout, he was named Junior Adriatic League MVP in 2019 despite being on average two to three years younger than most of his teammates, and was promoted to the senior team as just a 16 year old. Last September, he became the youngest captain in Cibona history just before his 18th birthday.

This Cibona team has prestigious NBA history, sending NBA legend Drazen Petrovic as well as one-time Jazz man Gordan Giricek. More recently, Utah’s very own Bojan Bogdanovic, as well as Dario Saric and Ante Zizic, were all drafted directly from this club. It’s the most winningest club in Croatia’s history. Being the son of former professional basketball player Nikola Prkačin, the 2002 Croatian Premier League MVP with the same team, and nurtured by the basketball best organization in Croatia, Roko has grown up with basketball in his blood.

Stats

From Real GM:

Per game (Adriatic League): 12.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.5 blocks, 50.4% FG, 35.0% 3PT, 61.8% FT, 26.5 minutes

Advanced: 57.4% True Shooting

Physical: 18 years old (turns 19 this November), 6’9” with a 6’11” wingspan and 8’11” standing reach, 234 pounds

Strengths

Roko’s strengths lie in his flexibility. He shows flashes both on and off ball, displaying a relatively fluid handle like a pick and roll ball handler with finesse at the rim, but also able to roll or pop, as well as post up, like a traditional big man, or make cuts for ferocious dunks like a traditional wing. He shows ability to break players down off the dribble, with a variety of spins, fakes, and good footwork, and isn’t afraid to go up hard in traffic. He is able to take advantage of mismatches, breaking them down with his superior handle, posting them up with his superior size, or blowing by them coming off of a cut or screen (“with advantage”). On top of all this, he has a good nose for offensive rebounding.

On the other side of the ball, his defense is surprisingly good. One video of his that I was excited to come across was this one against the US U17 team in 2018 and many top prospects in this year’s draft, playing the main role of the rim protector. He’s able to show off his length against the likely top picks of the draft like Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes, Jalen Green, and others.

It should be noted that Roko is producing tremendously in relatively few minutes per game, playing 26.5 out of 40, in a league full of veterans and overseas pros.

Weaknesses

Scouts note his biggest weakness appears to be his shooting – he has a bit of a windup and sometimes displays a hitch. Even though the numbers are there – his three point shooting has been a relatively stable 35.0% through two years of top competition on 3 attempts per game – his free throw shooting seems to back this up. At 65.4% in last his Adriatic league season and 61.8% career, his shooting ceiling might not be super high. He doesn’t appear to be guarded very closely from the perimeter in any clips I can find, and doesn’t appear to be very good shooting after motion, but that may not be super necessary in the Jazz’s system anyway. One thing that I would point out is his inconsistent landing - it doesn’t look like he gets much elevation on his jump shots, so he sometimes lands flat footed or off balance, which is interesting. I think this is definitely fixable with an NBA-level shooting coach.

A few additional weaknesses I’ll highlight involve the translation of his game to the NBA. His post-up game will likely not translate to NBA-level bigs or even wings, but is probably good enough currently to take advantage of significant mismatches and develop over time. Furthermore, his defense may be solid for a 4, but with the NBA going the way it his, it’s hard to say if he’ll be viable enough on a switch or as the main rim protector in a five-out lineup.

Additionally, while his ball-handling and facilitating have created amazing highlights, he still commits a lot of turnovers, at about 2.4 per game, for a AST:TOV ratio of 0.8. He would definitely need to tighten up his handle to be a trusted ball handler in Quin’s system, and while he has the vision and desire for fancy passes, they don’t always result in a highlight play.

Jazz Fit

Prkačin honestly reminds me a bit of fellow Croat Bojan Bogdanovic with his ability to score at all levels, underrated post play and passing touch, but with less of a smooth shot. He also projects to be a much better defender, especially as a weakside shot blocker, which is something the Jazz very much lack. His comparison might be something like better-defending Domantas Sabonis, a more creative Pascal Siakam, or a worse-at-defending-but-better-at-traditional-big-man-stuff AK47. Is that too high of praise? Maybe – another way to look at him is a better-defending, poorer-shooting Georges Niang.

Sure, the kid is 18, but he’s been playing professional ball in the Adriatic League since the age of 16, a league where Nikola Jokic, Dario Saric, Jusuf Nurkic and Bogdan Bogdanovic also had their early stomping grounds. (In fact, I believe the Adriatic league has sent the most players to the NBA out of any international league). Prkačin could have a high ceiling if he’s able to make the transition to the NBA, where even the most talented players can get exposed.

Bojan’s presence on the team would ease the NBA transition tremendously for the young forward, and provide an excellent mentor (alongside the defensive reps from Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors). I view him as someone who could come in and fit Georges Niang’s role while providing some additional flexibility, assuming his shot develops like Niang’s did. He potentially fills a spot that the Jazz need desperately as a weakside defender with length and has unusual upside for someone who will likely be available at the 30th pick. With shooting being his main weakness but something that is definitely fixable, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him develop like Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby (who were ~65% and ~60% free throw shooters their first two years in the league but now average 80% and are threats from distance).

As a parting thought, I love the fire he plays with. With a pick this late in the draft, it can be a bit of a crapshoot, so someone who’s willing to put in the work to get better and has quite a bit of upside is something I’d love to see the Jazz invest in. Roko may not be able to immediately contribute at an NBA level, but I suspect that if he continues to work hard, he may be one of the steals of the draft.