Add Rokas Jokubaitis to the New York Knicks’ solid draft picks under Leon Rose’s leadership.
The 21-year-old Lithuanian guard won the Euroleague’s Rising Star winner after helping FC Barcelona reach the Final Four.
FC Barcelona celebrates Knicks’ pick & stash Rokas Jokubaitis for winning the Euroleague’s Rising Star trophy.
? FC Barcelona pic.twitter.com/6eRuYEy3Fy
— alder almo (@alderalmo) May 11, 2022
Jokubaitis, the 34th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, led all Rising Stars-eligible players with 7.2 points, 2.8 assists and a 7.6 average performance index rating. The 6-foot-4 playmaker is having a historic season, knocking down 59.5 percent of his three-pointers. He is on the verge of becoming just the second player in Euroleague history to lead any season with 60 percent or better accuracy from behind the arc if he sustains his form in the Final Four.
Jokubaitis is the third FC Barcelona player after Alex Abrines (2016) and Ricky Rubio (2010) and the first Lithuanian to win the Rising Star Trophy. He beat projected 2023 NBA’s first overall pick Victor Wembanyama of LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne and Marek Blazevic of Zalgiris Kaunas in the coaches’ voting.
A gun-shy Jokubaitis picked things up quickly with his new club.
“It is a strange phenomenon. We all understand that [58 percent] are not because I am a dangerous shooter,” Jokubaitis said. “My shooting selection allows me to cheat stats. Really, I don’t even know how I manage to do it, but it’s fun that hard practice brings the results.”
Jokubaitis has three more years left in his contract after this season. He plans to join the Knicks in the NBA Summer League again and return to Euroleague for one more season.
A Knicks contingent went to see Jokubaitis in February, and the Lithuanian guard said they saw what they wanted to see and added, “now everything is in their hands.”
But Jokubaitis also wants to be 100-percent ready when he jumps to the NBA. He wanted to avoid becoming just another Euroleague talent on the bench.
“What I understand now and did not understand before is that there are a lot of players who come back to Europe, which means that maybe they were not prepared 100% for the NBA,” Jokubaitis told Basketnews in February.
“When I feel that I am fully prepared, and I have taken everything from Europe, then I will think about going there. I am not saying that I am not ready, but I am focused on other things.”
He later clarified in another interview in March about his future plans to join the Knicks.
“Some people thought this was my thinking about titles, but I meant something else. It will happen when I feel inside that I have reached my maximum in terms of my improvement,” Jokubaitis said.
“There are many bad examples, like Kevin Pangos, who dominated the EuroLeague. It’s the NBA where even the best European players don’t fit in.”
He is likely coming over to join the Knicks in the Summer League but intends to play another season for FC Barcelona.
“Two years or so will pass, and I’ll talk to my agent about going to the NBA. But before that, I’ll have to feel 100 percent confident that at least I’ll have a chance to fight for the minutes,” Jokubaitis said.
“For example, I come to the US, and they say that you will play in the G League, and sometimes you will be with the main team. Then it’s better to improve in the EuroLeague.”
If everything goes according to plan, Jokubaitis will join the Knicks in the 2023-24 season.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo