Michigan’s Ignas Brazdeikis makes sense for the Pacers in the 2nd round

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 28: Michigan forward Ignas Brazdeikis (13) looks on during the NCAA Division I Men's Championship Sweet Sixteen round basketball game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Michigan Wolverines on March 28, 2019 at Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 28: Michigan forward Ignas Brazdeikis (13) looks on during the NCAA Division I Men's Championship Sweet Sixteen round basketball game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Michigan Wolverines on March 28, 2019 at Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Michigan freshman wing Ignas Brazdeikis could be the sort of contributor the Indiana Pacers need when they make their second round pick.

Flashy prospects catch the eye of many. Ones with eye-popping athleticism or elite shooting tend to garner more buzz than the function over flash prospects. At points, function is a necessary asset for NBA teams. More than stars, teams need guys who can play and not actively damage the team on the floor: look at the Warriors, playing a few future Hall-of-Famers and a bunch of YCMA dudes. Michigan freshman wing Ignas Brazdeikis might not boast an elite vertical or handle, but he’s solid in all areas of the game and is a good bet to contribute positive minutes on the wing.

Buried in the bowels of most mainstream mock drafts, Brazdeikis figures to present massive value to whichever team ends up selecting the Lithuanian. Wings who can play are tough to find and in drafting Brazdeikis, a team snags one on a rookie scale deal. An older freshman, Ignas’ experienced helped him produce in his lone season in Ann Arbor.

While Brazdeikis isn’t exceptional at any one skill, he’s well rounded on both ends of the floor. Standing at 6’7, 220 pounds with a 6’9 wingspan, Brazdeikis has ideal size to play on the wing and spend some minutes at the four. One of his greatest assets is his strength, which helps him score inside on offense and defend bigger players on defense. While Brazdeikis isn’t a high-level athlete, he is solid and has the first step requisite to beat many players off of the dribble.

In space, Brazdeikis has some vertical pop and can elevate quickly for powerful finishes off of one or two feet. When Brazdeikis can’t out-quick his defender, he will resort to his strength to create openings. Against slighter defenders, Ignas muscles his way to easy buckets.

Around the rim, Ignas Brazdeikis has excellent touch, finishing with both hands, through contact and off-balance. He shot a healthy 62 percent around the rim, with only 42.7 percent of those shots being assisted. Brazdeikis’ ambidexterity allows him to finish in a multitude of situations, here hanging in the air and lofting the ball with his right softly into the cup.

Attacking the closeout, Brazdeikis’ avoids the charge, shifting his position in midair and dropping in the righty floater.

Against Aaron Henry, Brazdeikis doesn’t have the first step or momentum to barrel his way to the tin. In these situations, Brazdeikis turns to his spin move, shielding the ball with his body and pushing defenders out of the way with his strong core. He gets to his spot, finishing high off of the glass with a deft touch.

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While Brazdeikis’ wonky mechanics and abysmal efficiency on two-point jumpers (29.6%) aren’t auspicious shooting indicators, I would bet on him shooting at a solid clip at the NBA level. His three-point percentage (39.2 percent on 143 attempts), free throw percentage (77.3 percent) and touch around the rim give me confidence in his shot.

Another indicator I look for is shot versatility: how many ways did this player get his shot off? Historically, prospects with shot versatility translate better to the NBA level than prospects without it, even if their percentages are lower.

Can a prospect shoot more than spot ups? Off-movement? Pull-ups? Michigan took advantage of Brazdeikis’ shooting in more ways than on spot ups. He shot off of movement.

He flashed some pull-up ability, mostly from mid-range.

And even flashed off the dribble capability from deep on rare occasion.

Ignas Brazdeikis is far from perfect

Brazdeikis’ most glaring weakness is his feel for the game, specifically as a passer, which is average at best. Wired as a scorer, Brazdeikis usually looks to get his own bucket and misses open teammates often. His 0.7 assist to turnover ratio is poor and reflective of his overall decision-making tendencies on offense. He does make simple reads, reacting to help off of the strong side corner.

When Ignas sets his sights on the bucket, he struggles audibling from scoring to passing mode. If he gets downhill, chances are Brazdeikis is going to shoot, which often resulted in a bucket or a foul, but resulted in easy points left off of the table for his teammates. In transition, Brazdeikis neglects multiple open shooters for a contested layup.

I wonder how much of Brazdeikis’ hesitancy passing the ball came as a product of his role and how John Beilein coached him. He scarcely operated as a pick and roll ballhandler, operating as an off-ball scorer for many of his minutes. At the combine, working as a pick and roll ballhandler, Brazdeikis showed new skills, here, snaking the screen, collapsing the defense before kicking out to an open Nic Claxton.

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Brazdeikis’ offensive role in the NBA figures to be similar to his role at Michigan: an off-ball shooter/scorer who will attack mismatches on occasion. Given his tools and versatile scoring package, Ignas Brazdeikis should be a positive offensive player at the NBA level.

Defensively, Brazdeikis’ size and strength help him thrive as a point of attack defender. Because of his lateral quickness and strength, he should be switchable to some extent. While I wouldn’t trust Brazdeikis to consistently stop guards, he should be fine against most wings and many fours. His core strength is apparent when he defends perimeter drivers, as his strength and vertical contests make scoring over Brazdeikis a difficult ask. To start the clip, Brazdeikis does a good job containing the shifty Coby White. The frail Cam Johnson tries to drive through Brazdeikis, failing miserably.

Michigan often asked Brazdeikis to guard fours, who often act as traditional bigs at the college level. Many of these bigs have a significant height and weight advantage on Brazdeikis, but he defended most post players well. Tyler Cook tries to go through the smaller Brazdeikis and is thwarted, resorting to a tough lefty hook, which Iggy contests well.

As a team defender, Brazdeikis is below average, as are most college freshmen. His steal and block percentages are both below two, which historically are not positive indicators for NBA success. He can struggle with focus and attentiveness, zoning in on the ball and forgetting about his man. Screens tended to disorient Brazdeikis, putting him behind the play, forcing his teammates to cover. His closeouts were often sloppy, allowing uncontested penetration.

However, Ignas does defend well off of the ball at times, making his issue more a one of consistency than capability. With his strength and tools, he should have utility off of the ball assuming he develops. Focusing on his man and the ball, Brazdeikis immediately senses Nassir Little’s backdoor cut and sniffs it out. He contests the catch, forcing a tough fadeaway.

Helping off of the strong side corner, Brazdeikis rotates to take away Xavier Tillman’s roll when two defenders double the ball. This forces the kick out and takes away an easy layup.

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I don’t typically endorse betting on players with average-below average feel, but Brazdeikis does so many things well, making me confident he’ll stick in a rotation and contribute positively. The Pacers will have to spend a second round pick on him at most, making Brazdeikis a safe investment. He seems like a no-brainer pick anywhere in the second round, given the scarcity of good wings in the NBA. Like so many teams, Indiana needs wing depth and tertiary creation ability. Ignas Brazdeikis will fill both of those needs for the Indiana Pacers.