Knicks draft-and-stash prospect Rokas Jokubaitis has been named the EuroLeague’s Rising Star, per Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews.com (Twitter link). Jokubaitis, 21, was the No. 34 pick in the 2021 draft and was acquired from the Thunder (along with No. 36 pick Miles McBride) in exchange for Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (No. 32).
Jokubaitis has appeared in 35 games with Spanish club FC Barcelona this season, averaging 7.2 points and 2.8 assists along with an eye-popping .565/.595/.757 shooting line in 17.1 minutes per contest. Barcelona will face long-time rival Real Madrid in the EuroLeague Final Four, which takes place from May 19-21 in Belgrade, Serbia.
As Urbonas notes, the young Lithuanian guard joins an impressive list of Rising Star recipients, including Danilo Gallinari, Nikola Mirotic, Ricky Rubio, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Luka Doncic, and Usman Garuba, among others.
Here’s more from the Atlantic:
- In the second part of a discussion with colleague Fred Katz about New York’s offseason, John Hollinger of The Athletic says the Knicks are “unquestionably” looking to trade for a star player, because the roster is too good to tank, but not good enough to contend. Hollinger expects coach Tom Thibodeau to be back at the helm next season, as he’s done a solid job developing young players. Australian guard Dyson Daniels, who played for G League Ignite this past season, would be a good fit alongside Immanuel Quickley if New York’s pick lands at No. 11 or 12, says Hollinger.
- The stellar play of Jimmy Butler in the Heat/Sixers matchup is a reminder of what could have been for Philadelphia, writes Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Philly famously chose to placate Ben Simmons instead of retaining Butler, even though Butler was (and still is) close with Joel Embiid. Both Simmons and Butler needed the ball and didn’t complement each other well offensively, and the team felt forced to pick between the two, sources tell Shelburne. “When you get into a competition, he understands the full deal — that you have to do it on both ends,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Butler. “And he’s able to compete with a ferocity and an incredibly stable mind. That is really unique — when it gets the craziest is when he’s really locked in on making sure that it’s solid winning basketball for our team.” The Heat lead the second-round series 3-2, with Butler averaging 26.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.8 steals on .534/.318/.842 shooting.
- Eric Koreen of The Athletic ranks the Raptors‘ trade assets, from untouchable (Scottie Barnes) to salary matching/low-stakes moves (Malachi Flynn, Khem Birch, others). Koreen notes that Pascal Siakam and Precious Achiuwa have both drastically improved their trade values with strong seasons in 2021/22.