Knicks’ plans for surprising NBA Draft pick Rokas Jokubaitis

The Knicks will keep a close watch on their new second-round pick, combo guard Rokas Jokubaitis, this season.

The 20-year-old lefty Lithuanian will play his first season in the Spanish League for Barcelona after moving on after three seasons for Zalgiris in his home country. The Knicks’ longtime European scout, Kevin Wilson, lives in Barcelona.

The 6-foot-5 Jokubaitis probably needs one more season of development before he’s ready for the Knicks, which is fine by all accounts. New York already are bringing three rookies onto the roster – first-round pick, Quentin Grimes, point guard Miles McBride, (No. 36), Texas center Jericho Sims (selected No. 58) — and Argentine PG import Luka Vildoza.

Most mock drafts had the stash pick in the late 40’s or early 50’s. The Knicks reached at 34, but that’s how high they are on Jokubaitis’ offensive ability. In the Lithuanian league last season, he only averaged 7 points but shot 38.8% beyond the arc.

Rokas Jokubaitis
Rokas Jokubaitis will most likely join the Knicks in the 2022-23 season.
Xinhua News Agency via Getty Ima

“He’s seasoned international already,’’ said former International director of scouting for the Knicks and Hornets Tim Shea, who also lives in Barcelona as an international scouting consultant.

“He’s got skills. A lefty, crafty, combo-guard skills with his handle, He passes well and shoots it with smarts and style. He’s limited athletically. With his fundamentals, he reminds me of Jose Calderon. From what I’ve seen he has a good feel for the game and for each game.’’


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It is still unclear if Jokubaitis will play on the Knicks summer-league team in Las Vegas on Aug. 8 because of Covid-19 quarantine issues, but it hasn’t been ruled out. Vildoza is expected to return from the Olympics to play.

Whether Jokubaitis plays for the Knicks in 2022-23 will depend probably on how Vildoza works out and the details of the Lithuanian’s Barcelona buyout.

The Knicks haven’t had a ton of success with players of Lithuanian descent (Ignas Brazdeikis and Mindaugas Kuzminskas). Jokubaitis should benefit from having at Barcelona a Lithuanian legend as his head coach,  Šarūnas Jasikevičius.

Rokas Jokubaitis
The Knicks have not previously had much success with their Lithuanian players.
Euroleague Basketball via Getty

The protection on Charlotte’s 2022 first-round pick they gained Thursday is pretty severe. It’s protected up to 18 in 2022 — which means there’s a likely chance it won’t be conveyed. In 2023, it’s protected until 16. It’s protected up to 14 in 2024 and 2025. So the Knicks will need the Hornets to make the playoffs soon or they’ll be owed two second-round picks in 2026.

The one current benefit of giving up 19 for the future was saving $2.7 million in salary-cap space. The Knicks should have about $50 million in space as they seek a starting point guard.

The likelihood is the Knicks will have six first-rounders and nine second-rounders over the next four drafts.