Ignas "Iggy" Brazdeikis has come to be a favorite amongst Knicks fans despite only playing 53 total minutes through 9 games in his first season. This backing of support isn't unwarranted, however, the guy can really play and is just 21 years old. So why isn't he playing?
The Knicks being the Knicks
The first reason could be chalked up to the Knicks just being incompetent when it comes to handling their young players, as we've seen plenty of times throughout the years. I mean, why play last year's Big Ten Freshman of the Year when you could give Bobby Portis 15 million dollars to fill those 21 minutes per game? It makes perfect sense. Seriously though, Iggy needs minutes. I understand that you paid all this money for these free agents and you'd like to use them, but there comes a point in lost seasons like this past one (and the many others) where you have to give the young and unproven guys a look. The Grizzlies did it with Dillon Brooks (45th overall pick), the Hornets with Devonte' Graham (34th overall pick), the Thunder with Luguentz Dort (undrafted), you get the point. Every rebuilding team that's actually rebuilding should do it, it's how you find gems that can be great rotational pieces for the foreseeable future.
The "Knicks have too many power forwards" thing really comes to light when the team is getting blown out by 25 late in the 3rd quarter with Julius Randle and Taj Gibson on the floor, and you see Bobby Portis running to the scorer's table for a quick spark plug. On the surface, it's really a lazy joke considering that both Taj and Bobby played the majority of their minutes at center last season, but there is truth in there not being enough minutes to go around. New York should be looking to either trade or not bring back some of last year's free agents and focus on getting better fits with RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson, which I believe they already have in Brazdeikis.
Analytics love him
The Knicks analytics department's love for Iggy supposedly played a large role in the team drafting him, and the stats show you why they fell in love. In his first and only season at Michigan, Brazdeikis scored 1.19 points per spot-up possession, landing him in the 92nd percentile amongst all players. On top of this, he was also good for .93 points per-possession in pick-and-rolls (84th percentile) and was in the 89th percentile as a cutter while only allowing 0.65 points per isolation possession on defense (69th percentile). Overall, 42% of Iggy's shots came in the half-court in finishing situations, where he scored 1.255 points per shot around the basket, in the 74th percentile of all players. His game is built for the modern NBA. Of all his field goals attempted in college, only 11.3% (36 of 407) of them came from the midrange area.
Brazdeikis spent far more time on the court in Westchester than in Manhattan this season, but that shouldn't be considered a slight to his game. The use of the G-League has become a lot more popular amongst NBA teams in recent years, showing that it actually does produce quality players while helping to change the stigma around the league. As seems to be the case with many growing trends around the association, the Knicks were a tad late to the party when it comes to the utilization of development in the NBA's minor league, but better late than never I suppose. If you're young and undeveloped, spending a large bulk of time in the league meant for development might actually do you some good rather than rotting on the bench of the main team, who would've thought? In 24 games with the Westchester Knicks this season, Iggy averaged 20.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists with shooting splits of 50/34/69, showing that he deserves a chance at a spot in the rotation in New York at the very least. The free-throw percentage also shouldn't be expected to stay that low, as he shot 77% from the line in college and it's hard to believe that he's regressed in that area.
Brazdeikis was born in Lithuania but was raised in Canada for the majority of his life. Prior to playing in the NBA together, both RJ and Iggy were teammates on Canada's U-17 roster during the 2016 FIBA World Cup, where they built a chemistry with one another. Iggy mentioned what the experience was like in a post-draft interview:
"It was a lot of fun. But it's almost the off-court stuff was really what brought the team together," he expressed. "It was a special group. We've known each other for so long and just playing with this group of guys from Canada and now being in the position that we're in now. You can't write this stuff up. It's an amazing culture now and I'm excited to be a part of this one."
It was quotes like this that got Knicks fans pumped to see what they had in this guy, yet that largely remains to be seen. He built a reputation for himself as being an intense player and trash-talker on the court at Michigan, something that New York fans will eat right up and Tom Thibodeau is no stranger to. After a year in the G-League, Iggy now has a fresh start under a completely new coaching staff, so let's see if he can make the most of it.
B-Mac on October 28, 2020:
Luke on October 28, 2020:
Hope to see more of him this season, great article
Homeless Man on October 28, 2020:
Nick Primiano on October 28, 2020:
This is terrible
Star on October 28, 2020:
My thoughts exactly