Former New York Knicks small forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas has cleared waivers after he was recently cut to make room for Joakim Noah.
Kuzminskas, 28, is a 6-foot-9 wing who has played on the Lithuanian National Team. While he’s had a strong career as a four-time Lithuanian Basketball League All-Star, he recently said that his priority is to stay in the United States (via Sportando):
“My priority is NBA. But who knows, maybe nobody needs me. Then I would consider return to Europe … If I needed money, I would have stayed in New York. I want to play, not to sit on the bench.”
Based on his quote, it’s clear it likely won’t cost more than the veteran minimum to sign Kuzminskas. As such, we looked at teams who have expressed interest in him and explained why he could be a good fit.
Defends midrange shot, produce points on cutters, can grab offensive rebounds on missed free throws
Last season, he had 15 points (including two three-pointers) and 4 rebounds against the Bucks. This immediately caught the attention of their fanbase.
The front office would need to clear a roster space for him. Arguably the most replaceable player for Milwaukee is DeAndre Liggins because of his non-guaranteed contract, though he has produced well for his team. But Kuzminskas could be a perfect fit for their squad.
Opposing shooters were 3.4 percent worse when Kuzminskas was on the court for New York last season, per Cleaning the Glass. Meanwhile, the Bucks have the sixth-worst field goal percentage on midrange shot attempts this season.
On offense, Milwaukee runs a cut on 8.3 percent of their total plays — which is the third most in the league. But they average just 1.17 points per possession on this play type, which ranks No. 22 overall in the NBA.
According to Cleaning the Glass, Kuzminskas was one of the best overall players at his position for offensive rebound percentage after a free throw.
Los Angeles Lakers?
Short-term, high-reward option who provides wing depth
Before he signed with the Knicks, he reportedly worked out with the Lakers in July 2016. However, this was under their previous regime before Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka took over the front office.
However, he does provide valuable wing depth for a team that is lacking at the position. Other teams that could also use wing depth include the Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans and Denver Nuggets.
For the Lakers, the most important thing is to clear cap space for the upcoming offseason. Because he is currently in the final year of his deal, he’d have no impact on the long-term future of their plans in Los Angeles.
Would post up for them on offense; helps them score off steals
Kuzminskas, as mentioned, worked out for Atlanta before his NBA debut.
The Hawks could offer him their $4.3 million room exception, which would likely be much more than any of the other teams in the mix would be able to pay him.
One reason why he fits is that no team this season posts up less often than Atlanta. This is an aspect of his game where he is very impressive, as he averaged 1.07 points per possession on this play type last year. This season, the Hawks average 0.8 points per possession on post-up plays.
If he signed with Atlanta, Kuzminskas could provide an immediate spark in this facet.
He could also help on the defensive side of the ball as the Hawks currently rank third-overall in steals per game. The Knicks averaged 1.2 more points off steals when he was on the court compared to when he was off in 2016-17.
Scores on putbacks and can help them produce more turnovers
He showed Chicago what he was capable of when he recorded a career-high 19 points (including 12 in the fourth quarter) against the Bulls in Jan. 2017.
During his rookie season in New York, Kuzminskas averaged 15.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per 36 minutes. He had limited playing time for the Knicks but in Chicago, he may have the chance to step up and potentially provide a step forward as an NBA player.
His most helpful skill for the Bulls would be his put-back ability. Last year, as noted in the chart above, he averaged 1.03 points per possession on all of his putbacks. Chicago has the third-worst mark in the league at 0.97 PPP on this plat type.
Chinese Basketball Associaton?
Close links to two teams in China; has already played in Europe
It’s also worth considering that he could also avoid a return to Europe to instead play in China.
Jonas Kazlauskas, who coaches the Lithuanian national team, is the head coach of the Guangdong Southern Tigers. They currently have former NBA players Andrew Nicholson and Yi Jianlian in their rotation.
Kuzminskas could also link up with fellow Lithuanian hoops star Donatas Motiejūnas on the Shandong Golden Stars.