Now that NBA mock drafting is in full swing (despite the total lack of clarity regarding playoff positioning, not to mention seeing how the damn lottery ping-pong balls fall this year), BallinEurope’s man in the U.K., Sam Chadwick, will be taking a look at some of Europe’s prospective high draft picks. Today, it’s all about big man Donatas Motiejunas.

Vital stats
Position: Centre/Power Forward
Height: 7’0”/2.13m
Weight: 224 lbs/101 kg
Date of birth: 09/20/1990
Current Club: Benetton Treviso

Strengths: Donatas is a highly touted, talented centre coming out of Benetton Treviso (the same team that produced NBA draftees such as Toni Kukoc, Jorge Garbajosa and Andrea Bargnani) and is a shooting centre with range all the way out to the 3-point line and can hit it from almost anywhere, as well as this he has a good dribble-drive and can finish with either hand, resulting in him being exceptionally hard to guard.

Donatas has great agility and athleticism, and European Prospects’ take notes that “The combination of talent, size, coordination and skills is rare in European basketball,” i.e. as well as being a great outside threat, he can bring it inside and has a range of interior moves. His great court visibility and height mean that when double-teamed, he can easily spot the open man and hit him for the assist.

Weaknesses: Unfortunately, due to his obvious talent, Motiejunas sometimes lets his game drop to a lower level against lower opposition and needs to learn to keep his game at a high even against lesser NBA players, as the level of talent will be a lot higher than he is used to: He cannot let his game slip against them. Motiejunas’ last and only other weakness is his lack of experience, as he is only 19 and has not yet had the sort of experience other European bigs such as Dirk and Gasol had when they entered the NBA.

Mock draft forecasts: Currently, Donatas is typically ranked anywhere from no. 2 to no. 12 overall pick in this June’s draft; the majority of draft analysis site such as NBADraft.net and NBA Draft Guru reckon the Lithuanian to be picked up by either the Utah Jazz (currently 7th-worst overall) or the Minnesota Timberwolves (8th) due to their needs for size and outside shooting.

In Utah, he can learn from fellow long-range shooting centre Mehmet Okur, who currently has been injury prone, while he can also back up Carlos Boozer at power forward. (If Boozer sticks around in Utah, eh? –Ed.)

The Timberwolves, too, could use the backup size and may feel Motiejunas will well complement Al Jefferson and Kevin Love (while also serving as improvement over Ryan Hollins); with both being mid-range to interior players, Donatas can stretch his man outside the paint while also grabbing rebounds and using his versatility to dribble-drive and dish to the likes of Jefferson and Love inside.

My analysis: If Motiejunas is availible when the Wizards select, I’d suggest they pick him up. Washington has a solid core with the likes of Al Thornton, Andrey Blatche and Nick Young, but JaVale McGee is not the guy which they can contend with in the starting centre position. Blatche is an inside, post-up power forward who can grab rebounds and Al Thornton has also developed in the rebounding area, too, so Donatas will therefore be able to stretch defences to allow Blatche to go to work on the interior while he can also provide a rebounding presence on which other teams must focus. If, in the event that Blatche gets into foul trouble, Donatas has the ability and the offensive moves to fill in for him at this position.

Other particularly appropriate teams might include the Philadelphia 76ers and Golden State Warriors.

Philadelphia need to be ready for the complete disappearance of Samuel Delambert and the team needs to get back to its running-and-gunning roots that made it so successful last year. The Sixers are also generally terrible outside shooters, and Donatas can help them improve in all of these areas. While Dalembert is playing badly and is not the best fit in Philly, Donatas can run the floor and, for a seven-footer, is incredibly athletic and fast; he also brings a shooting presence much like that of Andrea Bargnani or Danilo Gallinari. If he is available to the Sixers, I suggest they pick him up and see what they can get trade-wise for Delambert.

Golden State is short and needs some height, but Donnie’s free-flowing system likes short players, especially guards who can shoot and guys who can run the wings. Donatas provides them with a big man who can not only bang on the inside, but can also run the wings and shoot the 3 ball. Playing along side fellow European Rony Turiaf will also help him get used to playing on a different continent.

Evaluation: In the end, whoever picks up Donatas is looking at a great player and maybe a team cornerstone (much like Dirk was for Dallas): He has great athleticism and size and will continue to develop over time. Overall, I feel Motiejunas is a much better player than last year’s number two overall pick, Hasheem Thabeet.

Sam Chadwick is a assistant coach for the Solent Kestrels U13 team. He also writes a basketball-centered blog called Behind The Back.

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