3D wing, Pure Shooter

Arnoldas Kulboka Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Arnoldas Kulboka had a so-so appearance at the 2017 FIBA World Championships U19 in Cairo, Egypt last month.

The 19-year-old[1] wing, who averaged 20.8 points per 40 minutes on 27% usage-rate, was a key part of Lithuania placing sixth and showed some tangible development in terms of shot creation chops. He was not relied on to initiate offense against a set defense constantly but had plenty of opportunities to run side pick-and-roll or post-up within the flow offense, operating in a well-spaced floor.

The gunner shot poorly, though — 42.9% effective shooting on 92 field-goal attempts, according to RealGM. The types of shots he took and the fact he looked quite good taking them is an encouraging sign Kulboka is on his way to develop into the most valuable kind of shooter but the ball has to go in too, which was not the case in Cairo.

Defensively, the six-foot-nine, 206-pouder was up-and-down as well, showing some potential as a wing defender who can execute the scheme and provide some switch-ability exchanging into soft bigs. But he didn’t create any events, which is quite disappointing for someone with a six-foot-11 wingspan and some hops, and generally just doesn’t play with much toughness or intensity.

WEAK-SIDE OFFENSE

Despite putting up poor percentages in Cairo, Kulboka still projects to make his money out of working the second side of the floor. That’s the case because of his track record in previous events[2], the way he looks shooting and the types of shots he takes.

Kulboka has a quick release, fluid mechanics and does great shot preparation catching on the hop on spot-ups and relocating to an open spot around the wing.

But the biggest value he provides is as someone who can make shots on the move. Lithuania got him open coming off staggered screens running baseline from one side of the floor to the other or from the corner to the top of the key, sprinting to the ball for dribble hand-offs, popping to the three-point line as the back-screener on Spain pick-and-rolls and off Iverson cuts out of horns.

Kulboka averaged 11 three-point attempts per 40 minutes in Cairo but struggled and nailed just 25.5% of his 51 such shots.

His reputation still carried gravity, though, and opponents closed out to him consistently. In these instances, he looked fluid attacking closeouts out of triple-threat position, able to blow by his man on a combination of quick first-step + burst and get all the way to the basket in a position to elevate in balance.

SHOT CREATION

Opponents also played up on him as he caught the ball on hand-offs and off ball-reversals, which opened up opportunities for him to attack a defense moving from side-to-side within the flow of the offense.

Kulboka proved himself able to run side pick-and-roll, not just to keep the offense moving but as an asset to stress the defense into a screw-up as well.

He operated mostly as a go-go driver attacking off the ball-screen and got all the way to the basket with either hand a fair amount, proving himself able to adjust his body in the air to finish around rim protection with reverses or up-and-unders, though he is still not strong enough to finish on his way down and hasn’t yet develop much dexterity drawing contact in traffic — finishing his 41 two-pointers at a 48.8% clip and averaging just 5.6 foul shots per 40 minutes at the Worlds U19.

But Kulboka also flashed some ability to work with pace, showing side-to-side shiftiness and an in-and-out dribble when he transitioned these side pick-and-rolls into isolations, getting decent separation for stop-and-pop jumpers he looked good elevating in balance for.

He also flashed some proficiency creating for others, showcasing a well-timed pocket pass when the defense gave him a clear window to hit and a pass over the top when the defense kept him from turning the corner but screwed up the help behind the play — assisting on 13.1% of Lithuania’s scores when he was on the floor.

That said, he doesn’t have above average court vision and is still just as likely to turn it over as he is to get a good look operating off the dribble, coughing the ball up 15 times as opposed to dishing out 14 assists in Cairo.

As it is, Kulboka’s most reliable resource for shot creation purposes is his inclination to take smaller wings into the post. He doesn’t have any post moves and doesn’t play with a lot of toughness trying to back these players down but can get a turnaround, fade-away jumper off.

DEFENSE

Kulboka is also a mixed bag as a defender. There is not one thing he does consistently well at this point of his development.

He was mostly used as a weak-side defender and looked good running shooters off their shots with his closeouts,  subsequently sliding laterally to stay in front and using his eight-foot-10 standing reach to contest shots effectively at times. Kulboka also showed some commitment rotating inside to bump the roll man or crowd the area near the basket coming off the weak-side in help-defense.

But there were plenty of times where his closeouts were plenty weak and he missed rotations as well, he doesn’t have much strength in his thin 206-pound frame to contain dribble penetration and he doesn’t create any events making plays in the passing or as a shot blocker, despite his length and athletic ability.

Kulboka found himself on smaller players from time-to-time and has a combination of enough quickness and long strides to keep pace with them on straight line drives but doesn’t bend his knees to get down in a stance and is too spaced out, so they are able to shake him side-to-side and get around him out an island or maneuver him into a ball-screen to lose him easily.

In pick-and-roll defense, he doesn’t put in the work to go over ball-screens and completely exposes his big teammate. As is the case, Lithuania had him switching and Kulboka did an adequate job trying to front the post to avoid giving up an easy post entry and raise his arms to contest shots effectively against big men who couldn’t just bully him.

He doesn’t figure to be a real option to play up a position in smaller lineups, though. The height and the length are there but the toughness and tenacity aren’t. Kulboka doesn’t get very physical with his boxouts and isn’t very active pursuing the ball off the rim, collecting just 13% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor, which is a reasonably disappointing mark for someone his size.

[1] Who turns 20 in January

[2] Per RealGM, Kulboka nailed 34.6% of his three-pointers at the 2016 European Championships U18, 42.9% at the 2015 European Championships U18, 39.6% at the 2014 European Championships U16, 35.9% at German second division for Baunach last season and 45.2% at German second division for Baunach two seasons ago

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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