|Team: NON-NBA College Team: Milano|
H: 6' 5"|
W: 185 lbs
(29 Years Old)
|Agent: Herb Rudoy ||
Hometown: Kaunas, Lithuania
Kalnietis (13 points [5/8 FG] 8 assists, 29 minutes) showed many of the same strengths and weaknesses he did last year, giving us a glimpse into the considerable potential that he clearly possesses, while also letting us know quite clearly why he struggled to consistently get minutes with Zalgiris in the Euroleague this season. Starting with his blazing speed in the open floor, his terrific finishing ability around the rim, his ability to create shots for himself on the perimeter and then find the open man on the drive and dish—Kalnietis has physical tools that few 6-5 guards have in this draft.
He also has his fair share of weaknesses, though, particularly his inability to take care of the ball, his average perimeter stroke, his poor wingspan which hampers him defensively, and his limited feel for the game. Just like we did last year, though, seeing him excel in this setting makes us feel like he should be able to contribute a bit more at a high level of competition, something that he wasn’t able to do that much of this season once again. Considering his upside, it might not be such a bad idea to invest a late 2nd round pick in him, just to see if he manages to pan out somehow in the next few years.
Mantas Kalnietis had a promising season start, but seems to be fading lately. He hasn’t even hit the court in the last two Euroleague games, while his production in the Lithuanian and Baltic Leagues is getting smaller (3 points and 2.2 assists in almost 19 minutes per game in the last 5). A positive sign is that he’s trying to play under control, but in the end it means giving up most of the creative game he could show at this point. Therefore, he often limits himself to taking the ball up-court, passing the ball to a wing, and kissing the offense goodbye. Whenever he tries to produce off the dribble, he ends up with mixed results, sometimes with some really nice assists, but too often with a bad pass. His perimeter stroke is still a work in progress, although he might be showing some signs of improvement (he combines for a 36% accuracy from behind the arc on the season). At least, he’s not a liability on defense, where he takes advantage of his superb physical-athletic profile.
Kalnietis showed very intriguing stuff in the last two editions of the Treviso Camp, while he earned MVP honors in the ULEB Summer League in Jesolo a few months ago. But he’s a type of player that excels in the open court, in non-organized basketball with plenty of transition play, but who struggles so far when it comes to executing playmaking duties in well-structured offenses at high-level settings, like the Euroleague, for example. In the end, he’s a long-term point-guard prospect.
Kalnietis had a pretty up and down day today, displaying both the good and bad parts of his game. He showed off his terrific athletic ability time after time, putting tremendous pressure on the defense and coming up with some spectacular finishes at the basket. He was constantly in attack mode with his slashing mentality, although over-dribbling at times and causing some pretty foolish turnovers when he got out of control with his dribble, or just plain trying to be too fancy when fatigue kicked in.
He knocked down a few nice shots, for example a pull-up jumper to start off the game and then a very difficult 3-pointer at the buzzer as the first quarter came to a close. On the pick and roll he did a solid job, although he still has a ways to go in terms of learning to read defenses and responding to what is thrown at him. At the end of the day, Kalnietis possesses overwhelmingly more tools than almost any other guard here, and therefore has to be considered one of the most intriguing players we’ve analyzed in Treviso so far, even if he still has quite a ways to go to polish up his skill-set and decision making.
Kalnietis finally showed up yesterday, on time to deliver some of the impressive stuff he's capable of doing. A very athletic player, usually something spectacular happens when he puts his leaping ability to full use. He can easily explode to the rim off the dribble, showing a nice first step and the ability to finish with a powerful dunk. Although he's not a consistent shooter, he did knock down some perimeter jumpers with nice mechanics. In terms of distributing the ball, he delivered a few drive-and-dish actions, even some passes from the perimeter, where he showed solid court vision. Still, he's yet to solve the doubts about his ability to effectively run an offense. He doesn't always come up with the best solutions, and his basketball IQ doesn't look like the best around. He's a sort of a combo, which is not that bad of a thing for a guy listed at 6-5 (even if with a poor wingspan).[Read Full Article]
Mantas Kalnietis barely received any playing time in the last two games Zalgiris has played in the Baltic League: a grand total of 6 minutes and no points against ASK Riga and Lietuvos Rytas. Coach Grigas doesn’t seem to trust the young point guard enough to run Zalgiris’ offense. Actually, both were difficult games (a close victory against ASK and a painful loss against the archrival Rytas), and it was DeJuan Collins taking over the playmaking duties. It comes to reflect the fact that Kalnietis still is not a reliable point guard, and even if he enjoys all the tools to become an excellent player, he needs to improve in basic areas related to his decision making, such as distribution of the ball or setting the proper game rhythm. The potential is there, but it seems it will take him a bit more than expected to figure out how to effectively take advantage of his wonderful physical/athletic conditions.[Read Full Article]
In what has been a disastrous season for Lithuania's top basketball club, it’s not a huge shock that Mantas Kalnietis has followed suit with poor play. Considered a lock for the top-16 lock before the season started, Zalgiris Kaunas was instead the worst team in the Euroleague this year, suffering through severe underachieving on the part of most of its players, coaching changes, player replacements, and star guard Marko Popovic getting injury. In all that chaos, Kalnietis didn't see the kind of playing time he might have expected, and wasted most of the little opportunities that the coaching stuff trusted him with.
Struggling to get significant playing time, Kalnietis looked like a fish out of water in the first games of the season. As soon as Popovic got injured, Mantas started playing more, but his game was neither stable nor patient enough to help Zalgiris achieve better outcomes. He remains a top prospect when it comes to his athletic abilities and his smoothness in the open court, but there are several flaws that become more and more notable when it comes to his point guard skills. His passing ability is good, maybe not exceptional at this stage of his career, yet good enough to help him average more than the 1.3 assists that he had this year. He sees the court relatively well and runs the floor smoothly aided by his nice speed, which he combines with very nice size. His ball-handling skills are improvable, but more than anything he lacks the experience to know when to push and when to slow down. The fact that his basketball IQ is fairly average was seen more than ever this year, and on an already underachieving team, that was just not going to get the job done. Kalnietis struggles badly with his outside shot, and when it came to utilizing his excellent athleticism to put the ball on the floor, he showed questionable decision making skills.
On defense, he makes good use of his size, and despite his thin frame, he is a solid presence. He manages to keep smaller players in front of him thanks to his quickness, wingspan and above average footwork. He does seem to be lacking in experience in this area, though, not showing great awareness particularly in the team concept.
We may have been expecting a little too much out of Kalnietis after he seemingly emerged out of nowhere from the 2nd division to claim a spot in Zalgiris’ rotation and eventually the Lithuanian national team, and it indeed appears that things were moving a little bit too fast as far as the hype and expectations were concerned.
With the improvement we’ve seen in the past year from this extremely gifted 6-5 point guard, it’s hard to rule anything out when it comes to Mantas Kalnietis. While his exact role at Zalgiris is still somewhat unclear as far as the Euroleague is concerned, Kalnietis has been getting playing of playing time early on in the season and there is some room for optimism that that trend will continue against the best of the best of Europe as well. He barely cuts it as a “veteran” for this article, but he did gain valuable Euroleague experience last year already after being called up from Zalgiris’ “B” squad in 2nd division Lithuania, including a 15 point, 3 rebound, 3 assist outburst against Malaga.
We’re talking about one of the more intriguing guys you’ll find in this competition as far as his potential is concerned. Standing 6-5, Kalnietis is a terrific athlete who possesses great speed in the open court, terrific leaping ability (which he tries to show off at any given moment) and a fairly explosive first step. He attacks the rim exactly the way you want to see a player in this mold to, being tough and aggressive and not being afraid in the least bit of getting airborne and taking contact on his way to a creative finish.
Defensively, he shows very nice potential thanks to his quickness, excellent length and activity level. He has the right mindset to get after it, and therefore will come up with his fair share of steals. His body needs work as he’s definitely on the frail side, though.
As far as his point guard skills go, he certainly has some nice tools to work with. He uses his height to see the entire floor and is a very unselfish player, but is still very much raw in his decision making and therefore a bit too turnover prone. Kalnietis anticipates a bit too much and therefore gets ahead of himself, but that’s because he always seems to be looking to make something happen.
The area Kalnietis must work the most on is his perimeter shooting, which is simply not up to par with his slashing game. His shooting mechanics aren’t very good, and neither is his touch. To really become a fulltime combo guard, he will have to improve in this area, including developing a legit mid-range game.
Kalnietis is still a fairly raw player, but he’s clearly on the right track. He acquired some excellent experience this summer in the U-20 European Championships and the Men’s World Championships in Japan, where he got solid rotation minutes with the Lithuanian National Team. As of right now he looks to be on track to get some nice playing time in the Euroleague, which will further help him develop his game and continue to mature. He’s been playing fairly well in the early going so far.
Right before joining the senior National Team to play the worlds, Kalnietis had the chance to showcase his abilities at the U-20 stage. He’s easily the most athletically exuberant point guard in his generation, a guy extremely difficult to stop given his quickness and nice handles. Not a bad passer at all, especially in drive & dish situations, he’s still far from becoming a reliable distributor, even if everyday he looks better in this department. Also, he has significantly struggled with his perimeter stroke, getting most of his scoring production in penetrations. Intense, very active, an interesting defender, Kalnietis was one of the most intriguing prospects in the tournament.[Read Full Article]
The shadow of Sarunas Jasikevicius was too big for anybody trying to play the point guard position for Lithuania in this tournament. Nobody can really fill his shoes, but at least Mantas Kalnietis did feed the hope of this country to finally find a decent successor for the great Saras at the point guard position, where they have suffered a big drought producing talents for several years. We’re talking about a completely type of player, an excellent athlete who is everyday more of a reliable playmaker, even if still inconsistent. Struggling with his perimeter shooting, he has successfully attacked the basket either to score himself or dish the ball, averaging 6 points and 2.8 assists per game. We’re talking about serious NBA potential here.[Read Full Article]
Various players tied for the highest leaping mark, but the most interesting one is Mantas Kalnietis, a point guard who needs to gain maturity in his game. He’s really struggling here when it comes to distributing the ball and shooting from the perimeter, and even if he can do better as he showed with Zalgiris this season, there’s serious work to do. But he’s a talented kid who plays the game with passion and enjoys excellent tools with his 6-5 body in shoes and 37 inch one-step vertical leap, as he takes care of constantly proving by flying on both ends of the court.[Read Full Article]