Rockets News

Can Donatas Motiejunas Breakout?

By Brett David Roberts

Apr 4, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas (20) shoots during the first half as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) defends at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Donatas Motiejunas has teased Rockets fans with potential for two seasons now, but when will his talents come fully to fruition?

Donatas Motiejunas has had a slow learning curve in his first two professional seasons. He flourished in summer league, however, making the first team of the Vegas Summer league. While it’s certainly a good sign, thriving against summer league competition is not necessary indicative of any future success. It’s hard to liken summer league to much more than a D-league level.

Still, Motiejunas has a lot to learn before he can become a regular rotation player. His grasp of defensive rotations remain slow, and he is too heavily reliant on the three-point shot for a seven footer. Moreover, he’s not that accurate with it, having shot just 26 percent over the last two seasons. Typically, 34 percent is the absolute minimum for having the green light.

Motiejunas, more than anything, needs confidence in his ability to do more than launch jumpers. And he needs to get better at doing it. Functioning in the high post, he could eventually mirror a Pau Gasol type of game.

Playing a stretch-4 would be his best chance at playing time. After improving three-point accuracy, he would make a good trailer on the fast break for the Rockets.

While it may not be an overwhelmingly positive comparison, Motiejunas could eventually play at the level of Andrea Bargnani before his career went ka-poot.

A floor spacing big man is very valuable in today’s NBA.  Ask Channing Frye how well it worked out honing his three-point shot after struggling to find a niche early in his career.

But he’s not there yet. And as poor as the Rockets defense is, it hurts to have another big man in there that is very foul prone. Motiejunas averaged five fouls per-36 minutes. He reaches and doesn’t grasp the concept of remaining vertical.

These are all things he needs to learn from the “basketball whisperer” Hakeem Olajuwon. Motiejunas has improved a little in his first two seasons as a professional, and he is still just 23 years old. But he has to improve before the Rockets lose patience with him. The potential of showcasing him and flipping him to another team remains an option, too, ultimately.