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Grading Ognjen Jaramaz’s Summer League campaign

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“I came all the way from Serbia and all I got was this lousy stat line.”

Okay, so Ognjen Jaramaz didn’t exactly fill up the stat sheet in June’s Summer League, but there was still a lot to take in from the Serbian-born 21-year-old. Although he played only about 12 minutes per game, Jaramaz did plenty on the floor to give Knicks fans some insight into what he does well and what he may need to improve on.

I love this kid.

Did he play well? Not really, but his play wasn’t as bad as the stat sheet below might suggest.

Let’s tackle the positive aspects of Jaramaz’s production. First, he figured out somewhere in game four against Orlando that free throws count as points too and pushed himself into double digits against Orlando after scoring only two points in his previous three games combined. Jaramaz was the Knicks’ second leading scorer in that game with 12 points (Artis had 13), despite playing the second-fewest minutes (13). On nine free throw attempts that game (and 11 overall), Jaramaz was a perfect 100%, and for a guy who seems to enjoy attacking the basket, 100% is a welcomed percentage at the line.

Beyond that, it gets pretty dicey. Jaramaz shot 14% from 3 and only 7% from the field. Yikes. Ironically enough, Jaramaz had a few shots go down that didn’t count due to an out-of-bounds heel or an away-from-the-ball foul. It was kind of funny, but obviously doesn’t look good (understatement) on paper.

If one or two of those shots count, or even one more shot goes in that he missed, his percentages increase a lot since he took only 2.8 shots per game. However, I can’t excuse Jaramaz for his shooting. The shots didn’t go in, and while I don’t believe he’s a true 14% 3-point shooter, he still was very, very bad from the field.

After his first few games Jaramaz’s teammates (especially Dominique Jones) looked for him much less.

When he did have the ball in his hands, Jaramaz’s drives often ended with deflections, tie-ups, or plain ol’ misses.

It was extremely encouraging that Jaramaz did attack the basket as much as he did in spite of his failures to convert, and as mentioned, it paid off in his fourth game where he racked up points at the line.

Unfortunately, there weren’t many other ways Jaramaz could get points. Jaramaz’s jump shot was a bit hard to dissect. I often critique the lower body of perimeter shooters and need to point out some crucial thoughts on shooting mechanics. Great shooters like Steph Curry and Reggie Miller tend to have some lower-body movement, and it doesn’t necessarily mean they will miss shots, it simply narrows the margin of error. It’s not impossible to be a good shooter when shooting off balance, but it’s much harder. This is why Curry and Miller are freaks and are so effective, especially off-the-dribble. It is also one of the reasons a guy like Steve Novak is a 43% career shooter from 3, but fails to crack NBA rotations (no disrespect to the big homie Novakaine).

With that said, Jaramaz was one of the worst offenders of lower-body movement I’ve seen lately.

Jaramaz didn’t provide much offense, that much has been established. Averaging 2.8 points on 2.8 attempts per game, and didn’t fare well trying to get open shots for others either. Outside of a three-minute stretch, Jaramaz played every other minute on the floor with a primary ball-handler (Chasson Randle, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, or Dominique Jones). Although Jaramaz brought the ball up several times, the coaching staff clearly knew Jaramaz’s play-making limitations and played him primarily off the ball, where he just wasn’t much of a factor.

When Jaramaz kept it simple as a playmaker, he was serviceable at best. This is clearly an area of his game with room to grow.

Although his offensive game was lackluster, Jaramaz was the Knicks’ best defender by far (albeit among a sea of sub-par defenders). Believe it or not, Jaramaz would be the first Knick who is also a former All-Adriatic Basketball Association Defensive Player of the Year (don’t fact check me on that).

All kidding aside, Jaramaz was fundamentally stellar throughout Summer League. Speaking only about his defense, Jaramaz has the potential to be an adequate or even above-average NBA defender today. Standing 6’4” tall and weighing 195 lbs., Jaramaz had sufficient size, strength, and agility to defend opposing point guards. Most impressive to me was his refusal to get taken out of a play by screens around the perimeter or concede jump shots when defending pick-and-roll.

Jaramaz was a legit pest on the ball and reminded me a lot of Matthew Dellavedova in that regard, only much tougher and stronger.

Aggressive, pesky defenders often come with some baggage in the form of fouls. Jaramaz moves well laterally, but definitely uses his physicality to the point where he’s daring referees to blow the whistle, and several of those instances occurred in unwanted situations.

Most of what Jaramaz brings to the table is straightforward, while his flaws are equally as apparent. If Jaramaz were to play in New York in some meaningful minutes, he would be an instant fan favorite because of his aggressive play and attitude. He didn’t help guys up, he didn’t flop, he didn’t shy away from contact, and he elicited a nostalgia that would make the late Anthony Mason proud.

The Posting and Toasting group chat was BUZZING after that dunk attempt (mostly me), and regardless of how he played in Summer League, I was pulling for him from that point on. You can actually pinpoint the frame where he ceased to be Jaramaz and attempted to become Airamaz™.

Jaramaz is almost 22 years old and that could be problematic. I would be bananas about the kid if he were 18 or 19. Perhaps playing with an NBA team and under NBA development personnel could make Jaramaz a late bloomer, but it seems as though that’s not in the cards for the immediate future. Jaramaz will likely spend at least one more year overseas, if not more. Luckily, Jaramaz has now tasted a bit of the NBA and knows what he will need to improve on to make it in the league, if he so desires.

While I don’t think his offense is as bad as he showed in the five-game stretch, it clearly needs lots of work. Similarly, I think Jaramaz shows a lot of promise as a defender, but Summer League is only the tip of the NBA-talent iceberg. Jaramaz was the Serbian KLS super league round-8 MVP, which just goes to show you how talented NBA prospects are, considering Jaramaz really didn’t move the needle. Objectively, it wasn’t a break-out showing, but I’ll be keeping my eye on the Serbian.

Grade : C-