New general manager Mitch Kupchak did something the Charlotte Hornets had never done in previous NBA drafts — use a second round pick to select a draft-and-stash international prospect.
The Hornets selected Lithuanian small forward Arnoldas Kulboka with the 55th overall pick. While Kulboka is on contract with Brose Bamberg in Germany, he spent last season on loan with Orlandina Basket-Serie A in Sicily. Kulboka is at least two years away from potentially joining the Hornets, but staying overseas could make him more valuable down the road as he develops.
Kulboka is currently listed as a 6’9, 220 pound small forward/shooting guard. He says his game is similar to Joe Ingles and Bojan Bogdanovic. He played with former NBA point guard Eric Maynor last season, who Kulboka says has encouraged him to continue shooting and improving his game. In 29 games played on loan last season, Kulboka averaged 8.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 0.7 assists while averaging 26.1 minutes per game. He shot 36.6 percent from the floor, 36.7 percent from distance, and 81.5 percent from the line.
While playing in the 2017 FIBA U-19 Basketball World Cup for Lithuania, Kulboka averaged 13.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per game while shooting 48.8 percent from the field as Lithuania finished in sixth place.
Kulboka doesn’t lack for confidence — in several of the first highlights below, he made several smart decisions whether shooting the ball or looking for a teammate.
Kulboka is also a versatile scoring wing and is able to attack the basket, use his size to post up, and hit shots from the outside. According to RealGM.com, Kulboka is a career 35 percent 3-point shooter (excluding junior club teams he has played on). He believes he is more athletic than others give him credit for, which allows him to score from different areas of the floor.
It’s also promising that Kulboka has been a high usage player the past few seasons can also thrive as one of the team’s go-to players. He had a usage percentage of 17.5 with Orlandina Basket last season, and he previously had marks of 25.9 percent, 24.7 percent, and 17.4 percent with other clubs.
All that said, Kulboka must continue developing his offensive game. Averaging 8.3 points per game in 26.1 minutes per game translates to 0.32 points per minute, an average that must increase. He also must continue to add weight and strength. There has been progress in the past couple of seasons as the below tweet shows, but Kulboka must continue to grow physically:
Just wanted to share this with people who still think Arnoldas @kulboka98 body has not been improving. Kid gained around 6kg/13lbs each season and is now at 100kg/220lbs #process #kulboka #teamwass #bbaltics pic.twitter.com/VbxixS5tfs— Tadas Bulotas (@BulotasTadas) March 6, 2018
Overall, the selection of Kulboka made sense for the Hornets with the 55th overall pick. He’s young, has good NBA size, and has the base skill set that could translate into the NBA. A few more seasons in Europe could help, and while number of draft-and-stash prospects never make it, being drafted by the Hornets may have been fate: