Latvian forward Rodions Kurucs is declaring for the 2018 NBA draft, a source told ESPN.
The 6-foot-10 combo forward was projected as a likely first-round pick entering this season, but he has seen his draft stock stagnate due to a lack of playing time with Euroleague powerhouse Barcelona.
Kurucs emerged on NBA radars in 2014 with a strong showing at the FIBA U16 European Championship, being named to the All-Tournament team. He made his professional basketball debut shortly after at the Euroleague qualifying tournament for VEF Riga but moved to Spain at the beginning of 2015.
Kurucs suffered some injuries that slowed his development and has yet to get his professional career fully on track. He entered the 2017 NBA draft against the wishes of Barcelona but was forced to withdraw at the deadline despite strong interest in the late first round, as his exorbitant buyout, which reportedly was around 4 million euros, would have made it difficult for him to have joined the NBA immediately. Kurucs has been embroiled in conflict since then due to his refusal to sign a contract extension with Barcelona. He has one year remaining on his deal.
ESPN draft analyst Mike Schmitz was in Spain earlier this month and was able to get a better feel for Kurucs' situation, as well as his strengths and weaknesses as a prospect.
"Kurucs scored 16 first-half points, making shots from the perimeter and attacking the rim while also showing his shortcomings as a decision-maker and defender," Schmitz said. "He's in a tough situation when he takes the floor in LEB Gold, as he often tries to do too much, anxious to prove himself. Kurucs is starting to get more consistent playing time with Barcelona II, though, seeing action in five of the last six games and averaging 23.4 points per 40 minutes on 63.6 percent from 2 and 35.3 percent from 3. Even so, the fact that Kurucs only practices with the first team and comes down with a score-first mentality has caused internal strife among his coaches and teammates."
Kurucs, 20, is currently slated 39th in the latest ESPN mock draft. His combination of size, polished scoring instincts and multipositional versatility is attractive in today's NBA. As an international player who is making himself eligible for the second time, he would have one more opportunity to go through the NBA draft process should he withdraw his name at the early-entry deadline June 11.
Kurucs' ability to attend private workouts or participate in the NBA International Elite Camp in Treviso in early June will likely play a significant role in his decision. Few teams have been able to scout him thoroughly, with many top decision-makers electing not to schedule trips to watch him due to the uncertainty of what team he'll be playing with on any given day and whether he'll see any minutes. Regardless, many scouts consider him to be the third-best international prospect in the draft and an attractive stash option for a team that is strapped for roster spots in the short term.