Lithuanian center Laurynas Birutis entering NBA draft

Lithuanian center Laurynas Birutis has submitted paperwork to make himself eligible for the 2018 NBA draft, his agent Sarunas Broga told ESPN.

“The NBA has always been my dream,” Birutis told ESPN. “Therefore, I would like to try my chances there. This was not a difficult decision, because I want to try to compete against the best players in the world.”

Birutis -- a 20-year-old, 7-foot-1 center -- is in the midst of one of the most productive seasons of any draft-eligible prospect in Europe, averaging 15.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 25 minutes per game for BC Siauliai in the Lithuanian first division, leading the LKL in all three categories. Only one draft-eligible player in LKL history has averaged those numbers or better in the past 25 years, then-19 year old Zydrunas Ilgauskas in 1994. Birutis also received his first minutes in a Lithuanian senior national team uniform in February in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.

“I’m just trying to give my best every day in the practices and games, and help my team win,” Birutis said. “The head coach of BC Siauliai is a great teacher who helps to build my confidence and believes in my capabilities on the court. My teammates are highly motivated and hungry, which is definitely a big part of the whole improvement process.”

A skilled and mobile big man who is adept at putting the ball in the basket using soft touch with both hands, Birutis is currently rated the No. 95 prospect in the ESPN Top 100 and is considered a potential second-round pick by NBA teams. As a 1997-born international player, he will have one more opportunity to go through the NBA draft process in 2019 should he elect to withdraw his name at the early-entry deadline on June 11.

“I would like to find a team that wants and believes in me,” Birutis said. “I feel that being inside of the NBA would motivate and help me to improve faster and get closer to the highest level of basketball. I need to improve many things in my game. I’m not aware of what NBA teams know about me and maybe I won’t surprise them, but I would outline my love and passion for the game, my willingness to work harder and learn every minute to become better in adapting to today’s basketball.”