Year In Review: Donatas Motiejunas
Reflecting upon Donatas Motiejunas' past, present and future following the 2013-14 campaign
Donatas Motiejunas didn’t see much in the way of meaningful playing time during the opening two months of the season as fellow second-year forward Terrence Jones seized control of the Rockets’ starting power forward spot while Omri Casspi collected the majority of the reserve minutes, relegating D-Mo to little more than mop-up duty more often than not.
But as the continued midseason injury absence of Omer Asik left Houston in increasingly desperate need of quality size, an opportunity arose and the Lithuanian native began to take advantage. Starting with a 10-point, 5-rebound showing against New Orleans on January 15, Motiejunas kicked off a one-month stretch during which he averaged nearly eight points and five rebounds per game in a reserve role. Those were efficiently produced numbers as well; D-Mo knocked down more than 50 percent of his shots from the field during those 15 games and better than 38 percent of his 3s, too.
Motiejunas wasn’t able to sustain that level of production the rest of way, though he did sprinkle in the occasional performance that dropped drool-worthy hints as to the type of talent and potential he possesses. As is they case with the vast majority of young players, consistency looms as the key word for D-Mo going forward.
Motiejunas delivered games in which he scored more points (a career-high 20 on March 20 against the Timberwolves) and collected more rebounds (a career-best 15 on April against versus the Lakers), but perhaps no contest this season better demonstrated his all around growth as a player than did the evening when Houston finally put an end to its reoccurring nightmares in Dallas. During that wild, wacky and heart stopping showdown, D-Mo recorded the first double-double of his NBA career while compiling 12 points and 13 boards to help the Rockets put an end to their seven-game losing streak at the American Airlines Arena. His manic energy and work rate at both ends of the floor played a massive role in Houston’s 117-115 win, as he put his length, skill and nonstop hustle to good use creating and collecting loose balls, contesting shots, running the floor and scoring from the low-post. Those are the kinds of things D-Mo can do – with additional seasoning, refinement and experience he should be able to showcase that skill set more often.
THE NEXT STEP
As the final sentence in the previous section suggests, mo’ reps for D-Mo lie at the heart of his development going forward. That doesn’t just mean more playing time by the way, though that will of course ultimately prove key as well. It means more time in the weight room to continue getting stronger, more shots on the practice court to significantly increase his proficiency from beyond the arc (opponents are going to sag far off his efforts to provide spacing until he betters his career 3-point shooting percentage of .269), and more film work to familiarize and master the subtle details and nuance of NBA schemes and strategy.
The good news: Motiejunas is a tireless worker with a genuine desire to be great. He’s still just 23-years-old. The learning curve for bigs in this league tends to be a steep one, but given his skills and smarts it’s only a matter of time before D-Mo breaks through and becomes a reliable, consistent contributor. He’s already made great strides as a rebounder – his rebound rate rose from just 9.9 percent his rookie season to a much more respectable 13 percent this year – so there’s no reason to believe he can’t make similar progress in areas such as shooting and diminishing his foul rate in the future.
Make no mistake, Motiejunas is still nowhere close to a finished product. More work and patience will be required. But D-Mo’s dedication to his craft certainly makes it much easier to believe that the wait will ultimately be worth it.