Lukasz Kolenda is a point guard atypically talented for a Polish backcourt player and atypically well known in scouting worldwide community for Polish backcourt player thanks to that. Following his successful showing at FIBA U20 European Division B Championship where he won the MVP and led his country to the promotion he even appeared on ESPN mock on the beginning of the season. He also already possess experience with senior NT under coach Mike Taylor and few weeks ago he decided to put his name in NBA Draft as early entrant.
Since two years Kolenda is a fully fledged member of Trefl Sopot rotation. Team is self proclaimed “heart of the Sopot” and there is absolutely no doubt who is being prepared to be the center piece of that organisation for years to come. Currently Trefl is coming off whirlwind season as they fell short with their playoffs aspirations and were fighting relegation until the very last game. During that stretch Lukasz witnessed many players come and go, had three head coaches but each of them saw obvious potential and readiness in him to let him play a big role. Some could state he was in big degree responsible for few upsets but there is a will to give him an opportunity to learn through mistakes in order to get better which is super rare on pro level.
18/19 LIVE SCOUTING
I was scouting Lukasz in fact before I even became a scout. I watched him extensively last three and a half years in various competitions but somehow this season I attended only one game live, against Stelmet Zielona Gora which reminded me about one anecdote from my basketball life.
I remember my conversation with one Turkish League coach during 2017 Euroleague Final Four in Istanbul. We were talking about many players and at some point he asked me who is the best point guard of our league. I answered: “James Florence can really score on our level but as far as true playmakers It’s still Lukasz Koszarek”. His response? “Oh my god, it must be weak competition”. I was like: “Yeah it is but guy is really underrated”. Two years later conversation could pretty much look the same. Koszarek is definition of “no unnecessary movement” style. He can school younger or less experienced players with his savviness and get buckets or dimes while literally walking down the court.
That day Lukasz Kolenda became a victim of that. He quickly collected few fouls on veteran PG and had no rhythm in the game. It resulted in making few bad decisions and besides two pull up threes during comeback in 2nd half it was (also self proclaimed) the worst game of the season by rising star of Polish hoops. The generational change needs to wait at least one more season….
TURNING THE CORNER
Baby faced, very polite off the court but don’t let this image fool you if you play against him. Lukasz can be a killer in pick & roll and undoubtedly his main offensive production comes from those situations.
While he may lack elite burst to blow people by from standstill position in isolation, or advanced dribble to create the space with shake & bake, he can really turn the corner in two man game. He is solidly built and uses off hand perfectly (a little bit of Dragic style) to slightly push the defender away, get rid off on the ball pressure and navigate his man on the screen better. Lukasz has a knack for snake dribbles and prefers attacking to the right side from high top PnR and then immediately reverses it to his stronger left hand. He is (sometimes overly) confident while getting to the hoop, his strides are quite long and he withstands the contact decently (adequate +15% of drives ends up on the FT line). He potentially can stop & pop for mid range pull up or fire it up from behind the arc if defender wasn’t honest but is still not there in terms of efficiency. He tries at times pocket moves or puts defender in the jail with little success but becoming more creative or polished finisher around the rim and developing floater + even better change of pace can definitely help him moving forward to master pick & roll game. As well as improving decision making on the fly (nearly 20% of TO rate, kills the dribble at times too soon). To sum up: has all the makings but still can’t be called adept or virtuoso.
OTHER CRUCIAL SCOUTING ASPECTS
Still underrated asset. Good in every setting whether it’s PnR, open court, drive and kick, stationary or quick extra dime and moreover has a flair to throw it out of the box. While accuracy still leaves something to be desired in his right, left handed assists are super strong (ball gets to the opposite wing or corner in the blink of an eye during skip passes) and can be distributed off the live dribble. Mistakes obviously happens but creativity and vision is definitely there so if I coached, I would give him a freedom to fully unlock that potentially star caliber skill. Ball handling issues (honestly besides finishing, that looks like a swing & must improve ability) affect 1.6 A/To ratio much more than bad pass out results.
Fairly quick trigger with little bit low release point. Can really get into the zone (multiple games with 7 or more three pointers in youth career or for the farm team) but normally streaky guy. There is no visible difference whether attempts are taken off the dribble or after catch or even whether under pressure / with time & space. But unfortunately not a guy to create comfortably with short shot clock.
Honest defender who puts in work and pressures his man before he gets to the spot in half court where he starts to run set play from. You can’t deny his willingness but at times Kolenda’s energy looks somewhat unbridled on that end. He never shies away from contact but could have better technique or spacial orientation while trying to go over screens, he covers ground and tries to contest shots but could have better and more automatic rotating awareness on defense. That list could go on. Nevertheless he has a quite strong base, solid footspeed, sits in a good stance and is not easy to got rid of in the open court for American guards. Key is to keep learning but at least he makes up for small deficiencies with vitality and competitiveness.
Very good physique and positional or functional strength. Mix of good genetics and sympathy for the weightroom. Just ok quickness and not an explosive leaper. Wingspan seems to equal size in shoes or be just minimally better. Rather big palms, catches the ball easily. What separates him is definitely a motor. It is really rock solid.
*Polish not polished?
With all the due respect for every basketball lifer from my homeland we are years away from having appropriate structures to maximize potential of elite talents. It may be about lack of money, it may be about lack of know how but this piece is not about that. What I meant is that in big degree Lukasz is a diamond in the rough and normally our previous NBA prospects in ongoing century were almost solely big men. I am not 100% sure if he would be better player if left abroad at some point as he had solid development environment anyway, willingness to promote him from the staff and basically always played vs older competition which provided enough challenges. However at times you can notice here and there small lacks in individual technique and overall basketball craft.
Lukasz can obviously help himself if invitation for the Eurocamp occurs (editor’s note: it did occur but oh wait, it’s not happening from ridiculous logistics reasons) and during his last act on youth basketball stage in Tel Aviv in July. It may not be easy regarding that camp is kind of jungle environment in which it is easy to get overshadowed especially if it’s your premiere participation. Also Polish U20 team will probably be doomed to fight relegation and he will be constantly facing extremely huge defensive focus on him. How about longer time perspective? As far as I know nearly 10 teams came to Poland to evaluate him live this season which is really solid number. However most likely he will need to withdraw his name and it is kinda hard to believe he can get drafted from where he is at all.
Next year(s) in order to keep attracting NBA people he would have to play even better and finally being on a winning team which won’t be simple for instance due to recent regulation change as far as domestic players on the court are concerned in Polish league (6 or 7 in the roster, instead of two nonstop).
Transfer always brings with it some risk but also potentially brings reward which could help his career more than anything. Playing here for the team with guaranteed cups or moving out to somewhere else in Europe could give his development a boost and make things more clear for executives about his real Draft potential.
Situation is not easy given long term contract with unspecified buyout terms and being prince of a Sopot at the age of 20 with possibility to maintain this status probably the next 15 years. It is definitely a good life but at the same time make it harder to leave comfort zone and take under consideration uncertain options. Therefore as much as I hope he can make it to the (euro)league one day, I hope it won’t be another story from the series “what would happen if…”