Death, taxes, Mark Few sending international big men to the NBA.
Polish center Przemek Karnowski is the latest in what has become an impressive lineage at Gonzaga. Over the past few years, the Bulldogs have seen the likes of Kelly Olynyk, Robert Sacre, and Domantas Sabonis go on to have successful NBA careers after leaving Spokane.
Karnowski already ranks in the top five in Gonzaga history for career blocks, and he is on pace to finish in the top 20 in career scoring. He is one of the key reasons that his team is currently 8-0 and ranked No. 8 in the AP poll. While his abilities as a college player are no doubt impressive, his future beyond this season remains to be seen.
He flirted with the NBA Draft this summer before deciding to return to Gonzaga for a fifth season. This year marks his final chance to show scouts what he can do as he tries to bolster his resume for the 2017 NBA Draft. Here’s a look at what he could potentially bring to the table at the next level.
It takes just one look at Karnowski to realize that he is going to be difficult to put a body on in the low-post. His 7’1” 300-pound build affords him a substantial mismatch against just about anybody in college basketball. Centers who can play back-to-the-basket are becoming harder to find in the NBA and Karnowski does it better than just about anybody in this year’s draft class.
He also possesses great touch around the rim. He’s shot almost 60 percent from the field during his career, and he ranked first in the West Coast Conference and 24th in the country in field goal efficiency during his junior year. He is extremely patient on offense and does not take many low-percentage shots.
Karnowski’s high basketball IQ allows him to maximize his abilities, as he has also posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of over 2:1 so far this year.
While Karnowski’s size does have its advantages, his athleticism and agility are not great. He relies primarily on his massive frame rather than footwork to gain position in the post. His lack of quickness also hinders his ability to get to the free-throw line. In 163 minutes so far this season, he has gotten to the line just 11 times.
Karnowski’s greatest weaknesses in the eyes of NBA teams, however, have little to do with his basketball abilities. He missed almost all of the 2015-16 season after having surgery to repair bulging discs in his back. NBA GMs are always wary of injury-prone big men, especially when they’ve had back problems.
Another factor Karnowski has working against him is his age. He will be almost 24 by the start of the 2017-18 NBA season. Choosing to stay in college longer has hurt many prospects over the past few years as most NBA teams will opt for the upside of a younger player. While he may be able to contribute for an NBA team, there are simply too many GMs who would be unwilling to take a flyer on a 23 year-old center with a history of back problems.
Right now, Karnowski does not project to be chosen in the 2017 NBA Draft, but that could certainly change over the next few months. He is listed in almost none of the usual NBA mock drafts, likely due to his age and history of back problems, so he may have to take his talents across the pond to start his pro career.