Having traded for his NBA draft rights in 2004, the San Antonio Spurs have been interested in the rebounding prowess that 6-foot-7 forward Viktor Sanikidze possesses
That has not changed.
Sanikidze led the Italian league with an average of 11 rebounds per game last season and finished sixth in blocks, nearly averaging one per game (0.9). His addition to Montepaschi Siena, whose domination of the Italian league has been well documented by guards Gary Neal and Manu Ginobili, is expected to take the sting off losing the majority of their team due to retirement, free agency or frugal spending.
In the Spurs’ 106-77 victory over Siena, Sanikidze scored five points, three coming on a 3-pointer in the first quarter, while adding a game-high 11 rebounds in 31 minutes. He didn’t shoot particularly well and as the first half concluded, Sanikidze had three points and two rebounds. Sanikidze grabbed nine rebounds (eight on the defensive end) in the second half, giving the Spurs brass a glimpse of what he can provide on a basketball floor.
After his team was soundly beaten by the Spurs — Siena shot 29.6% from the field on the night while turning the ball over 22 times — Sanikidze told the media that the Spurs are still interested in him and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has been keeping his eye on him.
This is to be expected as the Spurs still maintain his draft rights. Sanikidze’s progression wasn’t always ideal, having spent three seasons toiling in the French and ACB leagues without much of an opportunity, but he finally received ample time to develop with Virtus Bologna of the Italian league. His rebounding improved every season and if you exclude last year, he was posting excellent shooting percentages in addition to a decent 3-point stroke.
The potential is there for Sanikidze to develop into an effective rebounder and capable perimeter shooter. It has taken eight years for his skills to come to fruition — though he may still have room for improvement given that he is 26 years old — but he may be ready for the NBA level when his two-year contract with Siena expires. The last year is an option, though, and Sanikidze may finally have the opportunity to see how he fares with the Spurs next summer.
Hat-tip to Jeff Garcia of Project Spurs.
Photo courtesy of y.delfi.ee