San Antonio Spurs 2019 NBA Draft Prospects: Luka Samanic

Luka Samanic (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Luka Samanic (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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With two first-round picks at their disposal, the San Antonio Spurs may consider drafting European forward Luka Samanic late in the first round.

Frontcourt depth will be an area of major concern for the San Antonio Spurs this offseason. With three picks including two first-rounders in this year’s draft, general manager R.C. Buford will have a chance at snagging a young star for Gregg Popovich to groom over the next three seasons, ushering in the next generation of Spurs basketball.

One player of interest is Croatian power forward Luka Samanic, a 6-foot-11 floor spacing power forward with a wide range of skills including a crafty arsenal of dribble moves for a player at his position. Mobility is key in the modern game and Samanic offers it in boatloads, utilizing unsuspecting athleticism and size to combat the opposition while boasting a silky-smooth jump shot from range.

Samanic boosted his draft stock with a grand performance at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, scoring 13 points with seven boards in limited playing time. With that said, his consistency is an issue. The 19-year-old has a questionable motor and his effectiveness varies from game to game, oftentimes blending in with the competition instead of asserting his will.

Still, this is something that can be changed when honed under the proper culture. Working alongside the staff in San Antonio could enable Samanic to fulfill his potential and earn playing time in the Spurs’ rotation within a season or two. He’s not particularly strong, especially for a player of his size, so NBA strength and conditioning programs will be a major benefit to his long-term potential.

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Interestingly enough, Samanic could be compared to current Spur Davis Bertans in terms of physical profile and potential as a floor spacer, but Bertans is a much more reliable three-point shooter while Samanic is more comfortable with other aspects of the game such as slashing, dribbling and passing. Bertans would be an excellent mentor to Samanic during his transition from Europe to the NBA.

It’s safe to say that Samanic would be a project for the Spurs and will likely spend his first season working through the G League to hone his craft and develop the instincts necessary to compete under Coach Popovich at the highest level of the sport. For as tasking as this may seem, the G League serves as a proving ground for great young talent in this league and the Austin Spurs would provide the training that Samanic needs to reach his ceiling.

The 19-year-old is slated to go in the late first-round or early second-round of this year’s draft, so the Spurs will have two opportunities to swing for him. He’d be a steal with the 49th pick but could also warrant a selection at 29 for Buford.

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Whether he ends up in the Silver and Black or elsewhere, Samanic will be an intriguing player to watch as he transitions to the NBA.

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