San Antonio Spurs: How Luka Samanic can make a real impact in his rookie year

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JULY 1: Lonnie Walker IV #1 and Luka Samanic #19 of the San Antonio Spurs high five during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on July 1, 2019 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JULY 1: Lonnie Walker IV #1 and Luka Samanic #19 of the San Antonio Spurs high five during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on July 1, 2019 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Young and full of potential, what sort of impact will San Antonio Spurs first-round selection Luka Samanic have in his rookie year?

With their first selection in the 2019 NBA draft, the San Antonio Spurs selected Luka Samanic, a lanky European prospect from Croatia. Samanic is viewed as a project player. The expectations for his potential impact in his rookie season should be relatively minimal. But even with that in mind, what kind of impacts can we expect Samanic to have in his first season with San Antonio?

Over the past few years, a pattern has emerged for developing Spurs rookies. More often than not, they will spend their rookie years shuffling back and forth between San Antonio and the Spurs’ G-League affiliate in Austin. Samanic will almost certainly follow this path.

Even for a rookie, Samanic is young. He’s only 19-years-old and won’t turn 20 until mid-January. While that youth certainly has its benefits, it also puts some limitations on what Samanic can do. He’s a very skilled big man, but he’s still incredibly lanky. He will need to pack on some weight before he can be counted on to hold his own against stronger, older players.

For #NBAAssistWeek, we highlight No. 19 #NBADraft pick @SamanicLuka's quick dish for the @spurs at @NBASummerLeague! pic.twitter.com/CVQstBUQKE

— NBA Draft (@NBADraft) August 13, 2019

Samanic showed off his versatile game for the Spurs in both the Salt Lake City and Las Vegas Summer leagues. While there, Samanic played in five games and averaged close to 10 points and 6 rebounds per contest in nearly 24 minutes per game.

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Throughout his time in both Utah and Vegas, Samanic showcased the skillset that inspired the Spurs to take a chance on him. He can impact the game in so many ways. He combines length with a nice shooting stroke, a combination San Antonio desperately needs more of, and also looked comfortable creating shots for others.

In all likelihood, Samanic will spend most of his rookie season with the Austin Spurs. But that doesn’t mean he can’t have a serious impact. After being drafted by the Spurs in 2017, Derrick White spent much of his rookie year in Austin as well. His hard work there helped lead the Austin Spurs to a victory in the 2018 G-League finals.

White was able to build off of that experience and cut out a starting role for himself last season. Who’s to say Samanic cannot follow a similar career path? Success breeds success and greatness doesn’t happen overnight. The hard work Samanic puts in as a rookie will help lay the foundation for a long and successful career.

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Samanic is one of the more intriguing Spurs prospects in recent memory but he’s still got a long way to go. He will have to make his impact felt in the G-League, just like other Spurs rookies before him, before he is counted on to regularly contribute in San Antonio.

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