What Spurs rookie Luka Samanic needs to work on in offseason
By Ethan Farina
After an impressive yet quiet G-League season, San Antonio Spurs rookie forward Luka Samanic is approaching one of his most important summers
It’s hard to envision a scenario where Luka Samanic takes the floor for the San Antonio Spurs again this season. With a potential cancellation looming and questions about playing games in far off venues swirling around, we can all but assume that Tall Luka is on to his offseason.
Samanic spent much of his rookie season in Austin with the Spurs G-League affiliate, as is tradition. The Spurs have been sharing videos of the rookies time in Austin. These clips, along with his performance on the court, has shown us that Samanic is developing quickly and having fun doing it.
Full of promise and potential, Samanic started in 32 of the 33 games that he appeared in for the Austin Spurs, averaging 15.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest. San Antonio passed up on more game-ready prospects to take a chance on Samanic, he’s showing that he might be worth it.
He did a lot of things well in his rookie year but still has a very long way to go before he’s ready to be deployed as a consistent part of the Spurs rotation. He’s putting the ball on the floor and showing off the versatile offensive game that made him such an exciting draft prospect but needs to dial in from deep and curb his turnovers.
One of the biggest reasons that the Spurs selected Samanic as high as they did was because of the potential that he had shown as a floor stretching threat. With Rudy Gay and LaMarcus Aldridge approaching the end years of their careers, San Antonio will soon be out of forwards who can push the game out past the 3-point line. In an ideal world, Samanic would slide in to fill that role in the coming years.
He made the long ball a big part of his game from the beginning. For the season, 36 percent of his overall field goal attempts came from behind the arc. For perspective, for his career, Danilo Gallinari has shot 45 percent of his shots from deep. So Luka isn’t quite where he probably should be in terms of shot dispersion.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2020/03/06/0021900931/611/e9da5c5d-2a30-b36b-83f0-9daedf5557e7_1280x720.mp4
Some of that could be attributed to his getting used to a different range and a natural preference to drive to the hoop. He’s a good attacker off the dribble, he frequently used pump-fakes to draw defenders in before flashing past them to the hoop. Really working on his jump shot and trying to improve his 30 percent accuracy from behind the arc will go a long way towards making his shot from outside an even greater threat.
Another area of his game that he can really improve upon is taking better control of the basketball. He was a high usage player for the Austin Spurs this year but that still doesn’t excuse his team-leading 3.2 turnovers per game.
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Foul trouble will happen to a young player as they adjust to the speed of the NBA game but it is important that Samanic focuses on bringing that number down soon. If he’s having these sorts of issues in the G-League, what is going to happen when he is up against faster, stronger, and craftier NBA veterans? He’ll be in foul trouble from almost the moment he steps on the floor.
The final thing that Samanic needs to work on in the coming months is continuing to build muscle and add to his frame. It’s something that was stressed from the moment he was drafted and has clearly been a point of focuses but he’s still far away from being ready to hang with the grown men in the NBA.
He still won’t be as NBA ready as some of his draft mates when basketball does inevitably return but Samanic has shown that he has the potential to be greater than most in the long run. How he approaches the coming months will do a lot to show if he’s willing to do what it takes to chase greatness.
He’s certainly one of the most fun San Antonio Spurs prospects to watch in recent memory but it remains to be seen if that will translate to on-court production. If he’s able to build on an impressive skill set he should be able to live up to the unicorn label he’s received.