It looks like San Antonio Spurs rookie Luka Samanic got taller during the hiatus
When we talk about the San Antonio Spurs rookies, the one who typically generates the most excitement is their 19th pick from the 2019 Draft, Luka Samanic. Keldon Johnson and Quinndary Weatherspoon look like they’ll good players in the league but so far neither is generating the buzz that Samanic does.
Johnson is going to fill a much-needed role as a perimeter defender, slasher, and glue guy. Weatherspoon’s path to the starting lineup is more difficult but so far he’s shown that he’s got the talent to add more depth to the Spurs already deep backcourt. But Luka, Luka is the one rookie who the Spurs are counting on to help take them to the next level.
Like many overseas players, Samanic grew up playing soccer and credits the sport for helping him develop better footwork and coordination on the court. He’s smooth with the basketball and his combination height and handles helped him get the nickname ‘The Croatian Kevin Durant‘.
We’ve seen a few San Antonio Spurs come back from the pause in the season looking a little different. Lonnie Walker and Dejounte Murray are both sporting new haircuts, going for the clean-cut in the season restart. Walker is also looking significantly bulkier than he did the last time we saw him. Samanic looks to have packed on muscle as well, but also seems to have gained an inch or two while the team was away.
Luka Samanic looks to be the San Antonio Spurs next 7-footer
Basketball Reference lists Samanic as standing 6’10 but in the above photo, he looks to be even with Jakob Poeltl and Tyler Zeller, both of whom are listed as 7 footers or taller. There could be some perspective involved, Samanic does seem to be standing a bit closer to the camera than the other two but even still, the San Antonio Spurs rookie is approaching a true 7 feet tall, if he’s not there already.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Luka’s added a few inches. He’s just 20 years old and still growing, he might not be done yet. When the Milwaukee Bucks drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo he came into the league at 6’9 and now he’s a true 7 feet. Luka could be following a similar path.
Luka has already shown off an impressive all-around offensive game. He can put the ball on the floor and attack the rim, shoot the deep ball, and has been gradually developing a solid low post-game.
It’s a little unfair to compare an unproven rookie to Kevin Durant but were going to do it anyway. We’ve all seen how difficult it is for opposing defenders to get a hand up to contest Durant’s shot, be it down low or out on the perimeter. There simply aren’t many defenders who can stay with a mobile 7-footer out on the perimeter and get a hand up quick enough to contest a fast shooting player like Durant. That’s the kind of threat that Samanic should aspire to become.
In a few years, Tall Luka could pair with Poeltl to give the San Antonio Spurs a versatile frontcourt featuring two 7-footers that compliment each other perfectly. Poeltl’s offensive game is best suited to the low post and, while Samanic has shown he can be effective there, he’ll likely be used more on the perimeter and in the mid-range.
If San Antonio Spurs fans are building a wish list of what they want to see from the team in Orlando, more playing time for Luka should be high on the list. Sadly, as long as the team’s playoff chances are still alive he’s unlikely to see solid playing time. But if the team ends up mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, playing Luka for a considerable amount of time should immediately become a priority.
The sky is the limit for the San Antonio Spurs talented young rookie. We might not see a lot of him in Orlando but you can bet he’s a large part of the franchises’ plans for the future.