San Antonio Spurs: Luka Samanic dominating the G League bubble

Jan 3, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Luka Samanic (19) shoots around Utah Jazz guard Miye Oni (81) in the second half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Luka Samanic (19) shoots around Utah Jazz guard Miye Oni (81) in the second half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s been a week since we last saw the San Antonio Spurs play but it feels like much longer than that. Barring any setbacks, the team will be back in action on Wednesday night and until then Spurs fans will have to get their basketball fix elsewhere.

If you haven’t been watching the Austin Spurs dominate the G-League bubble I highly recommend tuning in. They’ve been on an absolute tear, winning six of their last seven games and have set themselves up for what should be a great clash with the Delaware Blue Coats tonight.

Several players on the Austin Spurs have stood out so far. Tre Jones has been everything that we hoped he would be and more. He looks ready to take over a key role on the Spurs bench this season. Robert Woodard has been outstanding and it’s infuriating that he’s not actually a Spur, just on assignment from the Kings. But the story of the bubble for Spurs fans has to be Luka Samanic.

Luka Samanic affirming the hopes of San Antonio Spurs with bubble play

Before he went into the bubble, Luka was taking some heat from some Spurs fans. Despite playing just 48 NBA minutes his entire rookie season and still being just 20 years old at the time, it seemed like some fans were ready to throw in the towel and call Luka a bust. Given how good he’s looked in the G-League bubble it’s safe to say that was an overreaction.

In the five games he’s played, Samanic has averaged 22.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2 assists per contest. That puts him fifth in the G-League in scoring and seventh in the league in rebounding. The numbers are impressive by themselves but it’s the way he’s been going about his business that has stood out most to me.

The word that best sums up his play so far is confident. Whether he’s putting the ball on the floor and attacking the rim, working his man in the post, or pulling up from deep, there’s an air of confidence in his own abilities that wasn’t there last year. He just looks more comfortable in his own skin and in his role as the driving force behind the Austin Spurs.

Others have taken note of the changes as well, as his head coach Matt Nielsen told Jeff Garcia, he’s noticed how well Luka’s been playing and wasn’t shy about sharing how he felt about his young star.

“I’m proud of him, it’s something he’s been working on and chipping away at it. He’s playing through a couple of mistakes and then going down and being solid on the defensive end. That’s the real consistency he’s looking for.”

I wasn’t close to calling him a bust but I will admit I was starting to get a bit concerned with how Luka’s career had started out. Patience is a virtue but you’d hope to see more from a player who was selected 19th overall than what we had gotten from Samanic up until this point. But he’s quickly putting those worries to rest with his recent play.

With Rudy Gay and LaMarcus Aldridge approaching unrestricted free agency this summer, there could be a lot of minutes opening up in the Spurs frontcourt very soon. The more offensive-minded Samanic could form quite the dangerous pairing with the more defensive inclined Jakob Poeltl down the line.

In light of recent developments around the team, we might not even have to wait until next season to see Samanic start to make his mark in the NBA. Jeff Garcia also hinted that he and Tre could be called up to the Spurs soon, with the assumption being that they’re being called in to add depth while others work their way through the NBA’s COVID protocols.

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As long as Luka Samanic continues to play like this I’m going to remain optimistic about his future with the San Antonio Spurs. But the real test will come when he starts getting real NBA minutes. Let’s see if that comes on Wednesday night when the Spurs make their return against the Oklahoma City Thunder.