June 20th, 2019. Adam Silver approaches the podium at the 2019 NBA Draft. He reads the words aloud: "In the 2019 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs select... Luka Samanic." Some jeered, fewer cheered, but most gasped in befuddlement. Who is this Croatian forward, and why did the Spurs take him at 19 overall? Was this a mistake?
Yes, yes it was.
Luka was a rather puzzling player. He was touted as a 6-10 combo forward with guard skills, shooting, and a general lack of strength and defense. On paper, this seemed like a decent pick for a team thin at the big position with a general lack of versatility and a decent trajectory on paper. Little did the Spurs know that paper would look like the EKG reading of a patient in cardiac distress.
Starting from the beginning, the young forward went the way of (almost) every Spurs' first-round pick. He hitched up his horse and rode down to Austin for a year, where he averaged 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game across 33 games. Here, he showed flashes, but nothing was compelling enough to earn real time with the big club, where he only totaled three games played in the 2019-20 season.
Watching him in the G League and in San Antonio, there was a general consensus on his demeanor -- it wasn't pretty. He moved about lackadaisically, committed careless turnovers, and didn't show effort when effort was required. Overall, it was a mixed bag and might have spelled doom for a player at his age.
What he did display were some remarkable flashes that you don't really tend to see with someone of his physical makeup. He would make quick cuts with a high level of dexterity, flash some incredible passes, knock down the occasional clutch three, and handle the ball on the level of guards around him. This led to overall hope among the majority of fans.
This hope would be stifled countless times, as his struggles to see the floor with the big club never really went away even after putting up 21.8,11.3, and 2.2 during his second stint in the G League through 6 games. His demeanor problems seemed to have lingered, and his general disinterest in the game when he wasn't the focal point was incredibly apparent.