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  1. #1
    5. timvp's Avatar
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    -Whispers about San Antonio's interest in Luka Samanic have been around for a while and the end result was the Spurs selecting the Croatian with the 19th overall pick. While this was the high end of his draft range, I went on record as saying the Spurs needed to pick him at 19 if they wanted him because he played too well at the NBA combine to trust that he'd fall to 29. It turns out that's exactly what the Spurs did.

    -Samanic is a really fascinating prospect. It's a bit strange but he's more of an American style prospect than a European style prospect. Usually, Europeans come over after having reasonable success overseas and you more or less know what you're getting. But that's not Samanic. His play in Europe was largely underwhelming, even though he didn't play at a particularly high competition level. Instead, Samanic was drafted by the Spurs due to his tools, athleticism and what he projects to become down the road.

    -Moreover, European scouts I've talked to are pretty low on Samanic. They thought he got pushed around a lot, had inconsistent effort and questionable dedication to his teammates. American scouts, though, see his tools and athleticism on display and picture him as a perfect fit in today's NBA. And that's probably where some of the disconnect is: European basketball is just so much more physical than the NBA right now. So while Samanic might be getting manhandled by 6-foot-10, 250-pound headhunting ogres over in Slovenia, those players don't really exist in the NBA anymore. A lot of that physicality he couldn't withstand over there would be whistled as a foul over here. I tend to buy the argument I've heard from American scouts that Samanic is built much more for the NBA game than the European game.

    -I'm a fan of his tools, plain and simple. He's a good ball-handler; he can grab a rebound and take it up himself without much issue. He's fluid when in motion and all signs point to him being an asset on the fast break. In the half court setting, his first step is really quick for a power forward. He is strong enough and crafty enough to score if a smaller player tries to stop him in the paint. He's also comfortable out beyond the three-point line. His three-point stroke is effortless and he's not afraid to let it fly.

    -In today's NBA, bigs who are naturals out on the perimeter, who can stretch the defense with their shot and who can also take advantage of mismatches against smaller players are extremely valuable. That's what Samanic can be if his tools translate as the Spurs hope. Those three attributes are the holy trinity of bigman value going forward in the league ... and it's within his grasps.

    -There's been some discussion about what position Samanic will ultimately play in the NBA but I think he's clearly a power forward. The 19-year-old is 6-foot-11 and 227 pounds so if he can gain even ten more pounds of muscle, he could eventually moonlight as a small ball center. But I don't see him a good enough rim protector to be a full-time center and he doesn't have the insane quick-twitch agility it would require for him to be a jumbo wing. Power forward is the sweet spot for his skill-set.

    -His underwhelming wingspan (6-foot-10.5) is part of the reason why he's not a rim protector. More simply, he doesn't appear to have good timing in that aspect of the game. But his 8-foot-11 standing reach could allow him to eventually be better at protecting the rim as he ages. And while he's not going to be blocking shots at a high level, he's a really good rebounder who isn't bashful about throwing around his body. I've also been impressed by how his boxing out, even against older, stronger opponents.

    -In addition to rebounding, Samanic's defensive value will be derived from his ability to be a switchable big. He's not going to be extraordinarily elite in terms of stopping quick guards but for a 6-foot-11 big, it appears he can be well above average. Most importantly, I don't see him being forced off the court like we see happen with a lot of bigs in today's NBA. Samanic should be able to defend pick-and-rolls well, switch off when needed and keep the vast majority of players in front of him. And as such, this is yet another area where he grades out as a future-proof, modern NBA bigman.

    -So, if he has all these tools, why wasn't Samanic picked higher in the draft? He hasn't put it all together. And there's a legitimate chance that he never does. Samanic is definitely a boom or bust prospect. If he never connects all the pieces of his puzzle, he won't see a second contract in the NBA. He also has to answer the questions about his commitment and tenacity that dogged him in Europe. But if he works at it, stays mentally engaged throughout the process and figures it all out, he could become a very valuable building block for the franchise as the Spurs transition to the next generation.

    -For Samanic to unlock his potential, his first step on offense is to become a unignorable three-point shooting threat. Right now, he can shoot the three but he only makes them at about a 30-33% clip. The good news is he has a quick release, a high release point and he comfortably shoots a soft ball with impressive range. Why doesn't he shoot a better percentage? It appears like he has a lot of fixable, small issues. For example, his footwork during shot preparation is sloppy and inconsistent. He also doesn't always square his shoulders up to the basket. But those are exactly the type of shooting mechanics minutiae Chip Engelland knows how to teach.

    -Beyond his shooting, Samanic's offense just needs a lot of tightening up. His dribbling in the halfcourt has to be more controlled, he needs to see the floor better to make the right pass, he needs to be more patient when in traffic, he needs to better use his athleticism when finishing at the rim, etc. While it won't be an easy process, it's doable -- there don't appear to be any fatal flaws.

    (-Speaking of his athleticism, his athletic testing at the NBA combine confirmed what is obvious on tape: the guy is a certified athlete. Of the players listed at power forward, he had the highest max vertical [38 inches], the third best lane agility time, the second best shuttle run time and the fifth best three quarter sprint time. Of all the players in the combine Samanic's height or taller, no one had a higher max vertical -- and that's including pogo sticks like Jaxson Hayes and Nic Claxton.)

    -Defensively, Samanic just needs to work on his mental approach and his strength. On the ball, he's already solid. He seems to relish the opportunity to switch onto smaller players and fights for defensive boards. Where he struggles is when he's off the ball; he'll all too often fall asleep when on the weakside. And, as I previously stated, while he is unlikely to ever become a notable shot-blocker, adding strength should allow him to hold up better in the lane against rugged bigs and slashing smalls.

    -Let's imagine a world where not only Samanic pans out but Derrick White, Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV all reach close to their ceilings. What's exciting is Samanic is a perfect fit next to those three. You'd want a mobile power forward who could run, shoot, attack mismatches, spread the court and be able to stay on the floor defensively by holding up in pick-and-rolls and rebounding.

    -If you want to consider Jakob Poeltl part of the young core, the excitement continues. The fully formed versions of White, Murray, Walker, Samanic and Poeltl could play together. That's even a possible starting lineup. Samanic and Poeltl, specifically, are fits next to each other. Poeltl's ability to protect the rim would allow Samanic more freedom to stick to his strengths on that end. Poeltl being a good, instinctive passer would also help if Samanic never advances to being more than adequate for a PF.

    -How much time does Samanic do in Austin next season? I'm honestly not sure. Typically, players from Europe don't need as much developing -- but, again, Samanic isn't your prototypical European prospect. It's possible he could need the whole season in Austin. It wouldn't hurt him to work on his shot and correct all the issues that caused him to stutter in Europe in an environment with less pressure. But if he plays really well in summer league and continues on that level of play in training camp, he could conceivably play a bench role early in his rookie season. We'll have to wait and see.

    -Oh yeah, the Spurs picked a couple of other guys in the draft. I was pleased with Keldon Johnson at 29. It wasn't a flashy pick but after going the boom or bust route with Samanic at 19, it made sense to go the safe route with Johnson.

    -The more I watched him play before the draft, the more I became convinced Johnson is a small forward in the NBA. While he's only 6-foot-6 with shoes on, he has wide shoulders and frame that can add quite a bit more muscle. He's already a strong 216 pounds and, considering he's 19 years old and was somewhat of a late bloomer physically, I could imagine him pushing 230 before it's all said and done.

    (-After the Spurs picked Johnson, an interesting tidbit I heard from someone who scouted him: San Antonio factored in him having a "short neck" and considered him comparably to players an inch or two taller. Looking at the combine numbers, there might be something to that. Johnson's standing reach was 8-foot-8, which is oddly impressive for someone who is 6-foot-6 with shoes with a good-but-not-great 6-foot-9.25 wingspan. To compare, that's a better standing reach than 6-foot-9 Tobias Harris, 6-foot-8 Khris Middleton or 6-foot-8 Gordon Hayward. Interesting; short neck; would never have noticed looking at pictures; huh.)

    -I look at Johnson as a high floor, low ceiling player. He tries hard on defense, particularly in one-on-one matchups. He fights around screens well and he's good for his age in terms of help defense. Johnson rebounds better than expected given his height (6.9 boards per 36 minutes) and doesn't foul much (2.6 per 36 minutes). But he doesn't block shots or rack up steals ... at all. He's also a bit heavy-footed for a wing, so his individual defense potential has a cap to it.

    -His defensive peak is in the neighborhood of someone like Mario Elie. Elie didn't have quick feet but he compensated with a bulldog demeanor and unrelenting effort. Johnson could potentially do that; his motor as a freshman was impressive.

    -Offensively, Johnson sticks to smart shots. He'll take open threes when given the opportunity and he shot a very respectable 38.1% from deep. He drives hard to the rim and has a decent array of floaters and runners. He draws fouls at an acceptable clip and shot an okay 70.3% from the line.

    -Johnson is not a ball-handler or shot creator on offense. He's an average passer at best with only middling court vision. His release is a little slow, which resulted in him shooting only 6.2 threes per 100 possessions. (In today's game, that number needs to be closer to ten.)

    -All in all, he projects to be a complementary piece on offense. If he can speed up his release, he can become a three-point shooter who can attack closeouts with strong drives to the rim. Johnson is unlikely to be a bulk scorer but he has enough talent to play a supporting role on an elite offensive team.

    -If you want to hold out hope for Johnson having untapped offensive upside, your hope would lie with the fact that he played for a Kentucky team who had two players go in the lottery. There's a non-zero percent chance he surprises on the offensive end; remember that Devin Booker averaged only ten points per game at Kentucky as a freshman on a team that featured three other lottery picks. But most likely, Johnson will be someone who -- if his maturation process goes as planned -- makes teams pay for ignoring him on the offensive end, a la 2006 Michael Finley.

    -Like Samanic, Johnson is a really good fit next to the White, Murray and Walker potential core. The fact that he doesn't dribble well or pass particularly well isn't a big deal if he's playing next to two of those three players. Plus, his lack of size isn't as big of a deal on a team that has long, active guards like those three. I don't see a problem on defense with Johnson at small forward and any two of White, Murray and Walker at the guard positions.

    (-Speaking of him being a small forward, RC Buford claimed after the draft that Johnson was the team's top ranked small forward in the entire draft. At first, I thought it was a hyperbolic claim by Buford. But after thinking about it, it's not impossible. If RJ Barrett and Jarrett Culver are classified by the Spurs as shooting guards, that leaves a rather questionable crop of small forwards. Players like Cam Reddish, Romeo Langford and Nassir Little all really struggled as freshman and all had potential red flags in their draft profiles. It's not totally unbelievable to believe that the Spurs were low on those boom or bust small forwards and had a higher floor player like Johnson rated at the top of that pile.)

    -Even if he plays well in summer league, Johnson is most likely destined to a year in Austin. He's not especially raw but there are enough things for him to work on to justify keeping him in the G-League for a season. Get him plenty of touches, have him work on his shot, see if there are any hidden offensive abilities, bulk him up to defend small forwards and then reassess heading into the 2020-21 season.

    -Overall, Johnson at 29 is just a solid pick any way you slice it. He's not going to be a star but if you can get a strong role player late in the first round, that's a win.

    -Quinndary Weatherspoon at 49? Eh, not bad. He's a 6-foot-4.25, 207-pound combo guard with a 6-foot-9 wingspan. He had a good senior season at Mississippi State and played well in the draft camps and at the NBA combine. The Spurs worked him out twice, so there's obviously some level of attraction there.

    -He's closer to a shooting guard than a point guard, as he had more turnovers than assists last season. But he shot well enough (56.4% on twos, 39.6% on threes, 80.9% at the line) that it's conceivable for him to make it without developing many point guard skills. He competes on defense and is a downhill attacker on offense.

    -My guess is that the Spurs drafted Weatherspoon with an agreement that he will either sign a two-way contract or sign directly with Austin. It was a smidgen of a surprise he was drafted at all, even though he had a successful college career. For the Spurs to pick him at 49 tells me there's an understanding with his agent in place.

    -Will he ever make it in the NBA? Probably not. The overwhelming majority of second rounders don't and Weatherspoon doesn't look like anything more than your standard, run of the mill second round flier. The Spurs liked him enough to not trade or sell the pick ... but that's a low bar at that point in the draft.

    -We'll see what Weatherspoon does in summer league. I'm not expecting much at all but, then again, it's never wise to underestimate this front office's ability to draft.

  2. #2
    Believe. Emperor's Avatar
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    Trying to find a jersery of his online that i wear to summer league but can't seem to find one yet.

  3. #3
    Who is this guy, again? travis2's Avatar
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    Damn I miss this...
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  4. #4
    Believe.
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    timvp Great write up like usual.

    A few weeks ago I along with a few others suspected Samanic most likely would get drafted at 19 and proved to be right. I really hope he stays healthy and continues to improve his body and game. I can't wait for the Summer league

  5. #5
    Chopper Ed Helicopter Jones's Avatar
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    Very nice write-up, and I feel far better about the Luka pick at 19 after reading that. Poetl, Luka, Walker, Murray, White could very well be the future starting five for the Spurs if that group continues to develop and can prove to be cohesive. If the Spurs are successful in building a cohesive and effective starting lineup out of late first and second round picks, with a trade throw-in stuck in for good measure, it will be a masterful plan by the FO, to say the least.

  6. #6
    Veteran Big Empty's Avatar
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    So we drafted a possibly better version of Danny Green. Not taking anything away from Dannys playoff clutch 3’s but its bery inconsistant all season.

  7. #7
    Believe.
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    If Luka is projected starter in the future, he fits real well with our young core. He's not a ball stopper like Aldridge and I think that would make a big difference for the flow of the offense. I can envision it now with him running with Dejounte. I think we should brace ourselves for fast pace Spurs basketball.

  8. #8
    Veteran r0drig0lac's Avatar
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    I tend to buy the argument I've heard from American scouts that Samanic is built much more for the NBA game than the European game.

    -The more I watched him play before the draft, the more I became convinced Johnson is a small forward in the NBA. While he's only 6-foot-6 with shoes on, he has wide shoulders and frame that can add quite a bit more muscle. He's already a strong 216 pounds and, considering he's 19 years old and was somewhat of a late bloomer physically, I could imagine him pushing 230 before it's all said and done.
    agree

  9. #9
    IPA's All Day benefactor's Avatar
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    As I said in another thread, I have no problem with a boom or bust pick in this draft. This is the draft to do it with the Spurs in transition during the DeRozan/LMA mini era. I agree that Johnson at 29 is a solid complimentary piece to what the Spurs already have. If Weatherspoon becomes anything it's just icing.
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  10. #10
    Believe. Tyrone Jenkins's Avatar
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    Luak Samanic.

    Let's be honest. Does a 2023-2024 starting lineup of White, Murray, Walker, Samanic and Poeltl sound like a team making a run for a championship? Do they even make the playoffs?

  11. #11
    tangina ka, though FireMicoHalili's Avatar
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    Great write up, as usual, would just like to focus on the prospects’ red flags since most of the hope is coming from the Spurs’ reputation

  12. #12
    Veteran Dverde's Avatar
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    To summarize: none of these players will help us next year, maybe good pieces in the post-LMA rebuild.

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  14. #14
    Believe.
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    That's a good point, but at the same time if anybody had told you in 2011 that the spurs just drafted a future top 3 nba player with the 15th pick you probably would've been skeptical as well

  15. #15
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    Thanks for the input. Good stuff. I like all three picks.

  16. #16
    tv screen baseline bum sananspursfan21's Avatar
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    I was not high on the Samanic pick but I like the Spurs chances on a boom or bust guy. I’m so glad we’re not Cavs fans taking about boom or bust
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  17. #17
    Spurs Sage Russ's Avatar
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    The biggest post-draft question -- would the Spurs have taken Goga at 19 over Samanic (if Goga hadn't gone one pick earlier)?

    I know it doesn't matter now but I'm curious.

    Any inside info from the Spurs on this?
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  18. #18
    Veteran Dverde's Avatar
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    Luak Samanic.

    Let's be honest. Does a 2023-2024 starting lineup of White, Murray, Walker, Samanic and Poeltl sound like a team making a run for a championship? Do they even make the playoffs?
    Don’t forget Patty Mills on his new contract. I hope these rookies like coffee!

  19. #19
    Kang Trill Clinton's Avatar
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    I was hype when we got Johnson. Dude is a straight up DAWG on defense and can create his own shot. I like Samanic's confidence and I will attribute his inconsistent motor to him just not wanting to get hurt and up his NBA chances. When he went against NBA level talent in the combine he really stood out and was one of the hardest working guys on the floor.
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  20. #20
    Mahinmi in ? picnroll's Avatar
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    I’m very happy with this draft. Willing to bet 5 years from now they re-order the draft by outcome Luka will be considerably higher than 19. Last 4 drafts Spurs have done a very good job and are putting together complimentary pieces that fit today’s NBA. They might/likely won’t reach the heights of the Duncan Spurs but they’ll be fun to watch and could in the mid-term be title contenders again with a little luck.

  21. #21
    Believe.
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    This is when the development division of the organization earns their salary. Our 2 first rounders are both 19 years old.

    Both have great foundations to work with and be developed.

  22. #22
    You Are Not Worthy ZeusWillJudge's Avatar
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    Good writeup, top to bottom. The one thing I'll say is about most late second rounders not making NBA squads. Bryn Forbes went undrafted. You can fill in the rest on that thought.

    Just before the draft, Don Harris put out a VERY specific tween that the Spurs were looking to trade 19 + Bertans for a higher pick... AND that they were looking to trade 29 + ? to move up their second pick. Not either/or, but both.

    The Spurs know they have to have 3P shooters on the team. So who did they want up above badly enough to get rid of Bertans, who is one of their 3P threats (like it or not)? Nobody better at knocking them down in this draft than Cam Johnson. Looking at the range Harris predicted, I think they expected Johnson to be available somewhere around 14 or 15, but not at 19. The problem with that, I think, is that they also wanted Samanic and didn't think he would be there at 29. (He wouldn't have.) So they were willing to sacrifice another player along with 29 to move up enough to get him. So when Johnson dropped at 11, they just took the other player they really wanted (Samanic) at 19. Maybe it was a few spots early for him, maybe it wasn't. But he was one of their two guys, and they got him.

    I'm glad they didn't trade up and get Cam Johnson, and then someone took Samanic before they could get him. Because then the Spurs would have drafted Johnson & Johnson.

  23. #23
    Mahinmi in ? picnroll's Avatar
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    I’ve thought for awhile that Spurs should use their elite skills in player development as a weapon. Develop some players and showcase them for trade bait to move up in drafts. I think Pop gets too attached to players sometimes for the teams good, doesn’t want to trade them or not trade them into a bad rebuilding team.

  24. #24
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    They need to look at Jontay Porter who went undrafted

  25. #25
    Spurs Sage Russ's Avatar
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    They need to look at Jontay Porter who went undrafted
    Maybe Jalen Lecque as well.

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