Luka Samanic a playmaking four man for No. 23?

Ryan Aston , 2019-06-10 04:51:17

Croation baller and potential first-round pick Luka Samanic was in Salt Lake City over the weekend for a pre-draft workout with the Utah Jazz.

On Saturday, the Utah Jazz resumed their intensive pre-draft process with another group of prospects looking to take their games to the next level. This particular group was headlined by a pair of big men with first-round potential; namely, Daniel Gafford and Luka Samanic.

While Gafford undoubtedly offers big upside as an athlete and a shot-blocker defensively, Samanic could become the kind of player the Jazz haven’t had but have desperately needed in recent years: a playmaking big man with skills to pay the bills offensively.

When asked what the 6-foot-11, 227-pound Croatian brings to the table, Jazz VP of player personnel Walt Perrin rattled off the following items —

  • Pretty good athlete; vertical athlete.
  • Has the ability to become a pretty good shooter.
  • Can put the ball on the floor on the perimeter and create shots.
  • Passes the ball well.

Oh, is that all?

I know, I know…we’re talking about the 23rd pick here and a player who struggled at times in Adriatic League competition this past season, but if Samanic can be developed into the kind of player that can do all of those things at the NBA level — look out!

And there’s at least some reason to believe that it’s within the realm of possibility. His stated goal of becoming the intersection of Kevin Durant and Kristaps Porzingis may be a long shot, but I’m sure the Jazz or any other team would gladly take 70 percent of that.

At the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, he showed some things that popped, even when compared to some of the high-level, American college athletes we’re all more familiar with.

Samanic rocked his scrimmage, hitting 5-of-7 shots, including a 3-pointer and scoring 13 points in 19 minutes off the bench for his squad. He also added seven boards and was a team-high plus-15 in the contest.

It’s hard to know how to take that performance in five-on-five in such a strange setting, but there’s no dismissing the results of his athletic testing.

His lane agility time of 11.01 seconds was third-best among big men. Meanwhile, Samanic completed a 3.03-second shuttle run that finished just behind Darius Bazley and actually beat out a fair amount of guards and wing players. The 19-year-old’s 38-inch vertical topped the field of bigs who took part in the testing.

Clearly, he has the physical tools to compete; he just has to make good on his potential.

As it stands now, he shoots a sweet, easy ball with a nice, quick release from distance, but he also never shot over 33.8 percent from distance in any full season in Europe. Following his Jazz workout, he also claimed to have 1-5 switchability defensively, but we’ll see. Defense and physicality are probably his biggest question marks heading into the draft.

Next: Utah Jazz can learn to swing for the fences from the Toronto Raptors

Still, the ability to create offense on the perimeter and hit outside shots are the Jazz’s two biggest areas of need. If Samanic is a player who could eventually do both those things and is also an above-average athlete, he may be worth taking a flier on in the late first round.

Even if he’s a project.

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