Luka Samanic - Petrol Olimpija
Power Forward, 6’11”, 227 lbs, 19 years old
48.4 FG%, 33.8 3P%, 72.2% FT%
18.4 MIN 8.0 PTS 4.8 REB 0.9 AST 0.5 STL 0.4 BLK 1.4 TOV
Another year, another Luka - only this guy is from Croatia, the neighboring country of Slovenia (where Luka Doncic hails from). For what it’s worth, Samanic has consistently been considered the second best international prospect in the 2019 draft (after Sekou Doumbouya), in a draft with a record 58 international players declaring early-entry. He’s (Samanic) been playing professional basketball since 2017, playing for FC Barcelona’s second team before signing a multi-year contract with Olimpija (in Slovenia) last year. Due to his contract status, he might be a draft-and-stash candidate, but his Porzingis/Markkanen-like potential might put him in Lindsey and Zanik’s sights.
Luka’s strengths seem to be those of a typical European-grown big man: good fundamentals, good handle/slashing ability, shooting potential, decent playmaking, and decent defense. In particular, he’s shown good potential as a big who can switch to the ball handler in the pick and roll, but we’ll see if that can translate to the much faster NBA. Of note is that several sites have listed his comparison as David Lee, which is interesting given that Lee was primarily a post player and later built up his shooting abilities; I think Luka is much more of a shooter in the modern mold, but it otherwise makes sense.
In a Hoops Hype interview (quote above), Luka described himself as versatile. However, looking at his stats and play, it seems more confidence and posturing than actual skill on the court. Most of Luka’s weaknesses are also those of the typical Euro big man and a 19 year old: inconsistent shooting (results and mechanics), high turnovers, lack of shot blocking, lack of intensity, and lack of strength. (This isn’t helped by his short-ish 6’10” wingspan.) How much this is playing into the stereotype and how much is true is a question, but it really does seem like these are the majority of his weaknesses. Only time will tell if he’s more Dragan Bender than Lauri Markkanen, but that’s worth taking a flier on later in the first round or as a draft-and-stash.
Luka didn’t play for a club that has a sister SBNation page. Unfortunately, we do not have a cool question and answer section for him. BUT here’s a cool little anecdote about how he impressed a lot of folks at the 2019 NBA Combine. This comes from Jeremy Woo of SI.com:
Samanic entered the season as a projected late lottery talent on our Big Board, but after an up-and-down year playing professionally in Slovenia, his stock dipped to the point where teams needed to see more of him at the combine. His decision to play paid off, as he showcased the offensive versatility and fluid athleticism that made him such an intriguing prospect at the 2018 Basketball Without Borders camp in Los Angeles. It was quickly evident that he was the best player on the floor in the first game, with a clean shooting stroke, a strong feel for the game, and impressive, functional ball-handling skills at his size (he measured at 6’9.5” barefoot, and weighed in at 227 pounds). He totaled 13 points and seven rebounds, and moves extremely well for a guy that tall.
The most pivotal thing I noted with Samanic today was his impressive physical development: he’s naturally thin, but has filled out nicely in his upper body and shoulders and added a noticeable degree of strength. He’s still just 19 years old, and the progression of his build component helps a good deal with his projection at the NBA level. If he can be adequate defensively, Samanic could be a versatile floor spacer and short-roll playmaker at forward with his current skill set. Scouts in attendance mostly agreed that he might be in good position to shut it down on Day 2, and he may have done enough to solidify himself as a first-round talent.