The Trail Blazers’ memorable postseason run might be over, but the the 2019 NBA Draft is right around the corner. Portland’s President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey currently has the No. 25 pick in the draft at his disposal and he will look to supplement the Blazers’ roster with a talented prospect in the latter stages of the first round. Regardless of the Blazers’ lack of a pick in the second round, Olshey has shown a willingness to negotiate his way back into the selection process. Today’s profile focuses on the polarizing upside of Croatian power forward Luka Samanic.
- Height: 6’11”
- Weight: 227.2
- Wingspan: 6’10.5”
- Shooting Hand: Right
- Position: PF
- Age: 19
- Projected draft range: 26-40
*Taken from Union Olimpija’s 20-game schedule in Liga ABA (Adriatic League)
- PTS: 6.4 | Per 40: 16.2
- REB: 3.8 | Per 40: 9.6
- FG%: 50.0
- 3P%: 20.8
- FT%: 69.8
Samanic’s upside as a professional prospect starts with his stellar footwork. When facing aggressive close-outs on the perimeter, the Croatian youngster is careful not to waste any movement when putting the ball on the court to head downhill. At his size, Samanic has a remarkable ability to knife through several layers of opponents on the way to the rim. Once in the paint, he is a highlight-worthy finisher capable of getting up for dunks quickly. Beyond the arc, Samanic has shown he can stretch defenses with his passing and shooting. His numbers in the Adriatic League look shaky, but he has looked the part of a catch-and-shoot operator in FIBA competitions.
Defensively, Samanic does a superb job of limiting second-chance opportunities. He quickly reloads between jumps, giving him an edge when pursuing defensive rebounds.
The jump to NBA-level competition will place several sizable hurdles in front of Samanic. Lacking a sturdy frame and above-average wingspan, his future as a rim protector is limited. On the other end, Samanic has shown a limited ability to generate points with traditional post moves. Despite displaying signs of growth as a three-point shooter, he must continue to work on his efficiency going forward. In the NBA, Samanic could struggle on offense against versatile small-ball fours. Defensively, traditional post players will target him until he adds to his frame.
Across all of Union Olimpija’s competitions last season, Samanic was featured in 50 games (23 starts). His best numbers came in Slovenia’s domestic league (SKL). In 17 games in the SKL, Samanic averaged an even 10 points per game. After bouncing up and down draft boards for the majority of the season, Samanic steadied his draft stock with solid showings in the scrimmages that took place at the NBA Draft Combine.
Samanic’s deficiencies in rim protection are easily overlooked due to his impressive profile on the perimeter. If he continues to develop, his offensive repertoire is a perfect fit in today’s NBA. By attacking opponents on the perimeter, Samanic should control the matchups he faces in the paint. Regardless of his lack of paint-friendly skills, his upside as a fluid athlete will attract suitors on draft night. For the most part, Samanic’s weak spots can be corrected with proper physical training and maturation.
The long-term pairing of Samanic’s perimeter-based offense next to Jusuf Nurkic’s presence in the paint is enticing. Outside of that long-term projection, it is tough to envision how Samanic fits into Portland’s current timeline. His natural gifts as a slasher and rebounder would give coach Terry Stotts’ staff a strong foundation to work with, but his developing outside shooting would need refinement before meaningful minutes are allotted. If the Blazers get back into the second round, taking a flier on Samanic’s upside is worth the risk.
Statistics via RealGM
Do you want to see Samanic in a Blazers jersey next season? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.