Dubs Lead

Smailagic a Potential Bright Spot in Dreadful Warriors Season?

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It’s been six months since Warriors fans have had a reason to be excited, an eternity in Dubs fandom. With a 7-24 record through 31 games, fans haven’t smiled much.

Except when watching a prospect nicknamed Smiley.

 

That’s Alen Smailagic, a Serbian prospect who the Warriors hid from the rest of the league.

Smailagic was selected in the G-League draft by the South Bay Lakers, only for the Santa Cruz Warriors to trade for him after they played him sparringly, going so far as to withhold him from the highly scouted showcase games.

Since his rights were only held by the G-League affiliate, he was eligible for the most recent NBA Draft, where the Pelicans drafted him 39th overall. The Warriors sent two future second-round picks to New Orleans to maintain his rights within the Warriors franchise.

So far, it seems like it was worth it.

Ideal Modern-Day Big

Smiley missed training camp and the first eight games of the season due to an ankle injury. Since his return, he’s been one of the best players in the G-League. In 10 games, he’s averaged 16.1 PPG and 6 RPG. His true shooting percentage of 63.1% would place him fourth among qualifying players if he met the minimum game threshold.

At 6’10”, the skills showcased in the clips draw a striking similarity to the best players in the league today. At just 19 years old, Smailagic still has time to develop, but his play has shown all the makings of a solid NBA talent.

In a recent two-game stretch, Smailagic posted 25 points the first night on 56% shooting from the field and followed it up with a 12-for-18 shooting night earning 29 points.

The balance of his game is where his fit with Golden State should be seamless. He can drive to the basket starting behind the arc or from the post with equal success. He’s shown success on ball-screens as both the ball-handler and the screener.

And if allowed, he’s shown he wants to be a splash brother.

Smiley Has Range

While it may be further down the line, a Ky Bowman-Smailagic pick-and-pop game is the stuff of Warriors fans’ dreams. Bowman proved himself to be a reliable scorer during his time with Golden State and rightfully earned the respect of the defenders here as they double teamed him off the screen.

But leaving Smailagic alone behind the arc is just as disrespectful. So far, he’s shot 42% from the 3-point line, something the Golden State staff have undoubtedly taken note of.

Especially since he doesn’t need to be wide open to make them.

If Golden State calls up Smailagic, he’ll provide much-needed help to their 3-point shooting. The team is shooting just 32% behind the arc, their lowest mark since the 2001-02 season.

Path to a Call-up

While a call-up might add a quick adrenaline boost to a disappointed fan base, the team is taking a patient approach with his development. Kerr said the team plans for Smailagic to play with Golden State this season, but the timetable is still uncertain.

What’s for certain is Smailagic has the tools to become a serviceable player for the Warriors and the team is thinking long-term for him. After the draft, the Warriors signed him to a four-year contract, with the first two years guaranteed. It’s a low-risk, high-reward scenario for the team that has the potential to become a steal.

For now, Smailagic’s development in the G-League will be invaluable. He’ll be able to learn from Golden State two-way contract players Bowman and Damion Lee who have both had success in the top league. That chemistry could be essential to Smailagic’s transition to the main squad if they all play together at some point. If that happens, expect Smiley to give Warriors fans a reason to smile.

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About Jacob Shiffer

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