Following five straight runs to the NBA Finals and three championship trophies, the Golden State Warriors certainly boast their fair share of household names. Beyond the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are lesser known role players who play their parts to perfection; many of whom prepared for their moments by playing in the NBA G League first.
With an eye on which up and comer could be in the limelight next, it’s worth asking: who is Alen Smailagic?
Upon his selection as the 39th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, many were pondering that very question. But with some solid play at NBA Summer League — paired up with his physical and lengthy 6’10”, 215-pound athletic frame — the 18-year old Serbian is doing all he can to make sure those around the NBA are quite familiar with him moving forward.
The Warriors, however, have long been filled with intrigue. While awaiting his NBA Draft eligibility, Smailagic opted to play in the NBA G League last season. Golden State’s minor league affiliate in Santa Cruz decided to roll the dice but must’ve known there was something special in his game. The big man was selected No. 4 overall in the 2018 NBA G League Draft, suggesting he was one of the more talented youngsters available.
As a member of the Santa Cruz Warriors, Smailagic not only received his first taste of professional life and high-level competition, but also a crash course in what it meant to be a Golden State Warrior. It was in Santa Cruz that he experienced the culture and became accustomed to the organization’s overall style of play. The perennial championship contender and its minor league affiliate often work closely together to ensure a seamless progression of NBA G League prospects who rise up to become big league contributors in the near future. With that in mind, Smailagic excelled, winning people over with his demeanor off the court, while showing promise on it, with averages of 9.1 points (50% FG) and 4 rebounds per game in just 17.4 minutes per contest in 47 appearances.
Smailagic was taking all the right steps and making tremendous strides. Although Golden State had to trade with the Pelicans for his draft rights, he’s now back in a familiar fold. Primed, able, and ready to begin contributing at the next level — under a playing scheme he’s already learned, guided by coaches with whom he’s begun to form trusting relationships with — it’s clear Golden State’s continued investment is already paying off.
The young gun is well on his way to realizing NBA success. It’s one thing to look the part, but his potential doesn’t just end there. After averaging a shade under 1 block and 1 steal per game last season for Santa Cruz, his instincts are continuing to develop. Smailagic is coming to understand what he can do and how his abilities can constantly keep opposing players on their toes. If he remains active and alert, his physical frame will help him come up with the kind of deflections that can change the momentum of a game in his team’s favor. Offensively, his unique ability to put the ball on the floor will make it difficult for slower, bigger defenders to keep up as he comes attacking through the lane.
Smailagic put up respectable numbers in Las Vegas: 8.5 points and 5 rebounds per contest. But it’s worth noting these statistics just appear to be the tip of the iceberg. He has plenty of tools, immense versatility, and now following some time with the Santa Cruz Warriors, the preparation necessary to find his way in the NBA.