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Luka Samanic Is Minor Blip On San Antonio Spurs’ Recent Draft Track Record

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at October 23, 2021

Before the regular season began, the San Antonio Spurs crunched their roster with the somewhat surprising waiving of Luka Samanic, a 2019 first round pick from Croatia. He had the 6-foot-10 frame and shooting ability coming into that draft to make an NBA impact, it never happened after two lackluster go-arounds with the main roster and questions on effort.

After going unclaimed on waivers, Samanic signed a two-way contract with the New York Knicks, per The Athletic and Stadium’s Shams Charania. At just 21 years old, he has the chance to recover from a rough start to his career and find value elsewhere.

Samanic marks a rare miss, though, in the last five years of Spurs drafts after a string of successful selections.

In 2019 the San Antonio Spurs had two first-round draft picks to work with, the result of the Kawhi Leonard trade with the Toronto Raptors the offseason prior. No. 29 overall arrived from the team north of the border and No. 19 was the Spurs’ own. Samanic went at the former, but Keldon Johnson, now a long-term, young building block of this team’s next iteration, went at the second of the two selections, although lower in the first round than expected.

The result contrasted greatly between the two, with Samanic struggling to break into the rotation and Johnson eventually claiming a spot with Team USA

TISI
and showcasing bonafide starter skills. The youthful big man averaged just 3.8 points and 2.2 rebounds on 43 percent shooting when given the chance.

It’s greatly different than the efforts of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker, as well, the first round picks of 2016-18, respectively. Each has either settled into a starter’s role or a main rotation spot for most of their NBA tenures, contributing to the 2018-19 playoff appearance and, in Murray and White’s cases, earning lucrative contract extensions. They were both opening night starters for 2021-22, while Walker came off the bench as a main reserve.

Still in development in Devin Vassell, the No. 11 pick of 2020. He flashed two-way potential as a rookie in healthy number of appearances, and he opened the 2021-22 season with 19 points, five assists and two steals. The future is clearly bright there whether or not the Florida State product becomes a starter.

The next spotlight is on Joshua Primo, who went No. 12 in 2021 and higher than most draft boards projected this youngest player of the class to land. He’s a projectile 6-foot-6 backcourt player to place in the middle of the lineup, but that may take a few years of development, and significant G League time, to reach.

The last “miss” was Nikola Milutinov in 2015, who never played a minute in the NBA, remaining overseas to continue his basketball career. Actually, the Spurs had their entire 2012, 2013 and 2015 draft classes never suit up stateside. They more than stayed afloat in the regular season, however, led by Kawhi Leonard’s rise and the 2014 NBA title.

Despite consecutive missed playoff appearances, the Spurs have successfully begun molding the next generation, so they remain in a satisfactory position for the future. That shouldn’t make Samanic’s blunder a blemish, especially with Johnson performing so well from the same class. The roster is full of players under 30 as is, only furthering that the Spurs development machine will continue.

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