2019 Draft Workouts: Luka Šamanić

June 11, 2019 - Croatian forward Luka Šamanić speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.

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2019 Draft Workouts: Luka Šamanić

June 11, 2019 - Croatian forward Luka Šamanić speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.
Jun 11, 2019  |  02:52

Šamanić Worthy of Private Audition

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer

Luka Šamanić received a solo audition with the Pacers on Tuesday, which means...well, probably not much beyond whatever impression he made with his performance.

The 6-11 Croatian is regarded as a potential first-round draft pick, or at least a high second-round prospect, so naturally has been carefully scrutinized in draft preparations. His unaccompanied workout at St. Vincent Center, however, reflected scheduling realities rather than heightened interest.

Šamanić has worked out for San Antonio, Golden State, and Utah, and still has appointments with Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Milwaukee before the June 20 draft. Other invitations could be on the way as the intrigue surrounding him grows.

2019 DRAFT CENTRAL: Complete Coverage at Pacers.com/Draft »

The Pacers had Jalen Brunson in for an individual session on June 14 of last year. They wound up passing on him to take Aaron Holiday, who had not worked out for them because he was expecting to be gone by the time the Pacers drafted 23rd. Brunson went 33rd to Dallas and went on to have a solid rookie season while averaging 9.3 points for the Mavericks.

Šamanić probably isn't going to emerge as quickly in the NBA as Brunson or other older rookies. He's 19 and a veteran of three seasons in Europe. He's blessed with more potential than productivity at the moment — he averaged 8 points and 4.8 rebounds last season for Slovenian club Petrol Olimpija — but has shown enough in the pre-draft process to be regarded as one of the "rising" prospects.

He boosted his stock price at a scrimmage in the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago in May, for a team that happened to be coached by Pacers assistant David McClure. Playing 19 minutes, Šamanić scored 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting in that game, with seven rebounds, three turnovers, and no assists. He shared the highest plus-minus rating for the game, which his team won 92-73.

Tuesday's was his only solo workout, although he competed in a controlled three-on-three scrimmage against a collection of Pacers staff members, including McClure, who played Division I college basketball. With the full complement of front office personnel on hand, he appreciated the opportunity to show off everything he can do, but missed the environment of competing with and against five other draft prospects.

"I think I did OK," he said. "I can do better, because I felt really tired. Just move on to the next one now. Hopefully they'll like me."

What NBA teams like about Šamanić is his size and versatility. Although an average shooter — 34 percent from 3-point range last season — he shows the potential to improve because of his form and footwork. He can score equally well posting up or facing the basket, and showed off his rare agility by winning a slam dunk contest in 2016. Perimeter defense obviously will be a challenge in the NBA, but he's regarded as at least solid on that end. An article announcing his selection to an all-league team two years ago described him as a "defensive ace."

Luka Šamanić

Larry Bird looks on as Luka Šamanić shoots at Tuesday's individual workout. (Photo Credit: @Pacers)

Beyond his impressive mixtape, he offers more maturity and sophistication than most 19-year-olds as a multilingual European who has lived in his native Croatia, along with Belgium, Slovenia, and Germany. His father, Marko, had a long professional career in Europe, so Luka has benefited from on-site tutoring throughout his life. He hasn't suffered from helicopter parenting, though.

"Me and him, we have special relationship," Šamanić said. "Because when your father played, usually it's all basketball. I never had this. Only if I asked him. He was more how to act, how to be on the court, how to be off the court, how to be a good person.

"He wants me to do whatever I love. At the end, which is basketball. But if it were futbol, handball, whatever, it would be OK."

Šamanić played futbol, handball, and tennis as a youth, but his height eventually led him to focus on basketball. His versatile background translates to a versatile game, which could translate to a
successful NBA career. At this premature stage, the only certainty is his confidence.

Asked whom he models his game after, he quickly replied, "KD, for sure." That would be Kevin Durant. He also mentioned Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kristaps Porzingis.

He didn't mention fellow Croatian Bojan Bogdanovic, a free agent who played for the Pacers the previous two seasons. Šamanić and Bogdanovic are represented by the same Los Angeles-based agency, but Bogdanovic is nearly 11 years older. Šamanić is well aware of Bogdanovic's success with the Pacers, but has had no occasion to meet him.

Besides, his sights are set on the stars. What immediate rewards he can bring to an NBA as a teenager who doesn't turn 20 until next January remains to be seen, however.

"I can come to a team and help on defense and bring energy, and help on offense with my versatility," he said. "Shoot the ball and spread the floor for the guards. Whatever it takes. Switch one to five on defense and pass, shoot, screen, rebound...all the things.

"I think just basic stuff. Energy, attitude. I can bring all this. Things that don't require any physical (ability). Just will."

Šamanić's goal is to be among the 30 first-round selections, the recipients of the guaranteed contracts, but he recognizes the subtleties of the draft. Fit is often more important than draft position. Bogdanovic proved that by going from the first pick of the second round in 2011 to a player who averaged 18 points for the Pacers last season, when leading scorer Victor Oladipo was lost for most of the season with an injury.

Right place, right time is important.

"There's not much difference between 28 and 32," Šamanić said. "If for me 32 is a better organization and I have more chances there, than I'd rather be 32 than 28.

"But of course I would like to be included in the first round. I deserve to be first round."

Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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