Evaluating Alen Smailagic

May 14, 2019

by Alan Lu

Recently, I took the opportunity to watch Santa Cruz Warriors’ Serbian big man, Alen Smailagic play in two NBA G-League games this time around.  I was able to see him play against Texas in a match that took place on December 1st, as well as against Erie that was on December 15th, with thanks to Facebook via NBA G League.  I took this approach in order to get a sense of how he fared normally in his league this season.  He is a mobile player that will make hustle plays on both ends of the floor, and he could be a potential second round pick this year, as he is automatically eligible to enter the NBA draft.  Here are my thoughts on how he fared in both games, as well as where he may stack up as a prospect for the NBA.

Alen Smailagic is an active big man that tends to score on hustle plays.  He will run the floor to score on fast breaks, and he was able to score on a dunk off of a drive in transition.  He also was able to score on a turnaround put back after getting an offensive rebound in traffic, and Smailagic can draw numerous free throws after making strong moves around the basket.  He also is an adequate low post scorer.  Smailagic was able to back his man down before pivoting to score on a one-legged, fadeaway jumper, and he also tended to finish plays at the rim to garner scores.  Often times, he would catch entry passes, and opponents would leave him open around the basket briefly, which would enable him to have enough time to get easy scores off the glass.  He did miss once on a wild double pump layup though, as he tried to be too fancy with his shot that time.

Smailagic did show some potential to develop into a stretch big, but he will still need to improve his ability to shoot the basketball.  Smailagic was able to make an open trail three off the catch once, but he also tended to miss on pick and pop plays, and he also missed on a pull-up three another time.  He also had trouble scoring on drives to the basket consistently.  He had his shot blocked on a right-handed drive to the hoop once.  Another time, he drove right before using a quick shoulder fake, but he ended up missing on a contested runner off the glass.

He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills.  Smailagic is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he can find cutters from the high post to notch assists.  He also can throw accurate interior passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  In addition, he also can make passes off the dribble, and he can pass out of the post to get his teammates open looks on offense.  He also will set plenty of screens, as he can sometimes help his teammates get open shots off of drives or jumpers, but sometimes he can be turnover prone, as he can tend to throw hasty passes that can get intercepted by defenders.  He also can struggle to make quick decisions at times, as he held and dribbled the ball for too long until a defender stole the ball away from him.  He also was called for traveling after getting an offensive rebound, as he had shuffled his feet in trying to secure the board.

Also, he showed off a decent ability to rebound the basketball.  He can run in to get some tough offensive boards in traffic, as he will actively look to crash the glass.  He also will tend to box out, which would allow his teammates to get rebounds, but sometimes he would be unable to secure balls, as he may not always be able to catch balls cleanly, and he would sometimes allow offensive rebounds to go to his opponents.  He also may occasionally get outmuscled or forget to block out every once in a while, which can lead him to allow put back scores.

Defensively, he looked to be average at best. For the positives, Smailagic is an active help defender that can get blocks and steals.  He would rotate to block shots when defending in the paint, and he also can rotate to poke balls away to get steals.  He also will use his length to contest jumpers to force misses, and he also was able to successfully challenge a shot when defending in the post against a smaller opponent.  Plus, he also rotated to successfully draw a charge when defending in transition once.

However, he can really struggle to guard players out on the perimeter, as he does not move his feet very well laterally.  Smailagic tended to get beat off of drives, particularly on switches, as he would too often to commit fouls and allow scores as a result.  He also would tend to give up too much space to his man, as he ended up allowing opponents to score on a couple of three-point shots.  Other times, he would give up deep position when defending in the post, which would lead him to commit fouls.  He also would tend to over-rotate at times, which would cause him to be out of position when defending off-ball motion plays.

In general, Alen Smailagic is a fairly mobile big man that can make energetic plays on both ends of the floor, but he will still need to refine his skills to improve his chances to succeed at the NBA level.  He will need to improve his face-up game, and he will also need to improve his decision-making skills, rebounding, and position defense.  On the plus side, he is a solid finisher around the basket, and he is quite active defensively.  He is also one of the youngest players in this draft, and he already played fairly well in the G-League, so he may have plenty of projectable upside as a prospect for the NBA.  Right now, he may project to go in the mid to late second round range, and in a favorable scenario, he could find a niche role as a backup center in the association.