To crack Warriors' rotation, Alen Smailagic must learn to like defense

To crack Warriors' rotation, Alen Smailagic must learn to like defense

Warriors second-round draft pick Alen Smailagic is now under contract, having signed a four-year deal with Golden State on Thursday. The young Serbian big man won't turn 19 years old until next month, and offers loads of long-term potential as the Dubs attempt to rebuild their roster in the wake of a wild offseason.

Smailagic was the youngest player in G League history last year, and has showcased a penchant for making highlight-reel plays throughout the Warriors' Summer League experience. Still, he is quite raw, and it would be unreasonable to expect him to be a major contributor for the Warriors this coming season, and perhaps even next.

If Smailagic is going to expedite that timeline, he'll have to get over his dislike for playing defense.

"I really don’t like to play defense,” Smailagic told The Athletic's Ethan Sherwood Strauss. “But in G League, if you want to go the NBA, you have to play it."

Despite his age, Smailagic doesn't lack wisdom, apparently. Simply put, he's not making it into Steve Kerr's rotation unless he's a willing defender. And forget Kerr -- you think Draymond Green is going to tolerate a lackluster defensive effort?

Good luck with that.

Smailagic has a long way to go as a defender. He's got great mobility, but needs to make strides as a rim protector. The good news is, he's got plenty of time to get there.

[RELATED: Smailagic reveals some of Cousins' relentless trash talk]

Smailagic won't see the court much for Golden State this coming season -- he wasn't drafted with that in mind. However, whether it's in the NBA or the G League, he should have ample opportunities to improve his defense while learning on the job.

Maybe he'll learn to love it, too.

What Warriors' Ron Adams believes is Alen Smailagic's best current skill

What Warriors' Ron Adams believes is Alen Smailagic's best current skill

During Alen Smailagic's rookie season with the Warriors, he showed flashes as to why Golden State traded two future second-round draft picks (2021 and 2023) to acquire him.

The No. 39 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft averaged 4.2 points and 1.9 rebounds in 9.9 minutes per game over 14 appearances.

"His best skill right now -- for a young guy, he's not afraid of the game," Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams told Tim Kawakami of The Athletic last week. "He comes into the game and he's turned on. He makes some good plays.

"That was noticeable this year. His confidence, his savvy, whatever you want to call it. It was pretty impressive."

The 19-year-old has the utmost belief in himself, and doesn't shy away from the bright lights.

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Smailagic believes he already belongs and can have a big impact on the game.

This is an important mindset to possess as it can help when things aren't going your way. And the reality is that Smailagic is far from a finished product.

"He has a ways to go," Adams said. "I think he made great strides this year. He would get in the game and the only thing he thought about was how (he was) going to get the ball into the hoop (laughter). He was just really intent on that. 

"He began to understand the game in a different way. He began to understand the game the way Steve (Kerr) likes the game to be played. I thought he improved defensively."

[RELATED: Draymond has eager student in Warriors rookie Smailagic]

It's possible that the 6-foot-10 Serbian is a consistent rotation player next season. The Warriors would be ecstatic if that comes to fruition.

But he might not have a significant role, and he could end up spending a decent amount of time in the G League with the Santa Cruz Warriors.

That is all to-be-determined.

"He's a young developing player," Adams said. "And when that's the case, you can never be surprised when things happen more quickly than you think they should in terms of development, and you can't be disappointed when they don't."

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How latest reported NBA schedule timeline could affect Warriors, draft

How latest reported NBA schedule timeline could affect Warriors, draft

The Warriors know they practically are guaranteed to land a top-five pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Yet they still don't know when the draft -- originally scheduled for June 25 -- actually will take place.

But the latest intel from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski is helping us narrow down the date.

The draft typically falls on the first Thursday after the scheduled date for Game 7 of the NBA Finals. So if we assume the league maintains that format, the Warriors could be making their selections on Oct. 15.

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To reiterate, we are making an assumption here and it's possible the NBA doesn't follow its normal protocol during these very uncertain times. 

But as Woj writes:

The expectation is that the NBA draft and the opening of free agency would follow in sequential order in October, sources said.

[RELATED: Oturu could be what Warriors wanted out of Bell in NBA draft]

If we apply the same logic for the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery -- which was slated for May 19 -- you can expect it to be held in mid-September.

We might know all of the specifics as early as Thursday because that's when the NBA's Board of Governors is expected to vote on the NBA's return-to-play proposal.

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