Get ready for another season of the “Smiley Project.”
Steve Kerr addressed his expectations for intriguing 2019 second-round pick Alen Smailagic on Tuesday after the Warriors’ second day of training camp.
“[Smailagic] has to have a picture in his mind of how he can fit in the NBA, and I think that’s as a pick-and-pop shooter, offensively,” the Warriors coach said. “He’s gotta understand his responsibilities as a defensive player, whether he’s at the 4 or the 5. … But it’s a pretty steep learning curve at the NBA level and we’re trying to help him through that process.”
If you read past the coach speak, it seems like 20-year-old Smailagic is still a ways off from making an impact in an NBA rotation. But it’s never too early to think about him and Steph Curry executing the pick-and-pop to perfection at Chase Center.
Smailagic, listed at 6-foot-10, 215 pounds, averaged 15.2 points and 6.1 rebounds in 19 G League contests last year. He also got some NBA run after injuries decimated the Warriors roster last season, flashing some potential but also plenty of rookie mistakes in his 14 games in the Association.
Smailagic said he spent most of June and July in his native Serbia, but also put in major work this offseason with respected Warriors player development coach Seth Cooper.
“He helped me a lot with my 3-point shot,” Smailagic said, adding that he’s focused on executing pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop actions.
Smailagic’s ceiling still appears high, but Warriors fans should be prepared to wait until the 2021-22 season for him to make any real impact. With rookie center James Wiseman in the fold, there’s not much room for Smailagic in the Warriors frontcourt these days.
Smailagic said he’s unsure if he’ll be assigned to Santa Cruz for another season of G League action, but smart money says the organization will give him heavy minutes there to continue his development. He also still has the security of a guaranteed contract this season.
One day, he might become a Serbian Splash Bro. But for now, we just have to imagine all the floor-spacing nightmares that could await the Warriors’ opponents in the future if he reaches his potential.
And for all the “Light Years” haters waiting for Smailagic to be an overhyped bust, they’ll just have to wait and find out, too.