During the 2019 NBA Draft, the Warriors traded two future second-round picks (2021 and 2023) and cash to the New Orleans Pelicans in order to select Alen Smailagic at No. 39 overall.
The Serbian native was considered a project at the time, and that label still exists.
"We're really excited about what Smiley could become," Golden State assistant general manager Kirk Lacob said Thursday on the "Runnin' Plays" podcast. "Love the guy. He has a lot of work to do. He was a second-round pick. He has gotta fight and claw.
"Year 1 happened -- it was a bummer of a year. He got hurt, he was thrust into some positions we weren't originally wanting him to be in. And then it was cut short. You might have seen a lot of Smiley those last 15 (or so) games we had.
"If he's good enough, he's gonna show through and he'll figure it out."
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Smailagic badly sprained his right ankle during the Warriors' second training camp practice Oct. 2, and was unable to gain the valuable experience of going against NBA big men on a daily basis in practice.
He missed the Santa Cruz Warriors' first eight games and didn't make his 2019-20 G League debut until Nov. 29. Smailagic's NBA debut came one month later.
"We had actually planned to play him in the G League almost the entire year, and then all of a sudden there were minutes available in the NBA," Lacob explained. "So, it was not how we would have drawn up the year at all."
NBA playing time was available because Golden State was decimated by injuries all season, and then traded away nearly half the roster before the deadline.
Smailagic ended up appearing in 14 games. And although there were expected growing pains, he flashed his potential.
ALEN SMAILAGIC DOES NOT LACK CONFIDENCE pic.twitter.com/KlAi5iui55— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) January 1, 2020
Smiley already better than prime Dirk pic.twitter.com/KdyCjjQnB2— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) January 3, 2020
"There was no reason he should have been good in the NBA last year," Lacob said. "If he was, I would be dancing around. I'd be so excited ... what we love about Alen is his mindset. If he makes it, it's probably because of that mindset. He has no fear.
"He is really confident in himself, but I wouldn't classify him as cocky necessarily. He's a sponge. He's so excited to learn things."
And the Warriors are looking forward to finding out if Smailagic is ready to consistently contribute next season, or if that still is down the road.