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.
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.