Luka Samanic is an intriguing draft prospect.
The Croatian power forward is definitely a project. Yet, the 19-year-old former soccer player has a huge upside, since he has been playing basketball for only eight years.
He’s not the perfect fit for a team such as the 76ers looking for a player in next Thursday’s NBA draft who can make an immediate impact. Yet, the 6-foot-11, 227-pounder is fascinating to teams. That’s part of the reason the Sixers brought him in for Thursday’s predraft workout.
“A couple of years ago, we got to see him at Basketball without Borders,” Sixers vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley said. "It was probably the first time on a real global stage we got to see him compete. ... it is his jump shot.
“He’s got a great stroke, and he’s a sneaky good athlete. He can really run. The other thing he does is he competes.”
Samanic is projected to be a late first- or early second-round pick. The Sixers have the 24th-overall pick and Nos. 33, 34, 42, and 54 in the second round.
Also at the workout were Jon Davis (UNC-Charlotte), Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s), Marcquise Reed (Clemson), Dewan Hernandez (Miami), and Ahmed Hill (Virginia Tech).
Samanic has three seasons remaining on the contract he signed with KK Olimpija Ljubljana of the Premier A Slovenian League last year. The contract has a buyout clause, however, that would allow him to join an NBA team.
“I would like to come immediately next season,” he said. “So, get drafted and just come here and get ready. I’m young, I’m 19, but I think with the work, and there’s a lot of older teammates I can learn from. You know, learn and play.”
Last season, Samanic averaged 8.0 points and 4.8 rebounds in 18.4 minutes and shot 37.4 percent in 50 games, including just 23 starts. That came one season after he averaged 7.9 points and 4.0 rebounds for the FC Barcelona B team, with five starts in 26 games.
Samanic can stretch the floor with his perimeter skills, which, he said, would enable him to mesh with Joel Embiid and the Sixers.
“I think I can be a threat on the three-point line,” he said. “I can pass the ball, just spread the floor for the guards.”
But is he ready to contribute as an NBA power forward?
“I think he can compete at the four," Eversley said. “I think that’s going to depend on the situation that he goes into with respect to whatever team he goes into. I’m not sure if he’s ready to play in playoff games right now. But, I think he’s definitely ready to make a roster.”
A month ago, Isaiah Roby impressed scouts at the NBA draft combine in Chicago. Next, he’ll get a chance to impress the 76ers.