Warriors Plan to Part Ways With ‘Polarizing’ 2019 Draft Pick: Report

Alen Smailagic

Getty Alen Smailagic turns the ball over in a game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Golden State Warriors are reportedly parting ways with a 2019 draft pick who rarely saw the floor over the last two years and whose lack of development became a point of contention for many fans.

Anthony Slater of The Athletic reported that Golden State is planning to waive Alen Smailagic before his contract guarantees on August 6th. While the Serbian big man still had two non-guaranteed seasons left, the Warriors have reportedly decided to cut him loose after Smailagic could not find a spot in the rotation and his development seemed to backslide between his first and second seasons.

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Risky Pick Failed to Pan Out

As Alex Didion of NBC Sports Bay Area noted, Smailagic was one of the most polarizing players in recent Warriors history, one who failed to live up to the potential he appeared to show as a teenager. Before he was taken by the Warriors with the No. 39 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, Smailagic was the youngest player in the history of the NBA’s developmental league, joining the South Bay Lakers in the 2018 season at the age of 17.

Smailagic struggled with the Warriors this season, appearing in just 15 games and averaging 1.9 points and 1.1 rebounds per game — a drop from the 4.2 points and 1.9 rebounds he averaged his rookie season. He fared only marginally better during a 10-game stint in the G League bubble this year, averaging 7.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

As Wes Goldberg of the Mercury News noted, the risk that the Warriors took on the inexperienced young player just never seemed to work out.

“It’s important to remember that Smailagic, 20, never played basketball at a high level prior to being drafted by the Warriors. Before spending the 2018-19 season with the team’s G League affiliate in Santa Cruz, Smailagic was playing in a second-rate league in Serbia,” Goldberg wrote in a season-ending review.

Goldberg added that he was often “glaringly” out of place, play that earned the ire of many Warriors fans and made the 6-foot-10 Smailagic a polarizing figure.

He struggles to execute basic team concepts, often aborting the Xs and Os of a play to instead hurtle uncontrollably toward the basket. In 15 appearances, he failed to register a positive plus-minus in any non-garbage time minutes and finished the season with as many fouls as made shots (11).

Move Gives Warriors Options

With Smailagic reportedly being waived, the Warriors will free up an additional roster spot that could go toward the offseason goal of acquiring more veteran players.  The Warriors will have a tight budget to accomplish that goal — because the team is deep in the luxury tax, they will only be able to add players on the mid-level exception or on veteran minimum contracts. One potential target is Andre Iguodala, who appears headed for free agency after the Miami Heat reportedly declined his option for the 2021-22 season.

The Warriors have invested considerably in youth over the past two seasons, committing to the development of last year’s No. 2 overall pick, James Wiseman, while adding a pair of lottery picks in Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. After two seasons and no clear signs of progress, it appears the investment into the 20-year-old Smailagic has come to an end.

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