Alen Smailagic had quite a homecoming after leaving the Golden State Warriors.
The team parted ways with the 2019 draft pick this offseason, ending a two-year project that brought limited results and instead moving on to focus on a trio of young players with a higher ceiling. The Serbian big man returned to his home country, and this week had quite a first performance with his new team.
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Smailagic Dominates With New Team
After leaving the Warriors, Smailagic returned his home country, signing with Belgrade’s KK Partizan of the top Serbian league. As USA Today’s Warriors Wire noted, he had a warm welcome back home.
“In a contest against AS Monaco, Smailagic recorded an impressive debut for his new club. As the game turned into a double-overtime thriller, the 21-year-old forward went off, scoring 32 points for his new squad,” the report noted.
The report noted that Smailagic showed off some versatile scoring skills, knocking down three-pointers and scoring inside as he led his team to the victory. Smailagic had an impact on both ends of the court, racking up eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
Serbian Big Man Struggled With Warriors
Smailagic was never able to show off that kind of dominant play with the Warriors despite a strong start to the American leg of his career. He became the youngest player in the history of the NBA’s developmental league, first playing for the South Bay Lakers in the 2018 season at the age of 17. He was later selected by the Warriors with the No. 39 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, but failed to stand out in limited chances. The forward appeared in just 15 games for the team last season, averaging 1.9 points and 1.1 rebounds per game.
As Wes Goldberg of the Mercury News noted in his year-end assessment, Smailagic seemed to have a difficult time adjusting to playing basketball at the highest level.
“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.
Goldberg added that Smailagic often seemed to struggle in more complicated offensive sets, sometimes abandoning the play call in favor of ill-fated drives to the hoop. Goldberg pointed out that Smailagic never recorded a positive plus-minus outside of garbage time.
The Warriors have instead decided to focus on more promising young players. After rumors that the team was looking to package its two lottery picks along with 20-year-old center James Wiseman in order to trade for an established NBA star, Golden State ultimately decided to hold onto both picks, taking Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. The franchise appears to be investing in their development as well, bringing in some new assistant coaches with experience on the player development side. That included Dejan Milojević, who had previously worked with league MVP Nikola Jokić while on the coaching staff for the Serbian basketball team Mega Basket.