Former Knicks Prospect Eyeing NBA Return After Landing New Deal

Luka Samanic NBA Draft combine

Getty Big man Luka Samanic participates in the 2019 NBA Draft combine.

Aformer member of the New York Knicks organization — and a player who some felt had big upside as a stretch big at the NBA level — looks to have gotten his break. Or, at the absolute least, an opportunity to show that he’s worthy of a longer look in the Association.

Per an announcement from the team on Tuesday, the Utah Jazz have officially signed center Luka Samanic to a 10-day contract.

The 23-year-old hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since the 2020-21 campaign when he was with the San Antonio Spurs (who drafted him 19th overall in 2019). In his two seasons in the Alamo City, Samanic averaged 3.8 points and 2.2 rebounds in 9.9 minutes per contest while posting 43-29-58 shooting splits.

When he has been healthy, though, Samanic has done as well as just about anybody to take advantage of his time in the G League, both with the Knicks’ affiliate in Westchester last season and as a member of the Maine Celtics in 2022-23.

Injuries Prevented Former First-Round Pick Luka Samanic From Making an Impact With the New York Knicks

Luka Samanic Named NBA G League Player of the WeekLuka Samanic of the Westchester Knicks has been named the NBA G League Player of the Week for games played between Nov. 29 and Dec. 5. Samanic, a Two-Way player with the New York Knicks, averaged 30.0 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists as Westchester went 2-1. The NBA G League is the NBA's official…2021-12-07T20:07:11Z

Samanic was giving folks serious Kristaps Porzingis vibes when Knicks president Leon Rose saw fit to give him a two-way contract in October of 2021. The 6-foot-10 Croatian baller may not have had the star quotient that the Unicorn did but his inside-outside game had intrigued scouts dating back to his days with FC Barcelona’s U18 squad.

He showed out during his brief stay in Westchester, too. In a combined eight games between the Showcase Cup and regular-season competition, Samanic averaged 27.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists nightly while connecting on 36.7% of his triples (which he attempted at a rate greater than six per game).

Alas, a particularly brutal bout with plantar fasciitis effectively removed him from the Knicks’ equation in early January 2022. Three months later, Rose made the tough call to part ways with Samanic without ever having given him a main-roster shot.

Flash forward to now, though, and Samanic hasn’t just shown that his injury is in the rearview mirror, but also put himself firmly back onto the NBA radar.

In a combined 44 games with the Boston Celtics‘ affiliate in ’22-23, Samanic has averaged 21.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists per contest with 49-33-73 shooting splits. He dropped a career-high 45 points on the Delaware Blue Coats in January of this year.

Precious little time remains before Utah’s regular season finale, but Samanic should have at least a fighting chance to long NBA minutes before the year is done. The 35-40 Jazz are actively trying to lose games right now, in addition to being banged-up. And at least one other player has already resurrected his career after catching on with the Jazz.

Namely, former lottery pick Kris Dunn, who parlayed a pair of 10 days into 11.1 points, 5.2 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals nightly to go along with a career-best effective field-goal percentage (53.3).

B/R: Julius Randle & Jalen Brunson Are Knicks’ Only Keeper

In an attempt to single out the “untouchable” players around the Association, Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley combed through all 30 team rosters and dropped his final list on Tuesday. Where the Knicks were concerned, the hoops scribe ultimately landed on Julius Randle, Jalen Brunson and no one else.

Wrote Buckley:

The New York Knicks have made tremendous progress this season—particularly on the heels of last season’s disappointment—but they still seem one star short of true title contention.

Brunson and Randle should be the only players excluded from that star search. Brunson has answered New York’s decades-long questions at point guard, while Randle has shown his 2020-21 breakout (which included All-Star and All-NBA selections, plus the Most Improved Player award) was no fluke.

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