The Knicks have signed 21 year-old forward Luka Šamanić, the 19th pick of the 2019 draft, to a two-way contract.
In a somewhat surprising move, the Spurs waived him this past Monday. Šamanić had played just 36 games with the Spurs, 33 coming in last season, in which he averaged only 3.8 points and 2.1 rebounds per game in 9.9 minutes per game. His efficiency was poor, slashing 45/28/55 splits and averaging more turnovers than assists.
Šamanić did exhibit some potential. The 6’10” forward has shown he can do a little bit of everything in the G League, averaging 21.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists in six games last season for the Austin Spurs. In 36 career G-League games, he’s averaged .6 steals and .7 blocks, though his 3.1 turnovers have plagued him.
This is one of the higher-upside, low-risk moves the Knicks have made of recent years, normally giving two-way contracts to older players like Isaiah Hicks and Theo Pinson. While they have taken chances on first rounders in the past, it is normally when they have already shown they can’t be rehabilitated into a true young project like in Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke.
Šamanić is young and talented. He may not pan out on the Knicks or even in the NBA, but it is too early to write him off entirely.
Luka was best player during Thursday's 2019 combine scrimmage, Spurs probably put too much stock into it. Still, only 21 y/o, a worthwhile (free) project to try and reignite—6-11 w/ shooting stroke, can attack closeouts, flickering flashes of inside toughness, defensive mobility https://t.co/kv3HW5XrWO— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) October 15, 2021
It seemed the Spurs never clicked with Šamanić as much as they would have envisioned; instead, their later pick of the 2019 draft, Keldon Johnson, won their hearts.
It is possible Šamanić may have been cut due to his attitude and effort. The preseason game before being waived, he showed a lack of hustle in the final moments of a close game.
The Spurs today announced that they have waived forward Luka Samanic. Knew this was coming after the give up on this play last night. I've known Pop too long. We talked about it in the sports office as soon as we saw it. 1 said "Surprised he didn't have to walk home." pic.twitter.com/1zGexGCtWH— Don Harris (@DonHarris4) October 11, 2021
However, Popovich did say, “Luka worked hard. He tried his best. These are always the decisions that are difficult, when you have to tell somebody you are going to go with another player...We wish him well.”
That may just be niceties, but it is a little reassuring. If Popovich would not put up with Šamanić’s theoretical bad attitude, there is no shot that Thibodeau would.
While unlikely, there is a path for Šamanić to contribute this season. Burks is the only trusted backup small forward at the moment, and he will inevitably have to fill in as a guard on nights Rose or Walker don’t play.
If Šamanić displays improvement in the G League this season, where he will likely spend most of his time, there is a path to him being a positive contributor to the Knicks, which is more than you can say of past Knicks two-ways.