On Thursday, the Golden State Warriors traded two future second-round picks to the Pelicans for No. 39 overall and used it on 18-year-old Serbian forward Alen Smailagic. Pretty normal, right? Wrong.
Smailagic actually played this season in the NBA G League for the Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State’s affiliate. He had come to the G League as a 17-year-old ineligible for the NBA Draft last summer and ended up on Santa Cruz’s roster. The NBA Warriors were able to get a closer look than anyone at Smailagic on the G League Warriors — in practices, in every game, around the team — and decided to trade into the No. 39 pick to nab him. Pretty normal, right? Wrong.
After being scouted in Europe by Santa Cruz general manager Kirk Lacob (son of Golden State franchisee Joe Lacob), Smailagic agreed to come to the G League in 2018 only if he could play for Santa Cruz, according to Forbes’ Jeff Feld. The South Bay Lakers — affiliate of the LA Lakers, of course — picked Smailagic No. 4 in the 2018 G League Draft and traded him to Santa Cruz, where Smailagic became the youngest G League player ever.
Numerous NBA scouts apparently went to the G League Showcase last winter specifically to watch Smailagic, who had been building some buzz in Santa Cruz. But then the Warriors held him out of both of Santa Cruz’s showcase games! People noticed.
That takes us to Thursday, where the Warriors had to trade into a second-round spot to make sure they kept Smailagic in the program.
So basically, the Warriors found a promising Serbian teenager two years ago, slid him into the Bay Area to play for their G League team, tried to deflect attention on his presence and his development as much as possible to the point of holding him out of games when other scouts and executives were around, and arranged a trade to draft him once he became NBA eligible.
This team really is light years ahead.