Warriors' Alen Smailagic returns from ankle injury in Santa Cruz

Alex Didion

One of the most intriguing young pieces in the Warriors' system finally made his return to the court Friday night, as Alen Smailagic played 18 minutes on assignment with the Santa Cruz Warriors in a G League matchup against the Iowa Wolves.

The Serbia native was expected to be a contributor with Golden State before the season, especially after the team signed him to a multi-year deal in July, but he was sidelined by an ankle injury just before training camp. Smailagic spent all of last season in Santa Cruz, averaging 9.1 points and four rebounds per game in 47 appearances.

At just 18 years old, Smailagic was the youngest player to ever debut in the G League.

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

In Friday night's game, the six-foot-10 Smailagic scored 11 points and had seven rebounds in his return to the court.

Despite a plethora of injuries to Golden State's roster, Smailagic plays the one position where the Warriors actually feature some depth. Omari Spellman has come around after a career night against the Bulls earlier this week, and Kevon Looney is expected to come back as he continues to deal with a neuropathic issue in his hamstrings.

"He plays the one position where we actually have plenty of depth so it makes a lot more sense for him to go to Santa Cruz and work his way into shape and get his legs underneath him," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters earlier this week.

The Warriors used the 39th overall pick in June's NBA draft to select Smailagic -- two spots before selecting Villanova's Eric Paschall -- so the team clearly sees a lot of potential in the big man. 

The former Junior Serbian League MVP isn't an especially imposing athlete, but displays a versatile skillset and doesn't appear fazed by competing against players many years his senior.

[RELATED: Steph feels Warriors' pain, but knows it can be much worse]

One thing he'll need to develop in order to see more playing time in the NBA is a consistent three-point shot. Smailagic shot 24.4 percent from downtown in 2018-19 and hit just one of his five attempts in Friday night's loss in Santa Cruz.

While he'll likely get a few more cracks down in Santa Cruz, expect to see Smailagic taking the court at Chase Center sooner rather than later.

Warriors' Alen Smailagic returns from ankle injury in Santa Cruz originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

What to Read Next