Now that we’ve looked at a couple of forwards as possible second-round picks in the NBA Draft, let’s switch our attention to the guard spots. Someone I was completely tardy to the party for in this 2022 NBA Draft cycle is guard Žiga Samar. Samar plays for Urbas Fuenlabrada in the Spanish ACB league which is regarded as the second-best professional basketball league in the world. Although many of you may not have heard of him, Samar brings a ton of game and professional experience to the NBA despite being 21 years old.
Since he was 15, Samar has either been developing or playing professionally in Europe. After one season with Union Olimpija’s Under 18 team in the 2016-17 season, Samar was snatched up by European powerhouse Real Madrid to join their U18 team. And if you don’t know, this is the development staff that helped to develop Luka Doncic and Usman Garuba (they’ve also helped to develop all-time European greats Sergio Llull and Nikola Mirotic) so they know talent when they see it. He made the jump to the full-time ACB league at 19 years old after a year on loan to third division CB Zamora and this past season, worked himself into a full-time starting role at point guard for Fuenlabrada.
With Fuenlabrada he put up the following per game stat line:
- 7.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.1 blocks
- 49.2% from two-point range, 47.1% from three-point distance, and 76.9% from the Free Throw Line
- 59.4% True Shooting, 36.6% Assist Rate, 20.7% Turnover Ratio, 18.3% Usage
While the stat line might not blow you away, put on any of Samar’s film and you will see a point guard with a lot of hustle, an understanding of efficient offense, and the desire to get his teammates as many open shots as possible.
Samar reminds me a lot of a point guard who ended his NBA career here in Detroit: Steve Blake. In his 13-year career, Blake was a pure point guard and legit shooter always able to stabilize an offense. Not a great athlete, either, Blake played for so long due to his effort and basketball IQ — two things Samar shares with Blake.
The biggest difference between Samar and Blake, however, is their size. Blake was listed at 6-foot-3 and 172 pounds, whereas Samar is listed at 6-foot-6 and weighing 185 pounds. So, Samar has clear advantages with that size and shooting ability. Blake’s career 52.7% Three-point attempt rate sits above Samar’s 30.2% from this past season so this will be mainly where Samar will need to put in extra work.
But, starting from shooting 47.1% across an entire season is a fantastic starting point. Even if Samar’s percentages suffer from taking more threes, then we are still talking 37.1% if his percentage goes down by 10. His shot was a little slow on the release at times, but if you refer back to the film you will see he was not bothered at all by hard pressure or having a hand in his face so these are also very positive signs that his shooting will be good.
Where he is almost exactly like Blake is in being a set-up man at point guard. Blake averaged a 25.1% assist percentage for his NBA career and Samar has posted assist percentages over 24% every year of his career. Since making the jump to the ACB, Samar posted seasons of 26.5% and the aforementioned 36.6%, so he is trending in the right direction as his playmaking expands. His turnover percentage is also trending in the right direction as it was 26.6% in 2020-21 and then down to the previously listed 20.7%. And when you look at his total assists and turnovers, he posted close to a 3: 1 assist to turnover ratio with 142 assists versus 50 turnovers.
Athleticism will be Samar’s major red flag as he is not blowing by guys on offense, nor is he able to stick with top-notch athletes in man-to-man defense. This is more worrisome to me on defense where you see him get a little too-handsy at times to make up for this and get himself into foul trouble. He does always compete, though, and it’s clear he puts in work on both ends of the court. Steve Blake was never a great athlete either and was smaller so he did his best to be an irritant to other guards. Samar would do well to follow suit.
His fit on the Pistons would be in the second unit. He can play with either Killian or Saben Lee since both struggle with shooting, and Coach Casey can get his two ball handlers even when the starters come out. Killian and Žiga seem to be the perfect pairing as Killian has the defensive ability to handle the tougher guard assignment, and Žiga can space the floor and attack off the dribble when attacking closeouts. Samar also fits well next to Hamidou who I am certain he can get more lobs as he did for former NBA player Kyle Alexander at Fuenlabrada (he could also do this for Marvin Bagley III if he sticks around).
The Pistons second unit is currently lacking in scoring and Samar could help with both his shooting and playmaking. I think he is more ready than your average second-round pick due to his professional experience. I could see Samar playing somewhere between 10-15 minutes per night in year one, depending on what the team does at # 5 and free agency. All indications about the young man are that he wants to work and would not be opposed to starting out in the G League either. For me, though, I feel like his experience ought to put him on NBA court immediately.
Out of all the guards that will be available in the second round, however, none have Samar’s combination of size, shooting, and playmaking and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up sticking around in the league for 13 years like Steve Blake.