In the first real shocking news of the 2021 offseason, the Golden State Warriors released big man Alen Smailagić on Wednesday.
OK, that was unnecessarily harsh of me. I didn’t really need to choose sarcasm as my vehicle to deliver this news, but I’ve already got in the car and driven it around a bit, so no sense in stopping now.
Anyway, the Warriors waived Smailagić, as we all knew they would. The 20 year old had two years left on his contract, but both years were non-guaranteed. The Warriors had to waive him this week or his contract for this season would become fully guaranteed.
The Warriors have waived forward Alen Smailagić: pic.twitter.com/ZwmpQvQcqP— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) August 4, 2021
Smailagić represents one of the weirder stories in Warriors player development. When Smailagić was 18, the Warriors convinced him to sign with their G League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors, after Kent Lacob — son of Joe and at the time general manager of Santa Cruz — discovered him playing in Serbia. Kent, and possibly other members of the organization, it’s not quite clear, were convinced that Smiley would be the next big thing, even going so far as to suppress his playing time in Santa Cruz to avoid exposing him to other organizations.
On draft day in 2019, the Warriors sent a pair of second round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans for the No. 39 pick to complete the worst-kept secret in draft history and select Smailagić. And then they promptly gave him a four-year deal, albeit with just two years guaranteed.
But he was raw as raw could be, and, even after two years, proved that he is far from being NBA ready. He appeared in just 29 games in his career, almost exclusively in garbage time, and averaged 14.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 4.0 fouls per 36 minutes, shooting 46.3% from the field and 30.4% from three-point range.
What’s next for Smiley is unclear. It was earlier reported that he had a contract lined up for him in Serbia, though he could surely continue playing stateside in the G League if he wanted to. Maybe even for Santa Cruz! He did not look anything like the player that Kent Lacob surely thought he would be, but at just 20 years old it’s certainly way too early for him to give up his NBA dream.