Alen Smailagic is slowly becoming one of the most intriguing prospects in the NBA. The 19-year old Serbian, with the nickname Smiley, is definitely the new favorite of all the Golden State Warriors’ fans and probably for many more.
In the game against the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks, Smailagic posted the best numbers of his young career. In 11 minutes on the court, he scored 10 points, had four boards and showed a massive potential going against the favorites for winning the Larry O’Brien trophy.
He would force Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer to get a timeout following Warriors’ spree, which brought them to just one point away from the guests.
In those several minutes, Smiley was the boss on the court. Once asked how he felt going against the best team in the league, and whether he had some special thoughts on how to beat his guards, Smailagic had an answer, which pretty much made all the media representatives laugh.
“I don’t even know what I’m doing on the court.”
But that is easy to understand, as he appeared in only 6 games so far, averaging 11.6 minutes. Every second he spends playing, the youngster uses in the best possible way. Smiley knows that once the Warriors get all their players back and healthy, he might not have a chance to play often like now. So he gives 100%,
Smailagic had a strange way of coming up to the NBA. The youngster born and raised in Serbia, started his career back there, playing for Beko Belgrade. Just two years ago, he was the MVP of the Serbian junior league, posting 21.7 points per night with 11.1 boards. He would also play for the senior squad of the same team, but instead of going to some other European or Serbian club, he made a move that pretty much shocked all back home.
Smiley decided to go to the G-League.
One of the few who supported him was Damir Bogucanin, who told Alen that he is ready for the next challenge.
” ‘Kid, I think you are ready,’ he told me,” Smailagic recalls. “I replied, ‘ If you think that, how can I doubt in myself.'”
The day of the draft was very exciting in his home.
“The whole family gathered at my house,” he spoke about the day of the G-League draft. “We were around a small PC and watched it. I was nervous and happy at the same once they called my name.”
Alen Smailagic full postgame sound. Didn’t know the game was on ESPN. pic.twitter.com/NWGpEUN2DP
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 9, 2020
He was the fourth pick of the South Bay Lakers, who immediately traded him to Santa Cruz Warriors. At the time, Alen didn’t even have 18 years and was the youngest (still is) player in G-League’s history. Slowly he started improving and eventually appeared in 47 games, posting 9.1 points and 4 boards per game.
Golden State wasn’t going to allow this guy to slip away at the draft. The Pelicans picked the Serb as the 39th that night, but the Warriors sent two future second-round choices and some cash in order to get Smiley. He would sign a contract with GSW on June 11, and started to draw the attention in the Summer League, with several superb performances.
After that, he would wait for a debut until December 27, when Steve Kerr decided to bring him in against the Phoenix Suns, already in the first quarter. It was the most beautiful day in Smiley’s life.
“I didn’t expect that the coach puts me in the first quarter. I was nervous, but after first points, I said to myself ‘You can do it.'”
Smailagic is definitely the future of the Warriors. The team which created history in so many ways over the past few years is currently facing problems. But is yet to say its last word.
In the meantime, Smiley will continue to grow, and fight for his spot under the NBA sun. He is already the most liked guy in the locker room, and coach Kerr often speaks about his youngest player.
“He’s really loved in the locker room,” Kerr said. “Guys see how much he loves to play, how earnest he is, how hard he’s working.”
But apart from this, the Warriors’ mentor has one much more important message about Alen.
“He’s come a long way. And he definitely belongs here.”
NBA fans, you better prepare, Smiley is here, and he intends to stay for a long, long time.
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.