The selection of Marko Simonovic with the 44th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft came as a surprise to most Bulls fans. He’s a draft-and-stash player who will spend at least one more year in Europe. While international players are still a mystery when it comes to transitioning to the NBA, they have slowly become a growing population in the league.
When Arturas Karnisovas took over basketball operations for the Bulls, one of his first priorities was hiring a diverse scouting team to help justify picking or not picking any international player. This should assure fans that not selecting Deni Avdija with the fourth overall pick and nabbing Simonivic at 44 were the right moves. While it seems most fans are in “wait and see” mode, there is a way to potentially project Simonovic’s NBA outlook: examining similar players.
Simonivic hails from the Adriatic League, which has produced multiple NBA mainstays over the past ten years. To further narrow the comparison, let’s focus solely on players from the Adriatic League who were drafted by front offices employing either Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley.
- Nikola Jokic: 2014 – Round 2, Pick 41
- Dario Saric: 2014 – Round 1, Pick 12
- Jusuf Nurkic: 2014 – Round 1, Pick 16
Nikola Jokic is now regarded as one of the blueprints for a “modern” NBA center. Dario Saric is a starter, depending on the team, and he plays 26 minutes a game. The same sentiment goes for Jusuf Nurkic, who averages 23 minutes per game.
What does this mean for Simonivic? Based on reputation, he was selected as a projected rotational piece, sixth man, or “first off the bench” big man based solely on the eye test. Looking at statistics is where things become more mindblowing.
Here are those aforementioned players’ career averages in the Adriatic League before being drafted to the NBA.
- Simonivic: 16.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 50% FG, 40.5% 3PT
- Jockic: 15.4 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 50.3% FG, 34.6% 3PT
- Dario Saric: 16.3 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 50.2% FG, 31% 3PT
- Jusuf Nurkic: 11.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 55.9% FG
Of this group, Simonivic ranks second in scoring and first in rebounds. His FG% is on par with his peers and his 3PT% is the best of the bunch. While every player’s learning curve to the NBA is different, we can reasonably expect Simonovic to have an overall game in the realm of these players.
According to his draft scouting report, Simonivic struggles defensively. While this issue should not be overlooked, the same was said about Jockic during his draft process. It seems that Simonivic will be used more as an offensive weapon, as his three-point shooting ability may be able to negate some of his defensive woes.
While Simonovic’s shooting form isn’t entirely smooth, it is a bit reminiscent of Kristaps Porzingis.
The upside for Simonivic is that he possesses a quicker release, which is a skill that is more difficult to harness than simply adjusting shooting form. If he fixes his shot and/or gets better at defense, he will have a lengthy career in the league.
While Marko Simonivic will be a question mark even as he plays overseas this season, his stats and player comparisons provide optimism that he will not be a waste of a pick for the Chicago Bulls.