After spending an extra year in Europe, Bosnian prospect Ognjen Kuzmic will attempt to make the jump to the NBA with the Golden State Warriors. Kuzmic was drafted 52nd overall in the 2012 draft and has most recently played for Joventut Badalona. With the Warriors other big man project, Festus Ezeli, out for an extended period of time recovering from knee surgery, the Dubs have been looking for a center to bring off the bench. To help solve this issue, General Manager Bob Myers made some aggressive moves this offseason, signing both the seasoned veteran Jermaine O’Neal and their young prospect they drafted in 2012, Kuzmic. Here’s a few bold predictions about the kind of season Ognjen Kuzmic will have in 2013-14:
He will average more than 10 minutes a game: This is the first step for him. He will earn minutes by proving what he can do on the defensive end, but you have to crawl before you walk. Any playing time for Kuzmic means head coach Mark Jackson has faith in his ability to guard power forwards and centers because Jackson has stated in the past how important defense is to this team. Just getting on the floor should be viewed as a positive for the young Bosnian Serb.
He will average almost 5 rebounds in that time, two on the offensive end: Rebounding is where Kuzmic can change the game, especially on the offensive end. If he can keep possessions alive and help the team get multiple shots per trip down the court, Jackson may have to keep him out there for longer than anyone will see coming. If there’s one skill of his that should easily translate to the NBA game, it is his knack for grabbing boards. Although he hasn’t filled out his frame yet, and according to Draft Express, ‘has a lack of lower body strength,’ Kuzmic has already put up great numbers for multiple European league teams.
His defense won’t be atrocious. This may be his most ambitious goal. Making the transition from the European league to the NBA is difficult, especially for big men, and being able to just stay on the floor will entirely depend on whether he can defend the post and not rack up the fuols too quickly. Kuzmic is already a fairly good shot blocker, but I don’t expect him to immediately be a great force protecting the rim in his rookie year.
He will push Jermaine O’Neal for minutes off the bench: O’Neal will be Kuzmic’s biggest competition for playing time off the bench, and if things pan out the way the Warriors hope, O’Neal will play sparingly and provide a good locker room presence, while Kuzmic develops throughout the year and overtakes Jermaine as the go to big man off the bench who can grab a few rebounds, and try to defend the block while starting center Andrew Bogut gets some rest.
He will show that he can play the 4 or the 5: Depending on Kuzmic’s versatility, Jackson may find himself with some interesting lineups he can bring against bigger or smaller lineups. The Warriors can go small and have Harrison Barnes and Kuzmic as the two bigs on the floor, and simply run their opponents out of the gym, or Jackson could put David Lee, Andrew Bogut, and Kuzmic on the floor together if they want to pound the glass and dominate the game down low at the expense of no great perimeter defense. If Kuzmic shows Jackson he can play multiple positions, it will bode well for the amount of time he gets to spend on the court.
He will have at least two major highlight, posterize type dunks: Much like Harrison Barnes last season, Kuzmic will be able to take people off guard and may end up on Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays of the night a few times if he can throw down a few posterizing dunks from the pick and roll. He isn’t a great jump shooter, so he won’t pop out for a jumper, so he should always be rolling to the rim on any pick that he sets. This should give him more than a few chances to rim above the defense and pump in a huge jam.