Serbian prospect Boriša Simanić is a 7-foot sharpshooter with solid defensive potential. He is automatically eligible for the 2020 NBA Draft as turned 22 in March. Simanić previously entered his name and withdrew in 2017, and 2019. With some NBA teams looking at stashing their late second round draft picks, Simanić is an intriguing candidate to have his name called and make his way to the NBA in the next few years.
Simanić shot 51.6% from 3 in Euroleague and 48.5% in ABA in 2019-2020. When he gets hot, Simanić can go on scoring runs by himself pic.twitter.com/cRyArdPFGm— Drew Mastin (@andrewmastin) September 8, 2020
Simanić made his Serbian national team debut at age 15 when at a role player for the U16 team in 2013. After that, he became a regular in the rotation of every team he could play on, playing once again for the U16 team and then twice each for the U18 and U20 teams. He also played on the U19 World Cup team in 2015.
Simanić came to Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) for the 2013-2014 season after growing up playing in Bijeljina. In 2015, he played a big role at ANGT, averaging 10.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks as Red Star finished runners up to Luka Dončić and Real Madrid. In 2016, Red Star once again lost in the finals, this time to FC Barcelona. Despite coming up short, Simanić did enough individually to earn the MVP award, both for the Belgrade regional and the final group, with averages of 20.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game.
He made his Euroleague debut with Red Star in October 2015, at 17 years of age. He didn’t get much playing time in that season or next between the Serbian League (KLS), Adriatic league (ABA) and Euroleague in the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons. The next year, he moved to FMP Belgrade, and was in their starting lineup for both the ABA and KLS. He played well enough there to earn significant playing time back at Red Star for 2018-2019. He started about half the games throughout the year in KLS, ABA, and Eurocup. In 2019-2020, Red Star played only in ABA and Euroleague where Simanić started the majority of the season but saw his minutes drop to around 14 per game due to a deep rotation upgraded for Euroleague competition.
Simanić is long with good positional size for the 4 position. His wingspan was measured at 7’ 0.5” over 3 years ago. Simanić is an impressive vertical athlete, he gets off the ground quick and has a good second jump. He’s fast in the open court, and quick for his size.
He’s not especially strong, but he can hold his own in the paint and isn’t as easily moved as his frame would suggest. He has not put on much muscle in recent years, at this point it’s unlikely he will.
Simanić is an elite shooter. His shot is fluid with a small jump and a high release point. He puts up great percentages; over the last two seasons he’s shot 40.9% from 3 on 230 attempts. Simanić doesn’t get to the line much but he shot 85.5% on 69 free throws in that same period. He can shoot coming off screens but doesn’t have the balance for a lot of movement. He’s at his best shooting set shots or moving north-south, such as when he’s trailing in transition. Simanić doesn’t usually force a lot of shots but he isn’t afraid to shoot over the defense, especially when he already has his shot going. He can knock down shots over a contest due to his size and high release.
While he’s not a strong finisher at the rim, Simanić has enough touch and vertical athleticism to be a threat to finish over anybody. He does a great job of catching alley-oops and dumpdown passes around the rim. While he typically hangs out behind the arc, Simanić has good footwork to score from the dunker area.
Simanić rarely dribbles more than twice consecutively but he does a good job of covering ground with one or two bounces. He doesn’t have any great counter moves or much creativity with the ball. Simanić is right hand dominant but capable of using both hands. The threat of his shot forces defenders to close out hard on him which opens up driving lanes and he does a good job of putting it down quickly when he gets the chance. He is usually looking to pick up the ball and pass if there is any resistance to his drives.
Simanić doesn’t make many passes outside of the offense and there aren’t many signs that he can. He has a problem with staring down passes, resulting in a lot of deflections and turnovers. While Simanić likes to cut and move off the ball, he doesn’t do it with the highest IQ. He’ll make his move to the paint just when his teammate is getting there on a drive or move towards the ball around the arc and allow his man to quickly help and stop the drive. His feel for positioning and spacing overall still needs improvement.
Simanić has great length to defend the perimeter. He’s quick for his size and he does a really good job of keeping wings in front of him. Guards have found some success breaking him down but he can provide resistance against ball handlers without much wiggle because of the ground he covers. Simanić needs to improve at taking smaller steps when he’s closing out to the ball and changing direction.
Simanić is a smart team defender when he is locked in. He does a good job tagging rolls, and making the right rotation, his length allows him to get his hands on passes. He does struggle getting back to his man after helping on defense. Simanić doesn’t match up well with shooters. His footwork and awareness chasing a shooter around the perimeter is poor and he can easily get burned by a team that is looking to exploit him.
Something that Simanić really struggles with on defense is getting back to shooters from help (even when he shouldn't be helping) and sticking with them around screens pic.twitter.com/SXVwx5n94m— Drew Mastin (@andrewmastin) September 8, 2020
Simanić is a poor post defender, and actively avoids post defense situations. His center of gravity is too high for him to maximize the strength he does have down low. He is best suited to cover 4s and contribute as the secondary rim protector while avoided the size of a 5.
Whether in help or as the primary defender, Simanić uses his length well around the rim. He does a great job when he’s beat by a step of recovering and high pointing the ball. He gets some blocks helping over to the rim but he doesn’t have great strength when jumping to defend vertically.
Simanić matches up best with 4s but sharpshooting forwards like Sikma (clip above) take him away from the rim where he provides excellent secondary rim protection pic.twitter.com/dNgqFNVFZt— Drew Mastin (@andrewmastin) September 8, 2020
Simanić fits a very narrow role as a 4 that stretches the floor and shoots a high percentage from 3. He cannot create his own shot and has not shown the ability to pass or handle the ball in traffic. He also can’t score or defend around the paint effectively enough at the NBA level to play the 5. But that narrow role is vital to so many teams looking for shooting and positional size in the modern NBA. A lot of teams can look past a few deficiencies for a 7-footer with a great shot who isn’t a complete liability on defense. His 47.8% 3-point shooting from this most recent season is likely unsustainable but it’s a sign of what he’s capable of.
A 40% shooter at Simanić’s size can do wonders for a team’s spacing. He can also attack hard close outs and finish lobs, there isn’t much else for him to do offensively to play an important bench role. His defense is a long way from elite but he has the quickness and length to handle the majority of 4s in the NBA. He isn’t very switchable onto guards or strong in the post but he can handle his matchup.
Offensively, Simanić’s positioning on the court is a huge area for concern. While he doesn’t seem to have much feel for the game on offense, he makes great decisions on defense. After so much time playing for high level, well-coached European teams since 2014-2015, and joining the Serbia U16 team in 2013, good decisions on defense should be a given. Defense is something that has likely been emphasized and drilled down in Simanić’s practices through the years. But offense is much less scripted than defense. Given his age and the kinds of teams that he has played on, his defensive IQ being great but offensive IQ being severely lacking is a worrisome sign for his natural feel for the game.
There is real reason to be concerned about Simanić’s mentality. One of the knocks on him has always been his inability to bring consistent energy. It’s not uncommon for him to go missing and not contribute for multiple games at a time. His stretches of minimal production are worrying and he doesn’t appear to be the most cerebral player. Still, it’s undeniable that Simanić has a rare combination of tools that are extremely valuable in today’s NBA. He’s more than capable of shooting and passably defending at the NBA level. In a strange year with many projected second round picks opting to go back to college, Simanić is the kind of player worth taking a gamble on.