Marko Simonović is a Power Forward/Center from Montenegro. His recent performances have put him on the NBA radar. Born in Mojkovac, on October 15, 1999, Simonović was a consistent presence for his country in FIBA youth tournaments and already has played 2 games for the Montenegro senior national team. He started playing professionally in 2015, for lower-league side PMS Moncalieri, before moving to the Italian 2nd Division to play for Siena.
Siena and Union Olimpija (2017-19)
While at Siena, Simonović participated in 25 games, starting 7 of them. He averaged 5.8 points per game, shooting 67.5% from the field in 11.7 minutes. Simonovic really didn’t crack the rotation and did most of his work around the basket, which created some difficulties for him, as he wasn’t being used to his full potential.
In 2018-2019, he played in the Slovenian League, along with the ABA League and the Basketball Champions League. Simonović was involved in a total of 47 games, including one for Italian side Roseto Sharks. He had 5.5 points and 4.4 rebounds on 12.7 minutes per game. His production went up, but his efficiency went down with the higher usage role.
KK Mega Bemax (2019-)
A great performance at the Under-20 European Championship for Montenegro caught the eye of Mega Bemax. In the tournament hosted by Israel, Simonović contributed averages of 17.3 points and 13.0 rebounds, with a 60.3 FG% and a 41.7 3PT FG%, on 29.9 minutes per game. This was a turning point for him and the biggest reason Mega decided to bring him in.
For Mega, Simonović not only became a starter, but one of the main contributors of the team. He went from 5.5 to 16.8 points per game, along with 8.0 rebounds on 29.7 minutes, while starting 22 of 24 games. Simonović attempted 8 more shots per game and 2 more threes, with his usage dropping in his higher minutes role.
Simonović started the 2020-2021 season in impressive fashion, just like he finished the last one. He has even increased his 3-point volume from 2.5 to 4.1 attempts per game, hitting them at an impressive 41.4% clip through seven games, while going from 8.0 rebounds per game to 9.5 with a slight minutes increase.
Standing at 6-foot-11, Simonović has good size for the 4 and 5 positions, with adequate length and frame. He moves well around the court, has the agility to stay in front of perimeter players, and is able to withstand the strength of some centers. It may be too much to ask of him to guard the strongest centers consistently. His movement allows him to play away from the basket on offense, with the ability to shoot or put the ball on the floor. Simonović does not stand out as an athlete, he’s not the greatest leaper and doesn’t get off the ground quickly, but he shows great instincts on rebounds.
The improvement that Simonović has consistently showed with his shot is possibly his best asset going into the draft. He’s mainly a pick and pop weapon, but he can occasionally come off of screens to shoot. It would be huge for him going forward if he becomes more of a movement shooting threat, as there aren’t many 6’11” guys that can do it. He shows comfort dribbling into his spots to pull up and is truly becoming a complete shooter overall. His mechanics and form are mostly fine, although he twists his body a little to the left when shooting.
Simonović is a smart player around the rim, he has been playing around the rim all his life and it shows. He has good finishing touch inside and can play off other players’ drives. He understands inside positioning really well, and can be paired with another inside presence effectively on high-low plays. He’s also really good on the boards, he usually knows where the ball will fall and is proactive getting to it. Simonović doesn’t really have much of a pure post game, relying on his rebounding or his teammates to create for him.
Currently writing a piece on Marko Simonovic and I’ve come across this masterpiece of a veteran move. By a 21 year-old. pic.twitter.com/zBN8gSENNg— António Dias (@antoniodias_pt) November 17, 2020
Not only does he have ability to pass inside and play with other big men, Simonović is a solid passer in most other situations as well. He is unselfish and really good at reading rotations and getting the ball to the corner or to a cutting teammate. After setting screens or on drives, Simonović will usually try to finish but he won’t force it if the defense closes on him.
This may be the most underrated part of his offensive game. I really like the screens that Simonović sets, usually freeing the ball-handler, which is a really useful skill in the NBA. He rarely moves on screens and, although his frame really isn’t out of the ordinary, he can stay in position and take up space. His ability to either pop or cut to the rim creates problems for the defense, as they have to choose between leaving him or the ball handler open. He is also good at slipping the screen when the opposition tries to guess what he is going to do.
Really like the screens Simonovic does. Here, forces his defender to react, cuts to the basket and delivers a quick pass for the dunk when the help comes pic.twitter.com/VnRxpMRuAK— António Dias (@antoniodias_pt) November 17, 2020
Simonović is able to push the ball up the floor after rebounds, but only in limited scenarios and mainly as a way to push the tempo. He is a not a creator or a good ball handler, so he should only do it in specific scenarios, finding the open man quickly or giving the ball up to a guard. However, this can be a good weapon against slower teams or teams that don’t get back on defense.
Being caught on switches many times, Simonović can be a solid defender when guarding more perimeter-oriented players. He has quick feet and good lateral quickness, even if it’s far away from elite. He needs to give guards more space to stay in front of them as he usually advances a bit too much, which really creates disadvantages for him against shooters. However, he will hold his own when he gets switched to drivers. Simonović also has the capacity to help and get back to his player and either contest the shot or stop penetration.
Marko Simonović is someone who can hold his own inside against similar builds and even slightly stronger players, using good balance and force on his lower body. He usually stays still and contests with both hands, and doesn’t jump on fakes. His ability to move laterally, combined with the previously noted lower body balance, allows him to stay in front of the offensive player working in the post.
Observing the evolution in Simonović’s game, constantly and consistently along the years, I can see a place for him in the NBA, near the end of the draft. Simonović doesn’t have a special skill, but he does a lot of important little things, both on offense and defense. He can be useful to a team looking for a smart, young and coachable big man.
Simonović can be used as a 4, with his ability to play with other big men, as well as a 5 on smaller and quicker lineups. There’s a lot to like about his pick and pop play, his always increasing numbers in production and efficiency as an outside shooter and the various ways he can be used on the perimeter and around the rim. Being a plus on defense is always something NBA teams are looking for which is why I think Simonović can end up being a long-term player in the league. He must be given the time to develop and the patience to work on his flaws. He needs a team in a good situation and with an established and competent coaching staff. If he lands in a spot like that, Marko Simonović surely belongs in the NBA.