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2020 NBA Draft scouting report: Marko Simonovic

The young big put up some impressive numbers, but was it enough to grab the attention of NBA clubs?

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ANGT Final Championship Game U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade v U18 Real Madrid Photo by Patrick Albertini/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, in this installment, we examine Mega Bemax big man Marko Simonovic.

Mega Bemax — formerly known as Mega Leks — has been known for a) its colorful uniforms and b) its reputation to house young talent, sending several of its players to the NBA Draft. Recent players on that list include Goga Bitadze, Ivica Zubac, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, current Hawk selection Alpha Kaba, and most famously, Nikola Jokic.

Most recently, Adam Mokoka wasn’t selected in 2019 draft but was signed to a two-way contract with the Chicago Bulls.

Mega Bemax is proven to be a solid place for young players to join and stand out — not just in terms of the uniform (which is a reason everyone remembers Mega Bemax for). In 2020, they might have another name to add to the list above.

After enjoying a solid season with the colorful club, 20-year-old big man Marko Simonovic has entered his name into the hat ahead of the 2020 NBA Draft.

For the season, Simonovic averaged 16.8 points per game on 51% shooting from the field on 11.5 attempts per game, 31% from three on 2.5 attempts per game, 80% from the free throw line on 5.2 attempts per game, eight rebounds, 3.5 offensive rebounds, 1.2 assists, one steal, 1.2 blocks, 2.2 turnovers and 3.8 personal fouls per game in a starting role where he played 29.7 minutes a game in a total of 24 games in all competitions, per RealGM.

There’s quite a bit to unpack in those stats, but it’s probably easier to do it as we go along.

We’re going to dive into some film, get this party started and go from there. For reference, Simonovic wears No. 11 on the court.

Starting with offense, pick-and-roll is at the fore of the majority of Simonovic’s repertoire. He’s a willing screener, an active screener — things that obviously help when there’s a lot of pick-and-roll action.

After being unable to find fruit in the post, Simonovic passes out of the post and comes to set the screen before rolling to the rim, receives the ball, brings it down on the catch and away from the defenses outstretched arms to finish at the rim with his left hand:

On this play, Simonovic sets the screen, rolls and is tossed the alley-oop, which is duly converted with the dunk:

Here, again, Simonovic sets the screen and rolls, receives the ball and adjusts underneath to finish under the rim:

This next play I really enjoyed as Mega Bemax run horns pick-and-roll, with Simonovic being the beneficiary as he’s found for the alley-oop:

Simonovic draws quite a number of fouls per game, attempting over five free throws a game, and he earns quite a number of these in pick-and-roll scenarios.

Simonovic slips the pick-and-roll on this possession, receives the ball and draws the foul on the upward motion, leading to free throws:

On this possession, Simonovic sets a screen to create a switch, the ball-handler takes the opposing big off of the dribble, breaks the defense down and finds Simonovic for the lob:

Here, from the out-of-bounds play, Simonovic sets the screen, receives the ball after the ball-handler draws the defense, and finishes at the rim with the dunk:

Moving a little away from pick-and-roll, per se, on this possession, Simonovic sets the initial screen and then a second screen for the ball-handler, before receiving the ball inside and uses some solid footwork as he turns towards the rim on the catch to get himself into a strong position where he draws the foul and free throws:

Let’s, briefly, move onto three-point shooting, obviously a key area of play for the modern big.

Simonovic attempts over 2.5 three-pointers per game, shooting only 31% from distance, and a number of these came in pick-and-pop/screen-and-fade scenarios.

Starting with one of the three-pointers Simonovic actually made in these scenarios, he sets the screen, drifts to his right and behind the three-point line, receives the ball and hits the three:

Heading down the floor, Simonovic executes a quick screen before he’s found for an open three-pointer:

Here, Simonovic sets the screen and steps behind the three-point line, where he is found and misses the three-point attempt:

On this play, again, Simonovic sets the screen and retreats to the three-point line where his attempt is missed:

Let’s briefly continue the theme of Simonovic and setting screens, this time in a capacity that helps his teammates and less so when it comes to his own offense/scoring.

Starting off, Simonovic sets a good screen and open up the space required for his teammate to take and make the three-pointer:

Here, Simonovic sets the screen and opens the opportunity for his teammate to let it fly and convert from three:

One of Simonovic’s strengths offensively is quickness at his size and position, using this to beat his opponents off of the dribble and create opportunities.

On this possession, Simonovic gives a little fake, drives from the top of the three-point line, gets by his man and finishes with the dunk at the rim:

Here, Simonovic — again, at the top — drives by his man but this time can’t finish the finger-roll layup at the rim:

As you can imagine, Simonovic’s strong foot-speed is to his benefit in transition/fastbreak opportunities.

After giving the rebound to his teammate, Simonovic continues his run in transition, receives the ball and picks up his speed en-route to slam dunk:

After collecting the rebound after a teammate’s block, Simonovic exchanges the give-and-go with his teammate before, again, accelerating and taking off for the alley-oop:

Continuing the theme of running the floor, Simonovic contests a shot that misses, heads down the floor is found for alley-oop after a great pass over the defense:

Let’s move onto a strong aspect of Simonovic’s offense, offensive rebounding, and the doors that opens up offensively.

Simonovic averages 3.5 offensive rebounds a game and posts an offensive rebounding percentage of 13.3% — 3.5 offensive rebounds per game is no joke.

He has a nose for an offensive rebound, doing so here on the tip-in after a missed shot from the outside:

Off of his own miss this time, the offensive rebound is collected by his teammate, who has an attempt himself before Simonovic follows that attempt through and dunks at the rim on the offensive rebound:

Coming off of the pick-and-roll, Simonovic is arguably unlucky he isn’t found on the first look but manages to end up on the scoresheet as he grabs the offensive rebound, using his physical advantage, and scores the putback:

Simonovic does well to stick with the action, highlighting his motor as he follows through on his own miss to score at the rim:

Simonovic can also operate in the post some, adding to what is a pretty diverse offensive game.

On this possession, he finds himself in a favorable situation after a switch and goes to work, backing down his opponent, turns and hits the right-handed hook:

Against an opponent with a bit more size, Simonovic is more so allowed to back down and get closer to the rim before the defender steps into Simonovic’s space after his spin, but Simonovic is able to bank in the right-handed hook:

Simonovic is also capable of drawing some of his free throws in the post too, doing so on this possession as he moves across the paint:

Sometimes Simonovic has just benefited from being in the right place at the right time, in place to receive dump-offs at the rim, such as on this possession after the defense is broken down and the opposing big has to leave Simonovic:

All of that looks great: a well-rounded offensive game from the inside and, partly, from the outside on his way to an efficient 16.7 points per game on 51% from the field and 60% true shooting. He is efficient, for the most part, but his skills aren’t as well refined as perhaps the numbers would make it appear.

The most glaring aspect is probably the 31% shooting from three on those 2.5 attempts per game. We’ve looked at some of these misses already but we’ll look at one or two more.

This is... not a good three-point attempt. Shot selection can be an issue with Simonovic at times:

On this next possession, I liked what Simonovic did off the ball here as he sets the screen off the ball but once he receives the ball for the three-point opportunity, it’s not a clean release and the miss isn’t great:

Simonovic does have some issues at the rim too at times, both when it comes to general finishing and finishing second chance opportunities.

On this possession, Simonovic sets the screen, rolls to the free throw line untracked, receives the ball, fakes and drives toward the rim but is thwarted by the outstretched defense and misses near the rim:

Here, Simonovic engages in two pick-and-roll attempts, receiving the pass on the second action, fakes, drives when the defender leaves his feet but can’t finish at the rim in the traffic:

Simonovic gets a switch on the pick-and-roll this time and calls for the lob, which he receives but cannot finish at the rim:

Again coming out of the pick-and-roll, Simonovic receives the ball in space, misses the shot as he can’t hit over the defense, grabs the offensive rebound but his second attempt on the turnaround hook is also missed:

Pick-and-roll, Simonovic collects the offensive rebound but can’t follow the second chance home near the rim:

Another issue when it comes to Simonovic can be his tendency to commit fouls. We’ll be looking at this defensively but it also applies offensively too, racking up an average of 3.8 fouls per game...with a five foul per game limit.

We’ll look at a few, just to see the different scenarios these can come in.

From the three-point line, Simonovic receives the ball, drives but extends his forearm and is called for the offensive foul:

Here, Simonovic does well to create space for his teammate and leads to a decent shot but commits a needless, and slightly clumsy, foul on the rebounder:

Simonovic is a willing screen-setter but does find himself committing offensive fouls on said screens at times:

Offensive fouls obviously lead to turnovers, which Simonovic commits over two a game.

His footwork could probably use some refinement as he commits a few travelling turnovers on occasion, such as in the post here:

Here’s another while heading down the floor, forgetting to put the ball on the floor after he receives the pass and begins his drive (blowing the dunk after the whistle is blown only adds insult to injury):

We’ll summarize Simonovic’s offense as a whole at the end, but that’s an insight into his offensive game: what he’s capable of doing and some of his shortfalls.

Let’s move onto some playmaking attributes. Honestly, this will be quick because there’s not a lot to talk about here, averaging 1.2 assists per game.

Simonovic shows an occasional flash of touch/vision but these are few and far between.

This didn’t lead to a basket, but after the screen, Simonovic receives the ball, drives and makes a nice read of the offense and execution of the pass to a teammate behind the three-point line:

Nothing high end here, but Simonovic receives the ball in the post in transition. The defender attempts to reach in, compromising his position, which forces the defender at the rim to focus on Simonovic, who makes the quick read and bounce pass to his teammate for the dunk, the assist going to Simonovic:

Out of the post again, Simonovic sees the cutter and, as the second defender arrives, finds his teammate for the assist at the rim:

On the pick-and-roll hedge, Simonovic receives the ball and drops a nice bounce-pass to his teammate on the baseline after the cut, who finishes at the rim:

Let’s move onto defense, and there’s a fair bit to talk about here, given how Simonovic is a big and it’s always more than just individual defense here.

What stood out to me watching Simonovic on defense was his verticality and his ability to make life uncomfortable for defenders in/around the rim with his size and length.

Here’s an interesting play to kick off with...

On the out-of-bounds play, Simonovic is alert to cover the danger at the rim, rotating away from his man to contest the shot at the rim, which is missed. However, his team is unable to collect the defensive rebound, and the ball is kicked back out to the perimeter. Simonovic switches off here for a second as he allows the man he was boxing out to collect the offensive rebound, before the pass is made to the cutter. After that shot is missed at the rim, Partizan somehow end up with the ball again and Simonovic offers another defense at the rim, using his verticality to deter the shot attempt at the rim and, eventually, comes away with the rebound:

We’ll get into more, but I feel that encapsulates Simonovic on defense pretty well: the potential can be there, and he can affect shots but he can also switch off at times.

This is a well executed defensive possession from Simonovic. The pick-and-roll is run, he doesn’t completely leave the ball-handler after the screen but is also placed well to quickly turn his attention to the big. When said big receives the ball, Simonovic is able to quickly turn and raise his arms and makes life difficult, forcing a tough shot which is missed:

This time Simonovic is the big sat in front of the rim and has to rotate when his teammate is beaten with the spin move in the post, deflecting the attempted pass with his length and helps force a turnover:

In the post again, Simonovic moves his feet well and raises his arms as the offensive player gets to the baseline, forcing a tough shot and a miss, from which Mega Bemax are able to claim the ball:

Let’s continue on the theme of 1-on-1 defense and we’ll get back to some team defense later.

On the pick-and-roll, Simonovic initially drops back but when the ball is given to the pick-and-roll big for an attempt outside, Simonovic is unfazed by the jab-step and contests a three-point attempt well, which misses:

Here’s another solid defensive sequence where Simonovic gives multiple efforts. Off of the initial pick-and-roll, Simonovic steps in to plug the gap, forcing the ball-handler to pass out of the current situation. The ball is worked to the wing, where the ball-handler drives, Simonovic switches after the defender is beaten and does well to contest the fadeaway shot, which misses. On the offensive rebound, Simonovic is part of the crowd to deter another shot at the rim and comes away with the rebound and begins the fast break:

Plays like this next one will be super important. On the pick-and-roll switch, Simonovic stays on his toes, ready for the drive but also ready to contest any shot that goes up, and he raises a hand to contest well on this three-point attempt which is wide right:

Let’s look at some more quick rotation stuff (a little more than pick-and-roll switches).

On the wing, the defender is beaten on the drive but Simonovic is there to rotate and block the shot and beginning the fastbreak:

Here, Simonovic shows good awareness as he rotates and closes off the driving lane on the baseline after the spin puts him in position to get by his man:

There are issues for Simonovic defensively, and I would definitely describe him as a mixed bag on that end.

I said before he can be prone to switch off/lapse at times...

Here, Simonovic actually marshals this pick-and-roll pretty well and telegraphs the pass but mishandles it when he probably shouldn’t have, and it leads to an easy basket:

On this play, a momentary lapse from Simonovic as he back-pedals toward the rim leads to the lob being connected upon:

On the out of bounds play, Simonovic is caught between ball-watching and calling out on defense, and by the time he realizes he’s too far from his man on the perimeter it’s too late, and the three is made:

I’d say Simonovic’s biggest problem defensively right now is his tendency to commit fouls: nearly four a game.

These, as you would imagine, come in a number of different forms.

On the offensive rebound, Simonovic is called for the over-the-back foul:

On the drive, Simonovic is there to protect the rim but when the extra pass is made — while he gets his body turned in time — he bites on the fake and commits the foul, leading to free throws:

On the drive from the wing, Simonovic rotates but commits the foul on the challenge at the rim:

You get the idea, and we’ve obviously looked at offensive fouls Simonovic commits too: he just commits way too many fouls on both sides of the ball.

Let’s try land this thing...

Offensively, Simonovic has the basis of a solid, well-rounded game.

His pick-and-roll offense can be solid and it’s at the fore of his game offensively, but his touch near the rim could stand to show improvement. In general, I think Simonovic’s touch at the rim could improve. I wouldn’t call it bad, but it could be better.

I enjoy his energy on the offensive glass and his multiple effort plays that can come with those — effort is one thing that definitely translates into the NBA. Perhaps Simonovic wouldn’t need to grab as many offensive rebounds if he converted his first opportunities.

The biggest key to Simonovic’s offensive growth is a reliable three-point shot — he needs to improve on 31%. The pick-and-pop option is one I enjoy watching Simonovic use, but 31% makes that a little difficult to do on a consistent basis.

In terms of playmaking, I’d actually like to see whatever teams Simonovic ends up at to tap into that aspect a little more — I think he has some feel at that position.

Defensively, I like the lateral quickness and the potential. I think it’s possible he could defend multiple positions, maybe even some of the more averagely paced threes, as well as fours and fives (off of the dribble, strength-wise, this could be a little tougher).

However, Simonovic is a little inconsistent defensively at times — if he could make fewer errors/lapses and cut down the fouls, I’d be interested in the potential here.

In terms of draft selection and NBA fit, I think Simonovic is a perfect candidate to be drafted and then stashed. Well, that is if he is drafted, of course.

Sam Vecenie of The Athletic ranks Simonovic 86th on his latest big board, while ESPN rank Simonovic lower than that on ESPN’s list of top 100 players available, ranking 97th.

That surprises me somewhat, I did expect that to be closer to the 50’s/60’s — this is a player, a high energy big-man, who moves well on his feet at 6-10. From there, he turns 21 in October (which isn’t old), and he averaged over 16 points per game on 50% shooting from the field in a legitimate league in the Adriatic League. Simonovic is carving out a nice, diverse offensive game, and he has potential on defense if he can stay engaged and cut out the fouls.

I wouldn’t bring him over immediately if drafted, but I think Simonovic could be one of those players who a team may take a gamble on in the 50’s and it could pay off. If it doesn’t? Does anyone really care about whether, say, the 54th overall pick doesn’t work out in what people are labeling as a historically bad draft?

I see much more potential in Simonovic than I did Rodions Kurucs pre-draft, and Kurucs ended up contributing on that Brooklyn team in his rookie season — it wouldn’t surprise me if Simonovic did the same thing if he was (a) drafted, (b) brought over.

All that said, I am kind of surprised Simonovic is declaring this year and keeping his name in the hat. I think he could be a player that, with a good season next season (as Amar Sylla is hoping to do, and what Abdoulaye N’Doye did from last year to this year), he could rise up the boards if he shows improvement. But, to be fair, you could go the other direction: if Simonovic is ranked like this in this year’s draft... what does that say?

Honestly, it could go either way. If he didn’t come to the NBA, that wouldn’t be a surprise. If he came to the NBA and things worked out off of the bench, that wouldn’t be a surprise either...

Marko Simonovic could worth a stab in the second round. Will any team take the gamble? Time will tell.