2017 POP Season Review: Boban Marjanovic

On July 7, 2016, ESPN’s Marc Stein announced that the 7-foot-3 Serbian, Boban Marjanovic, was going to sign a three-year offer sheet with the Detroit Pistons. Pistons’ All-Star, Andre Drummond, quickly went to Twitter to show his excitement:

During the 2016-2017 season, Boban Marjanovic played sparingly, averaging only 8.4 minutes per game, behind Andre Drummond and Aron Baynes. Compared to his previous season with the Spurs (his first season in the NBA), Marjanovic’s field goal percentages were down but he also played a lot less minutes (2016 minutes played: 508, 2017 minutes played: 293) and was never able to get fully into a rhythm:

Boban Marjanovic Career numbers.pngHowever, when Boban did play formidable minutes (20 minutes or more which only happened 4 games all season), he averaged a double-double with 17.5 points and 13 rebounds. If we extrapolated those numbers over the season he would be a top ten scoring center with massive upside (2016-17 Centers ranked by scoring, source NBA.com):

centers top 10 scoring.png

On the offensive side of the ball, the 28-year-old Marjanovic is a low post monster with incredible touch that cannot be stopped once he gains position. On April 7th against the high-paced Houston Rockets, Boban scored a career-high 27 points:

Earlier in the year, Baynes missed a game because of a bum ankle thus allowing Boban to play more than twenty minutes (22:08). Boban collected a career-high 19 rebounds while scoring 15 points:

Furthermore, when we look into Boban’s career per 36 minutes and per 100 possessions data, many optimistic statistics pop out (source: basketball-reference.com):

2016-17 Boban Marjanovic per 36 min & per 100 poss.png

First, Boban’s per 36 scoring and rebounding stats increased compared to his first year in the NBA. Second, his free throw percentage increased all the way up to 81%, which, for comparison, is drastically better than Drummond’s 38.6%. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, Boban’s defensive rating in San Antonio was a 96 (he played twice as much!) and it ballooned all-the-way-up to 103 with the Pistons. This is important because when Boban is surrounded by enough help and/or a better defensive scheme, he is able to protect the paint and rim. If Boban is able to regain his defensive rating of 96 while playing formidable minutes, he would be a top tier defensive center as well (source: NBA.com, 2016-17 Centers defensive ratings, sorted by playing 20 games minimum):

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 3.10.58 PM.png

Although Boban’s offensive game has seemingly unlimited potenital, he does struggle on defense. Specifically, Marjanovic lacks the quickness to keep up with the perpetually switching rotations of NBA defense and he struggles covering stretch centers.

Coach Stan Van Gundy commented on Boban’s troubles against stretch centers, “that’s a long way to get him from the basket,” and I don’t know. How good is he going to be offensively to give a guy a couple of threes if he can go down and wear people out down low? That’s something we have to come to grips with.”

Furthermore, Van Gundy offered insight into why he doesn’t play Boban as much and it’s because of his defense, “one of the faults I have is I tend to make 95% of my decisions based on the defensive end of the court, so maybe I don’t look enough at the trade-off at the other end.” However, although Boban did not play much this year, he is projected to play a lot more in 2017-18 because Baynes is expected to opt out and test free agency. Most interestingly, Baynes added drama to free agency when he commented on his future with the Pistons last week:

During the last four games of the season, Boban averaged 15.8 points and 10.3 rebounds in 22 minutes per game, prompting Van Gundy to boast, “this guy’s an offensive force.” He continued his praise stating, “and he can do more than we had him do. We haven’t had a guy like him, so we didn’t do a lot of cutting off the post. He can really pass. I think he can create some easy baskets, which we need to get, especially with the way we miss jump shots. We really go to work on that.”

Most recently, Stanley Johnson marveled at Boban saying “nobody can guard you.” Johnson also told Boban, “Just be aggressive. No body can guard you. You get right there on the block, it’s a lay-up every time, whether you’re going to make it or miss it.”

Regardless of what happens to Baynes this offseason, Boban Marjanovic is going into the 2017-18 season with the highest expectations of his NBA career. His goals for the offseason should be to work on his agility and quickness while building off his impressive offensive game.

Featured Image: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

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