Listed at seven-foot-four and 293 pounds, 25 year-old Boban Marjanovic is one of the biggest players in the planet. But he is not your typical giant stiff. Marjanovic has good stamina for someone his size and didn’t demonstrate the need to be subbed out as often as Sofoklis Schortsanitis or Nathan Jawai, for example. His 18 minutes per game on 68 total appearances for Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) Belgrade in the Euroleague, Eurocup and Adriatic league were mostly a reflection of how his coach opted to utilize him; starting halves and staying in for long stretches before getting a long rest and then returning for the end of them.
Marjanovic does not look particularly fluid running up and down the court but no one as massive as he is does. Sprinting doesn’t seem like a massive struggle for him, though, which is rather impressive considering how much weight he carries on his frame. Players that tall who get as many minutes as Marjanovic does usually are leaner types, even skinny in most cases. That’s definitely not Marjanovic’s case, which is not to say that he is fat. His weight is very well distributed actually. You would assume players that big are automatically clumsy but Marjanovic was by no means a foul machine, averaging around three per 40 minutes last season (though that has been an issue in the past), and is a lot less uncomfortable defending in space than one would assume.
As expected, he is a very impactful defender because of his size. Crvena Zvezda led the Adriatic league in defensive efficiency and ranked about average in the Euroleague and the Eurocup, but with Marjanovic on the court, they posted elite defensive ratings in all three leagues. Obviously he can’t be moved off his spot in the post thanks to his strong base and opponents are hopeless trying to finish over the top of his nine-foot-seven standing reach. Marjanovic was coached to slide back on the pick-and-roll and leverage his size to contain dribble penetration and as a result Red Star allowed the fewest points at the rim per game in the Euroleague.
In the Serbian league finals, Partizan ran middle high pick-and-rolls 25 feet away from the rim to force Marjanovic to come all the way up to the three-point line. Bogdan Bobgdanovic and Milenko Tepic were able to go around him with some ease but Marjanovic displayed impressive foot agility to stay active in most plays and still challenge at the rim. It should be mentioned that neither guard is particularly athletic to significantly blow by him off the bounce and that this isn’t a skill that projects to translate against a higher level of competition but it was an intriguing sight to see at the very least.
Marjanovic is a dominant defensive rebounder, as he should since this is the easiest way to translate his size into production. He possesses a huge rebounding area thanks to his very large center of gravity (seven-foot-eight wingspan) and is always spotted close to the basket because of how he is coached to position himself on defense. So, sure enough, Marjanovic led the Euroleague and the Adriatic league in defensive rebounding rate (grabbing 33% of opponents’ misses) and ranked fifth in the Eurocup.
It’s challenging for coaches to play types like Marjanovic a lot because fitting them on a free flowing offense is very difficult. He is by no means a pick-and-roll option, because quickly cutting to the basket after setting the screen is a chore for him. In fact, Marjanovic is even a surprisingly poor screener, often contracting himself to set the pick as if he is afraid that he will get called for an illegal screen every time. Navigating around his screens should be a massive task for opponents as he is a huge target but that’s not the case at all, as sometimes Marjanovic has to even bend his knee and slide laterally to make contact with an opponent, although some of that is on Crvena Zvezda’s ball handlers for not giving him enough time to set position and use the proper angles.
Marjanovic sets such deep post position because of his size that it is hard not to always be looking for him when he is on the floor. He is a black hole who doesn’t facilitate ball movement, posting just nine assists in nine Euroleague games and an 8.7% assist rate in his 505 Adriatic league minutes. When Marjanovic gets the ball, he is either shooting or drawing a foul. He ranked in the top 11 in usage rate among centers in all three leagues. He is very mechanical with his post moves and is always looking to go right – turning baseline when isolated in the right block or inside from the left. The problem with overpaying his right shoulder and try going for the strip is that if Marjanovic anticipates and gets turned around he’s within a step of a stand-still dunk. He is unstoppable around the basket, hitting his 43 attempts at rim on 181 Euroleague minutes at an 83.7% clip. If he can get within five feet on a power move or catch facing up with momentum, the possession should just end right there as him dunking the ball is pure protocol at that point. But opponents with decent lower body strength like Djordje Gagic, for example, even if not as tall or heavy, can at times push him off balance, which should never be the case.
He does not have bad hands, as his foul shooting can attest. Marjanovic is below average at the free throw line but considering players his size are historically brick layers, his 66% average is acceptable. He has not yet developed scoring potential away from the basket, though, missing 20 of his 26 two-point jump-shots in the Euroleague. Marjanovic’s jump-shot is more of a stand-still push-up shot but he’s capable of hitting it from the mid-range area if left completely alone. His shooting motion looks quite decent, not as slow you would imagine, and he can get some arc on that shot. It is by no means a consistent asset of his skill-set, however. Marjanovic is a strong factor on the offensive glass as he is a difficult player to box out and his long arms permit him to rebound outside of his area, and in combination with his height have a shot at the ball at a higher point than most opponents.
Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.