What separates 26-year-old Boban Marjanovic from other giant humans who have tried their luck in basketball is his endurance. He logged 1,699 minutes on 76 appearances with Red Star Belgrade last season, after logging 1,285 minutes on 68 appearances the season before.
Despite his seven-foot-four, 271-pound frame, Marjanovic does not need to be subbed out constantly to maintain his stamina – often playing 8-9 minutes at a time in first and third quarters when he stays out of foul trouble.
As expected, Marjanovic is not any sort of asset in transition offense or transition defense but he has improved his coordination over time. Running up and down the court is not a chore for him, as he has proven able to grab a rebound, pass it up, sprint up the floor and establish post-up position with 18 seconds on the shot clock.
Marjanovic is also not clumsy. According to RealGM, his fouls per 36 minutes have consistently declined over the past four seasons and he was called for just 2.7 personals per 36 minutes last season.
Marjanovic is at his most impactful close to the basket, where he can leverage his size into rim protection. That was the case in 2013-2014, when Marjanovic was coached to guard the pick-and-roll flat and prioritized staying inside the lane. As a direct effect, Red Star allowed the third fewest points at the rim per game in the Euroleague – according to in-the-game.org.
Marjanovic lacks the quickness to rotate off the weak-side and play above the rim to block shots in volume but he is a very effective presence guarding the front of the basket thanks to his general size and length. And opponents are also hopeless trying to finish over the top of his nine-foot-seven standing reach in the post.
His interior defense declined last season, though, in large part because he started venturing too far away from the lane guarding middle high pick-and-rolls, which he is absolutely not suited to do. Nonetheless, Marjanovic was still a positive presence and Red Star was an elite defense – even among Europe’s elite – with him in the game.
Quantifying his impact, Red Star held opponents to 98.4 points per 100 possessions in 658 minutes with Marjanovic in the lineup in the Euroleague and defended 5.5 points per 100 possessions worse when he hit the bench – according to gigabasket.org. Putting that into context, Unics Kazan led that league in defensive efficiency while allowing 100.1 points per 100 possessions and gigabasket calculated the league average at 106.5 points per 100 possessions.
According to RealGM, Marjanovic led the Adriatic league in individual defensive rating as Red Star allowed just 91.4 points per 100 possessions in 672 minutes with him in the lineup. Contextualizing, it led the league in defensive efficiency among teams while allowing 96.1 points per 100 possessions overall, indicating a tangible drop-off whenever Marjanovic got some rest.
A substantial part of how Marjanovic adds value on defense is his rebounding. He has a massive rebounding area, looks to box out diligently and does not struggle getting off the ground pursuing the ball off the rim.
Marjanovic led the Adriatic league and ranked second in the Euroleague in defensive rebounding rate, collecting 31.5% of opponents’ misses last season.
He is also productive on the other glass, collecting 14.4% of Red Star’s misses when he was on the floor. It is hard for opponents to erase someone that massive off the play completely and Marjanovic has a seven-foot-eight wingspan to rebound outside of his area and grab the ball at a higher point than most opponents can. He has also flashed decent second jump-ability on tips-ins and elevating for putbacks without needing to gather himself.
Marjanovic can establish deep post-up position thanks to his strength but oddly does not rely on power moves to score with his back to the basket at all. His footwork is so-so but he has quite good touch on short turnaround hooks and very few opponents have the length to challenge his shot effectively. Marjanovic has a strong preference finishing with his right hand but the danger in overplaying that shoulder is that if he can turn around, he is within a step of a standstill dunk.
According to Synergy Sports, Marjanovic shot 46% on post-ups last season, drew many fouls (6.6 free throws per 36 minutes, while converting 79.4% of them) and had his shot blocked just 16 times in 57 appearances in the Euroleague and the Adriatic league.
Marjanovic was a black hole in the past but improved his feel for the game a lot this last year. He proved able to recognize double teams a little quicker and sent the ball out of the post faster, assisting on 10% of Red Star’s scores when he was on the floor last season by generating three-point looks and ball movement around the perimeter.
That said, Marjanovic still struggles reacting quick enough when the opponent is decisive going for the strip. He turned it over in 11% of his possessions while using 23.5% of the team’s possessions when he was in the game.
Marjanovic is an excellent finisher, converting 73.5% of his 166 shots at the rim in the Euroleague in 2014-2015 and 82.6% out of 46 in 2013-2014. But the vast majority of those came out of post-ups, putbacks and dump-offs because Marjanovic is not a good option out of the pick-and-roll.
He is a surprisingly so-so screener; opponents should struggle navigating around his massive frame but he often just barely chips the on-ball defender. Marjanovic has decent hands to catch the ball on the move but can’t dive to the basket with the sort of speed that sucks in the defense to him while opening up shots for others around the perimeter and can’t play above the rim as a constant target for lobs.
Marjanovic is capable of hitting a standstill push-up shot from the outside if left completely open with time but is not any sort of real threat to play pick-and-pop or spot up on the weak-side. He is also not an asset facilitating offense from the elbows or passing out of the short roll.
On defense, Marjanovic can shuffle his feet surprisingly well for someone his size but he is not suited to defend in space at all. Face-up big men can go around him with ease and he does not have a chance contesting shots out of the pick-and-pop. He is also not as great of an asset protecting the rim rotating off the weak-side as he struggles with quickness in timing and elevating off the ground in a pinch.
Marjanovic projects as a situational big man in the NBA. Yes, Andrew Bogut was played off the floor in the Finals but he was really important in the 97 games prior to that, so there is still a place for true centers in today’s game.
That’s specifically the case for the Spurs, who are expected to rotate 39-year-old Tim Duncan, 35-year-old David West, 33-year-old Boris Diaw and 30-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge in the frontcourt and need a minutes eater like Marjanovic for all those games these guys will be rested during the regular-season.
The Spurs have consistently guarded the pick-and-roll flat these last few years and should use Marjanovic where he is at his most comfortable on defense. It is a bit confusing how he fits with them on offense, though. The Spurs run a motion offense where the ball and the people rarely stop but Marjanovic hasn’t really played that way these last two seasons.
Whenever he doesn’t have the ball, Marjanovic is mostly shutting down driving lanes by staying in the way and dragging his defender with him too. Maybe they just park him in the baseline while the other four players do the dance they do. Marjanovic is a great finisher out of dump-offs but we are so used to the Spurs having everybody be an asset on offense that I am inclined to think the signings of Aldridge, West and Marjanovic could potentially mean we will see them play a different way next season.
Editor’s Note: 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