Boban Marjanovic, the 7' 3" Serbian center that sports a 7' 8" wingspan and has hands that could swallow reporters whole, has quickly become a fan favorite in the Alamo City and beyond. Listen to this crowd in Philly cheer as Boban throws in an 18-footer over Jahlil Okafor, it's unbelievable.
Some have called this phenomenon Boban-Mania. There was an autograph signing event where Wingstop had to issue a no-camping-out policy for fear that they would have a situation on their hands. It's not often that a 12th-man who's played less than 300 minutes gets an article written about them in the New York Times. One fan even shaved Boban's likeness into his hair! That's next-level fandom. One thing is for sure -- Boban is loved in the Alamo City and beyond.
Like most rookies that play for Gregg Popovich, Boban hasn't gotten to see the floor much in his first year. In his 42 appearances for the Silver and Black the big man is posting averages of 8 minutes, 5 points (60% from the floor) and 3.5 rebounds. But if you look at his advanced and per-minute stats, his numbers don't look so pedestrian. Sure, he doesn't play much against the NBA's starters but he's put up a 29.2 PER, and his per-36 averages are a whopping 22.1 points, 15.4 rebounds and 2.8 stocks (steals and blocks).
If you want to learn about Boban's pre-NBA career, do yourself a favor and check out Mark Olsen's excellent piece on the big man, it's well worth your time and documents his basketball life from Serbia to Russia to being named to the first-team All-Euroleague team in 2014-15 to the NBA.
Let's take a look at a couple of videos that showcase the tallest-ever Spur, who isn't just a stiff that's fun to watch as a novelty. In the middle of Boban-Mania Gregg Popovich pointed out that Boban can, you know, actually play basketball.
I think the crowd, they really get a kick out of him and all that, but he's a basketball player. He's not some sort of an odd thing.
And play basketball he can. It's almost impossible to win a rebound if Marjanovic is in the area, and if he snags an offensive rebound, he's likely to dunk it and get to the free throw line. He's grabbing 18.2% of available offensive rebounds and goes to the line at quite the clip, taking .75 free throws per field goal attempt. If he's in the vicinity of the rim he's probably going to dunk it, which just might break it like he did in a game with the D-League Spurs.
The big man is no one-trick pony, he possesses a delicate touch that belies his immense stature. He can knock down turnaround baseline jumpers, toss in hooks in the lane, his righty over his left shoulder move is all but impossible to stop and he even takes the occasional jumper.
We haven't seen it in games yet, but Boban has shown that he has range that extends to the corner.
I'll leave you with one last video of Boban just generally wrecking shop for the Silver and Black.
[Editor's Note: Long-time PtR member Daniel Humm made an excellent contribution in the comments that I thought deserved to be added to the story. So I appended it below. -jrw]
A couple of months back when there were suggestions by Pop and Kawhi that the Spurs were cheering for Boban for the wrong reasons I suggested that Pop could solve that by giving Boban more minutes and waiting for his stats to drop. He briefly had games with more minutes as his stats went up, and since has accumulated a number of DNP-CDs or got in so late in a game that the Spurs weren't even try to score but just run out the clock.
In a bit of a rough estimate, in games in which Boban has appeared for 4 or fewer minutes he's scored at a rate of just under 13 points and 8 rebounds per 36 minutes played. Eliminate those games from his totals and his per 36 numbers are around 23 points and 16 rebounds. In games since late January in which he has played 10 minutes or more I calculate that he's managed over 21 points and 18 rebounds per 36 minutes.
In the past few games it's seemed to me that the touch he had shown earlier seems off, probably due to so little playing time. It at least has looked as if they've tried to get him the ball in spots where he could score, which might have taken him by surprise after the number of games where he'd only have the ball near the basket if he had grabbed the rebound. My guess is that if he saw more minutes and had Kyle and Andre on the court with him passing him the ball that he'd be putting up over 30 points per 36 minutes. While he is likely to fall short of qualifying for any official records; he currently holds the best PER ever for a rookie and the only other players as rookies to have ever exceeded 25 are Wilt Chamberlain, Walt Bellamy, David Robinson, Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan.
The biggest problem is who do you take minutes from in order to get Boban more minutes? I'm in favor of having him return to Austin for a game or two just to get in some minutes. Other than that I'd like to see him start a few more games when Tim sits out. In the final game of the season at Dallas, I'd like to see him have a chance to outdo Blair's 27/23 game by going for a 30/30.
It seems there is also a perception that his stats need to be qualified due to him putting in a lot of time against scrubs or at least non-starters. I imagine very little of his time is against the opponents' third string center. A good deal of time might be against reserves that have been frequent starters such as Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Len. Though in the recent Sacramento game in which he played 18+ minutes while scoring 9 points with 9 rebounds a good deal of that was against Cousins. In the Phoenix game in which he played 21+ minutes (his season high) while scoring 17 points with 13 rebounds the majority of time was versus Tyson Chandler. He's put in a good portion of his minutes against mostly starters like Dwight Howard, Marcin Gortat, Brook Lopez, Jahil Okafur and Nikola Jokic. Even when he closes out a game like last night the other team often does what Chicago did in leaving Pau Gasol on the floor.