It was a little bit of a surprise that Samardziski entered the draft this year, as there hasn't been that much that has changed in his situation as far as his draft stock is concerned since he pulled out last June. He's still really young, he's still very raw and he's still completely unproven. The big difference between last year and this year was the fact that he was playing with Partizan's senior team, and actually got some decent playing time (about 13 minutes per game) in the Adriatic league. Therefore, he's no longer a mystery and acquiring tape of his wasn't too hard. The problem was that he had some issues staying on the court this year, either acquiring 4 fouls or fouling out in 12 of his first 26 games in the Adriatic league, which is the timeframe in which most of his playing time came, until Partizan's starting frontcourt players Perovic and Milojevic were finally both healthy and playing together again.
The thing we need to remember though, is that international players can put their name in and pull out as many times as they want until they reach the calendar year in which they turn 22, so if there is some interest from the NBA (as there probably always will be in a 7 footer with some skills) then it makes little sense not to put his name in. Samardziski had the chance to attend numerous private workouts last year and go up against quality players, something which had to be a positive experience for the kid and beneficial for his development as a player and person. That's the flip-side of the early-entry argument. But now that he's in the draft once again, he needs to be evaluated and taken seriously as a prospect.
Obviously, Peja's biggest strength is always going to be his size. He is 7 feet tall, and unlike many foreign big men, he actually likes to use this height. The kid is not soft at all, enjoying the physical side of the game and not being afraid to put his body in harm's way in order to help his team out. That seems to be the type of player he is, a hustle type, good natured and team oriented. He also seems to be a fundamentally sound player as well, knowing how to get the ball to his teammates and displaying a nice jump shot out to about 16 feet or so, making him a threat for the pick and pop. Along with the fact that he has a pretty nice motor, that appears to be the extent of his strengths at the moment.
His biggest weaknesses revolve around his physical tools, most notably his athleticism, which is below average even for a player his size. Peja is far from being a freak athlete, reminding somewhat of Peja Drobnjak in the way he gets up and down the floor, and a little bit in the way he plays too. His footspeed is very average and so is his vertical leap, barely being able to get off the floor to contest shots. He is seriously lacking in strength as well at the moment, both in his upper and lower body, which probably makes him a worse athlete than he actually is. He struggles to establish position in the paint against stronger players, and as a result, he struggles to show a post up game, although he most certainly tries. When he does fight hard enough to get the ball around the basket, he just doesn't have the great footwork or the upper body strength needed to finish at the hoop if he's being contested. His rebounding also really suffers, as it's hard for a player like him to box out grown men who are much stronger and also more experienced than him.
There are major questions revolving around whether or not he has what it takes to adapt to the speed of the NBA game, and since he really hasn't accomplished anything at his age in Europe at this point, there isn't a whole lot for him to fall back on to really make you comfortable with him as a prospect.
Defensively, he struggles guarding stronger and more athletic players than him, which is why he seems to be so foul prone, as he uses his hands to guard when his feet just won't move fast enough to keep up with the man he's guarding. Needless to say, man to man defense is not his strength at the moment. He doesn't have the athleticism to be a shot blocking threat on team defense either.
It's my personal belief that he will have to have at least one big season in Europe while playing at a high level to show that he has what it takes to make it in the NBA, as the player he is right now â raw, unproven, and not very athletic â doesn't really scream enough upside to me for him to get drafted in the first round at such a young age.