Auburn Hills — Even before he sets foot on the court, Boban Marjanovic is an attention-getter.
At 7-foot-3, he’s an imposing presence, but with only one season in the NBA, last year with the Spurs, he’s been something of a mystery.
Since acquiring him as a free agent in the summer, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy has gotten an up-close look at Marjanovic — and to say that he’s been impressed is an understatement.
“He’s unstoppable down low; I don’t think anybody has an answer to that. He’ll be even better when we just get into playing,” Van Gundy glowed. “A guy his size, he works extremely hard, but all these hours on the court take a toll. After a while, it makes it tough on him.
“Once he gets established in the half-court, there’s not a good way to play him. He’s so big and so skilled that it’s hard.”
Although endurance might not be his biggest asset, Marjanovic has proven effective in shorter stints on the court. Last season, he averaged 5.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in 9.4 minutes. Those are seemingly pedestrian numbers, but spread out to 36 minutes, that would be 21 points and 13.7 rebounds.
Van Gundy cautioned against making too much out of Marjanovic’s production from such a small sample size, but with Andre Drummond and Aron Baynes ahead of him on the depth chart, Marjanovic could see more time than Joel Anthony (96 minutes) did last season.
With his large frame, Marjanovic can affect shots in the post on the defensive end, which compensates for what he may lack in fleet footwork.
“He is a very efficient guy. He gets down, establishes low-post position and if you get him the ball — I don’t know what you do (defensively),” Van Gundy said. “He’s a good rebounder and he can be very effective.”
When Marjanovic was signed this summer, the thought was that he could learn this season and potentially move into the backup spot if Baynes decides to exercise the player option in his contract and leave after this season. That’s all planning for after this season, but for Marjanovic, it’s just good to start building relationships with his new teammates.
Since he joined the Pistons with Ish Smith and Jon Leuer in the offseason, they’ve already made strides to start blending him in with the rest of the team. That started with a weeklong, team-bonding getaway in California and has continued through the first week of training camp.
“I’ve started to get used to them and they get used to me and I think we work like a family, which is great,” Marjanovic said. “We do a great job on and off the court and everybody hangs out together. It was amazing.”
Having played with the likes of Hall of Fame big man Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge, he has a good foundation of skills and techniques that he’s learned. But now with Drummond and Baynes, he’s found himself in another good situation.
He’s been impressed by Drummond’s energy, strength and skills, which is a good complement to what Baynes brings. That’ll give the Pistons several options at the center position, depending on the opponent.
“When you practice with someone who is really good like them — I had that same thing in San Antonio — you work on yourself to be a better player; you help them and they help you,” Marjanovic said.
He said last season he didn’t know much about Drummond’s game, but when he got to work alongside Drummond in the practice gym, it was apparent that the All-Star center was good — and still developing his game heading into his fifth season.
“I didn’t follow him a lot. He’s young but very athletic,” Marjanovic said. “He’s a good guy and loves to work. It’s important for this sport if you love to work. He’s huge and can be a (better) player.”
Apart from his work on the court, Marjanovic is lauded by other players for just being easygoing and a good teammate. That’s not lost on Van Gundy, who is seeing the value of the good chemistry on and off the court.
“Everybody loves him; across the board, everybody likes the guy,” Van Gundy said. “He’s a good guy, a team guy, a hard worker. He’s not an entitled type of guy.”
Marjanovic had hoped to play on the Serbian team in the Olympics, but was disappointed when he was left off the team after he missed the qualifying tournament. They went on to win the silver medal in Rio, falling to the U.S. in the final.