Since the All-Star break, the Santa Cruz Warriors haven't been their normal selves. Following the long weekend, they played host to the now 13-20 Springfield Armor on back-to-back nights and ended up losing them by an average of 15 points. To make matters worse, they were held to just 80 points in both those games, which is way below their season average of 105.8 per contest.
But on Sunday afternoon, they got back on track.
In their 123-103 win over the Austin Toros, six Warriors reached double-figures scoring. Seth Curry led the way with 21 points, and Joe Alexander and Cameron Jones gave them a big boost off the bench, combining for 37 points and 18 rebounds. But the player of the game was Ognjen Kuzmić - the Golden State Warriors' second-round pick from last summer's draft. In 34 minutes, the 7-foot center broke a Santa Cruz Warriors record by pulling down 24 rebounds. That also tied a D-League season-high, previously set by the Delaware 87ers' Tiny Gallon on January 20th against the Erie BayHawks. To go along with all those boards, Kuzmić also scored 15 points and swatted away three shots.
All in all, the Toros simply had no answer for the big man as he shut down the paint and controlled the glass.
On the season, Kuzmić has spent 11 games in the D-League with the Warriors. While his stats are slightly underwhelming at a first glance, his per-36 minute numbers of 10.2 points, 17.8 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.3 steals tell a different story.
Offensively, he still has some work to do. He's shooting 46.7 percent from the floor and tends not to look for his own shot. Several times on Sunday, he found himself underneath the rim with the ball and opted to dish it out to one of his teammates on the perimeter instead of using his length to shoot it over the defense. If he's not within five-feet of the basket, odds are that he's not going to look to score. Another concern: he shoots 55.2 percent from the free throw line. However, he has great length and moves very well for a 7-footer. He knows how to use his body, putting that 240-pound frame to work when fighting for position against opposing centres, and has good timing both on the boards and when blocking shots, which is where his bread is buttered.
When the Warriors drafted him in 2012, they knew Kuzmić was far from a finished product. The potential to be a good center was there and at 23 years old now, there is still plenty of room for improvement. He's shown what he is capable of in the few games he has spent in the D-League and down the road, he could be a solid option off the bench for the Warriors. After all, it's not every day that someone flirts with Rod Benson and Dwayne Jones' D-League record for the most rebounds grabbed in a single game.