In some ways, Saric defines the Sam Hinkie Era. As much of a risk as the Joel Embiid selection was, Saric was a similar risk. Two years ago Dario Saric promised to be in Philadelphia, and after heavy speculation that he would change his mind for financial reasons, Saric fulfilled his initial promise arriving Thursday afternoon.
Embiid had the higher ceiling on draft night. Embiid still has the higher ceiling, but Embiid wasn’t definitely out for the season the year he was draft, and his second surgery wasn’t expected. Saric, on the other hand, signed a three-year contract in Turkey on June 24, 2014 with an option after the second year to be bought out by the 76ers. Financially Saric would’ve made more money if he stayed in Europe one more season because he would then be off the rookie scale. Saric, like Europeans in the past, could’ve stayed in Europe for as long as he wanted. That contract happened two days before the 2014 NBA Draft. Two days before Philadelphia traded the 10th pick, Elfrid Payton, to the Orlando Magic for the rights to Saric (and the 1st round pick back that Philadelphia owed Orlando as part of the Dwight Howard trade). Hinkie knew, in the best case scenario, Saric would be over in two years. Hinkie didn’t care, though. He took the best player available, and it just so happened that the best player available would be unable to play for at least two years.
Fans’ obsession with Saric grew rapidly over the last two years. That level of fandom peaked yesterday when over 1200 people watched a live stream of Saric arriving in Philadelphia on Crossing Broad’s Facebook page. Think about that… 1200 people watched a six-foot-10, 22-year-old man they’ve never met walk off a flight.
It might’ve actually been for the best that Saric stayed overseas to further develop his game. This detailed scouting report shows how he was used the past two years. Super Dario’s best skill might be passing, and he also rebounds tremendously. Ironically Ben Simmons’ best skills might be passing and rebounding. It’s easy to think that Simmons and Saric couldn’t effectively play together, and in the beginning Saric most likely will come off the bench, but hopefully Saric turns into a solid spot-up shooter, so he and Simmons can play together. Head coach Brett Brown has reportedly told Saric he’ll play 25-30 minutes a game. That’ll be nearly impossible if Saric and Simmons don’t log minutes together. It’s important to see if Saric and Simmons can co-exist. Defensively, Simmons has flashed the ability to stick with wings during summer league. With better talent surrounding Simmons, hopefully Simmons won’t have an insanely high usage rate ,so he can exhaust energy on defense.
Saric, as reported by Rafael Uehara, struggled with spot-up shooting, but his 38 percent free throw rate two years ago demonstrates his potential attacking the basket in the NBA.Using Saric as a point-forward on bench units might actually do wonders for the 76ers, and for Saric’s NBA development. Unlike in Turkey, Saric will be asked to be a distributor, especially in line-ups without a traditional point guard. Brown can be creative with how he utilizes Saric. Brown has an abundance of big men to use. The roster unbalance might look better this year than last, but it’s still unclear who fits best where. And Bryan Colangelo doesn’t look motivated to move Okafor for whatever. Okafor still looks most likely to be the one traded, but it might not happen until the NBA trade deadline. That’s a chunk of the season where Brown has to figure out how to play Okafor, Carl Landry, Simmons, Saric, Nerlens Noel and Embiid.
Fans adore Saric because of his loyalty. As part of his buyout, he has to use his own money to play for the 76ers. He’s a mystic figure that many speculated would never play in the NBA. It’s reassuring that he’s actually in the United States set to sign a NBA contract before he leads Croatia in the Olympics. Hinkie had a major say in why Philly won 10 games, which led to drafting Simmons thus the first domino to fall. Signing Saric will be the second. The third, and maybe most important, will be the night Embiid plays his first game. Somewhere, in the distance, Hinkie’s watching.