Analyzing How Dario Saric Would Fit On The 2015-16 Sixers


Sixers fans have been trained to be patient since general manager Sam Hinkie took over the reigns of a team that seemed to be in the dreaded “8-seed purgatory.” The notoriously impatient Philadelphia fans have acted out of character, showing trust in the long term vision of a team that hasn’t reached the finals since Allen Iverson lead arguably one of the weaker teams in a losing effort to a powerhouse Los Angeles Lakers team in ’01. Asking an always championship hungry city to wait isn’t easy, but the fans have responded well to the various moments that have needed the ultimate “fan patience”.

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Out of all the various tests, one player that has had a lot of attention surrounding him since the day he was drafted was Dario Saric. Saric may be the most anticipated international player to be acquired by the Sixers. Since he was acquired from the Magic on draft night, fans have speculated his arrival. Although new reports claiming that Saric wants to join the team for the 2016-17 season, Sixers fans will continue to wait at least one year, as reports of Saric spending the 2015-16 season overseas were confirmed. Saric’s immediate impact is speculation in its most extreme, but analyzing his role with the current team the Sixers boast is intriguing.

As a reminder, Saric is listed mostly 6-9 or 6-10 and mainly as a small forward, although has seen time at multiple position in his time overseas. Saric joined European basketball powerhouse Anadolu Efes (Turkey) this past season and proved his skill in a more talented league. Saric averaged 9.9 points, 2.3 assists, and 6.4 rebounds in his one season in Turkey, where his team won the Turkish Cup.

What Saric has shown in his season in Turkey and various international games playing for his home country of Croatia, was that he is a force when running the court with the ball. Saric has excellent court vision, always looking for the next open man, and is far from tentative when it comes to driving into a not-so empty lane. Saric slightly struggled from outside shooting just 30.6% from three, but had a 2pt field goal percentage of 48.6%.

Many Sixers fans envision Saric as a tenacious stretch four who can run the court and move the ball around the offense, taking pressure away from center Jahlil Okafor‘s excellent post game. If Saric decided to come play for the Sixers upcoming season, minutes would surely have to be earned.

With the blossoming Nerlens Noel earning his spot as a lock-in starter, whether it would be at center or power forward, and rookie Jahlil Okafor looking to show off his star potential alongside Noel, Saric would almost certainly find himself coming off the bench serving as an offensive relief when Okafor or Noel needs a breather.

Saric would pair up with best with Noel, since Saric can be a slightly lackluster defender and rebounder at times. Saric would serve as the primary option on offense off the bench, and teaming him up with an athletic big man like Noel would allow Saric to excel in the fast break.

Saric’s game is comparable to incoming rookie Richaun Holmes. Holmes shot 35% from 3pt range in his three years at Bowling Green State, and his terrific summer league season earned him a spot on the team for the upcoming regular season. Holmes has proven to be more of a stretch four option than Saric.

Richaun has a better handle of how to defend down low, and can rack boards with his rebounding athleticism. Saric and Holmes both show incredible motors and a willingness to finish in transition, it would be interesting to see how the minutes battle would have played out this year.

Saric would have to see a huge jump in consistency from outside the arc, and increase his ability to defend on the ball down low if he wanted to become the Sixers’ “pure stretch 4” option.

In reality, however, Saric will likely see more minutes playing small forward. Robert Covington has made himself into the starter for the position, so Saric would still be coming off the bench this season, looking to be a force for the second squad. Covington has proved to be a slightly more consistent shooter, and can hold his own on defense with some of the elite small forwards across the league. Saric isn’t a huge liability on the defensive side and is known for his ability to make a quick steal while off the ball, but the elites he would face off against this season would expose lack of lateral quickness.

JaKarr Sampson will also serve as another hurdle Saric would face in ’15-’16. Sampson found himself in a similar situation to Saric if he were to join the team this season. Sampson came in, not expecting to have impactful minutes, but ended up having an impressive year to his standards and saw a six minute per game increase in the second half of the year. Saric could develop into an every day player, but in 2015-16, would have to have an explosive year to find himself gaining minutes.

Saric’s incredible ball handling skills could find him running the ball up the court more than a few times a game. As the NBA steers its way towards a slightly more positionless game, big men with the offensive ability of Saric’s will be less of a rarity, and the Sixers will try to capitalize on the laggardness of other teams on this schematic change.

Saric will serve as the Sixers’ version of Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo has been the primary ball holder for the Bucks in his first two seasons, and has been stellar at using his penetrating ability and has found success even with the lack of an outside game. Antetokounmpo has brought the ball up and has seen minutes at the forward positions, and on rare occasions serving as a shooting guard.

Antetokounmpo is very good at defending whoever he is assigned to defend, whether its a guard or a forward. Saric can become the versatile player coach Brett Brown was looking for. Saric would play this way mostly with the second squad this season, and can earn his payroll by showing off his versatility.

With just one more Saric-less season on the horizon for the Sixers, predictions and analyses will spring up at a great rate. It’s an exciting time for the organization, and the chance of a lifetime for Dario Saric.

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