Dario Saric has to start for the Philadelphia 76ers


Despite a solid fit on the bench, Dario Saric‘s best spot for the Philadelphia 76ers could be in the starting rotation.

The other day, we wrote on why Dario Saric has to come off the bench for the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2017-18 NBA season. Today, we will be making the case for why he should be starting.

There are plenty of good reasons to like Saric off the bench. Owen Nelson laid out a handful of reasons in his piece yesterday, and Christopher Kline offered up some wisdom last month.

Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers /

Philadelphia 76ers

However, I find that Saric is just too valuable to be playing with the second unit. Of course, this is not a knock on those who do play off the bench; just a recognition of the kind of talent Saric has, and how it is best utilized.

For everyone’s sake, we’re going to skip over much of the conjecture about who should and shouldn’t be starting – my five would be Markelle Fultz, J.J. Redick, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid.

In this lineup, each player is as important as each other. I truly believe that, if one player is missing from this group, the starting lineup should change dramatically.

Philadelphia’s Head Coach Brett Brown likes to play a “pace and space” style of offense, with each player adept at stretching the floor, and everyone a savvy playmaker; “total basketball”, if you will.

In a Brett Brown offense, this is the best lineup the 76ers can roll with, and on Philly’s roster, no one fits the mould of power forward that Saric does.

Saric, like many European players, boasts an extraordinary basketball I.Q., even at his young age. “Pace and space” was an offense born for players as smart as Saric to operate in, and his basketball brain aids his skill set perfectly.

In 2016-17, Saric showed the ability to operate off both the low block and in the high post – again, something no other pf on the Sixers’ roster has the ability to do.

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Down low, Saric is physical big enough at 6-foot-10, 223 pounds, to bully players and impose his will when backing down.

From this position, his passing skills allow him to make a simple, cross-court bounce pass to Joel Embiid, a kick-out to another player on the perimeter, or to put up a shot.

Yes, his post footwork does need to get better, but right now, his quickness of movement and fast twitch muscles help combat what mismatches he offers up with his feet.

However, it is from the high post where Saric truly shows his value as a starting four.

With so many ways to attack from the three-point line inwards, defenses simply have to keep honest with the big Croatian, which opens up his ability to abuse the passing lanes and feed Joel Embiid in the post.

Saric’s shot undoubtedly needs to improve, and he will certainly have worked on it in the offseason. Both other main contenders for his spot in the lineup – Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes – are better from three than he is.

But neither of them possesses the pure playmaking talent Saric does from the high post – Covington and Holmes need only be defended for the shot, not the drive or pass.

Just look at Saric taunt his opposite Jonas Jerebko with this neat behind-the-back move.

If you’re still unconvinced as to whether or not Saric is the best option at power forward for Philadelphia, just look at the way the two-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors have used Draymond Green.

I’m always wary when comparing players or teams, but the Warriors are the gold standard of small ball and pace-and-space in the NBA today, and Green was Dario Saric before ‘The Homie’ ever came Stateside.

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Off a defensive rebound – where Green works best – it is always valuable to have more than one player on the team who can bring the ball up, initiate the offence, or just go themselves.

Golden State has four, and next year, the 76ers could have that number also, if they were to start Saric. To have a power forward bring the ball up the way Green has creates a whole new dynamic for the defence to defend.

The opposition PF is occupied attempting to stay in front of Saric, and all the rest of the team has to worry about is getting in the best position to score the basketball, screening, cutting and popping out.

Ball movement and playmaking is at a premium in today’s NBA, and from the four, Saric is the best offering of that on Philly’s roster. Don’t believe me? Just look at the proof in last season’s pudding.

The Sixers used a whopping 30 starting lineups last year, and of all starting teams used at least three times, the 11 most successful included either Saric, or Ersan Ilyasova – another point forward.

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It is a system Brett Brown likes, and seems to have wedded himself to. Don’t be surprised to see Saric in the starting lineup next year, and if he is, don’t hate him for it, just because your favourite player isn’t there – embrace it.