Dario Šarić, 6’10”, Croatia
Dario Saric took a giant step forward last year after finishing 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting in the 2016-17 campaign. Last year, he averaged 14.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists. Saric frequently came up big when they needed him. He racked up 19 games of 20 or more points, eight of which were against playoff teams. He’s not just here to score, though. Thirteen double-doubles last season was enough for third on the team behind Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (both with 38).
Dario made great strides last year in terms of three-point shooting percentage. His 39.3% was ranked 52nd among players who attempted more than 100 threes last season, per basketball-reference.com. His percentage skyrocketed to 42% after January 1st. His success from behind the arc was crucial to Ben Simmons’ success last year by forcing opposing defenses to stay honest and not cheat off of the Croatian sharpshooter.
His all-around play, including being the only player with at least 1,100 points, 500, rebounds, and 150 three-point field goals, contributed in large part to the Sixers success last year.
Brett Brown relied more heavily on Dario during their playoff run. He saw his minutes increase during the playoffs and The Homie rose to the occasion. His points (17.2), rebounds (7.3), and assists (3.5) all saw significant increases during the run. While his defense and lack of speed was exploited in the playoffs, Dario is well aware of his deficiencies. Dario joked that he didn’t need to play defense when Embiid was playing behind him, but his speed and defense will become a larger issue if he doesn’t continue to improve them both.
Notable Offseason Points:
This summer, Dario honed his skills at the FIBA World Cup European Qualifiers this offseason. He was dominant in four games, averaging 16.8 points, 8.5 Rebounds, and 3.8 assists. He also shot 42.9% from beyond the arc (the FIBA arc, which is about a foot shorter than an NBA three-pointer). Obviously, the competition isn’t NBA-level but this is a great opportunity for Dario to develop and fine-tune his leadership skills on a team that he came up playing for.
“I have a different status here compared to Philadelphia, where I’m some sort of a third-or-fourth option, while being a primary option here, with Bojan (Bogdanovic). We have to get all the other players involved, and that suits me completely. I hope I’ll play a couple of good games for the team now, and that we will find our way to two wins.”
Getting to play a larger role during the summer is a great opportunity for Dario to grow and develop. Being the best player and a veteran presence on the Croatian team will help him build his leadership skills and to be a mentor for younger players, which sounds crazy considering Saric is only 24 years old himself.
Strengths and Areas of Improvement:
Dario has many strengths but his most important skill, as far as this team’s success is concerned, is his outside shooting. Dario is vital because he complements the other core pieces so well. While Ben and Markelle are not outside shooters, Dario will keep the defense from collapsing on either of the driving guards. His near 40% shooting last year is a serious threat to opponent defenses when you consider the drive and dish style of Simmons.
As seen in the play above, the defense will collapse when Ben drives and then Dario is left open to shoot at a 40% clip.
Dario’s defense leaves much to be desired due to his speed and quickness, but like he said, he has Joel to back him up. If he eventually shows that he can defend at a respectable level, I’d look for the Sixers to employ him as a small ball Center when Joel is off the floor.
Expectations and Predictions:
At this point, the rest of the league has seen what the Sixers can do. They understand that Joel and Ben are the stars and that Markelle is going to be the third star on the team. Or will he? I truly believe that if Dario can work on his quickness, he is the third star that Brett and Elton are ‘hunting’ for. His court vision and ability to make the extra pass make him a dangerous player. That combined with his shooting ability will make him an unlikely third star for this Finals seeking Sixers team. His numbers might not be what they were last year because of the insertion of Markelle into the lineup, but his skillset is a perfect pairing to the rest of the Sixers core.
This piece is part of a bigger season review being done by the fine folks over at PhillyFrontOffice.net. Please check out the rest of the player profiles over there!