While Dario Saric currently prepares to play for Anadolu Efes in Game 2 of the Turkish Basketball League Finals tomorrow, his current team and possibly future ones are reportedly in talks to bring the Croatian native to the 76ers for the 2015-16 season, per David Pick from Basketball Insiders. Such a deal would be welcoming for the organization and fans alike, as both of the Sixers' 2014 lottery picks and the player they'll likely choose with the third selection in this month's draft would all make their NBA debuts together.
Before everyone begins to imagine Saric grabbing a defensive board and winging an outlet pass to D'Angelo Russell in transition, there are some obstacles that prevent this move from happening this summer. Here's what I've deduced regarding those hurdles in small steps:
1. Dario Saric is currently signed with Anadolu Efes through the 2016-17 season. He has an opt-out clause he can enact before that final season in the summer of 2016. That means that Saric is still contractually Efes' players regardless of the Sixers' intentions at the moment, and it means that a new buyout would need to drawn up between the three parties. Efes could also simply deny the Sixers' attempts at such a buyout, as he's been their best player during the team's run to the TBL Finals, and they may want to retain him for at least one more season.
2. According to cap guru Larry Coon's CBA FAQ, the Sixers would only be able to contribute $625,000 towards whatever the price of Saric's buyout would be during the 2015-16 season, if one were to be negotiated and agreed upon. Our own Derek Bodner estimates that number would be at least $2,000,000.
3. The rest of the money would have to come from Saric himself. When there were talks of Saric being unhappy with his role with Efes earlier this season, Bodner wrote the following regarding how Saric would fund such a transfer with his own NBA salary (numbers updated for the 2015-16 season):
For the 12th pick in the 2014 NBA draft, the NBA slots a first year salary of $1,803,400. 120% of that gives a max that they can allocate towards Saric as $2,164,080, of which Saric must receive $1,442,720 (80% of $1,803,400). This means that the Sixers can give Saric another ~$721k towards a buyout. Since signing bonuses are based off of the percentage of guaranteed salary, and first round picks have the first two seasons fully guaranteed, a similar bonus can be done for year two of Saric's contract. Giving the Sixers the ability to contribute $625k towards Saric's buyout, and also allowing Saric to get up to ~$1.5 million of his guaranteed salary up front, which he can use towards the buyout.
It's not too financially prudent of Saric to make this move immediately, but the benefit of him coming over this summer as opposed to 2016 would be him getting off his rookie deal faster and then securing a heftier second contract in a league with an escalating salary cap sooner.
4. There surely is motivation on the Sixers' part to have Saric the player come over this summer. He'd get acquainted with their culture and organizational style sooner. They like him as a player or else they wouldn't have spent a lottery pick on him, so they're obviously keen on seeing what he could do on the court in a Sixers uniform.
It is, however, better financially for the Sixers for him to come over this summer as well. The maximum amount the team is allowed to contribute to an international player's buyout increases every season under the CBA. Additionally, if Saric were to stay another year in Turkey and explore his options in 2016, he'd be better off waiting another year and making the jump to the NBA in 2017.
The reasoning that 2017 is more likely of a target date for Saric to be in Philly than 2016 is that it would then be three years since Saric was drafted, freeing him from the rookie-scale contract he'd otherwise be bound to. This is what led Bulls rookie Nikola Mirotic to wait until the 2014-15 season to come stateside after being selected with the 23rd pick in the 2011 draft. Mirotic went from making a maximum of $1,204,560 if he were to have come over in 2013 to $5,305,000 this season in the first year of a three-year deal worth up to $16,600,000.
Saric's contract in 2017 would likely be more than that when taking into consideration the expected changes in the cap between 2014 and 2017, as well as the Sixers' likelihood of having cap space when the 2017 offseason comes around.
So, as everyone wants to know, is Dario coming over? Will he be hanging out in Las Vegas for Summer League with Joel Embiid and Jerami Grant next month? It's unrealistic to expect that, but there is still a possibility, and it's refreshing to hear that the option is being explored.