Thanks to a build-up of signs and reports over several months indicating The Homie Dario would be headed stateside after this season, capped off by a fairly assuring one from David Pick, Sixers fans are in "just-show-me-the-damn-contract-or-bust mode," and reasonably so. But due to Euroleague basketball's 8-month-plus long season, we haven't heard a peep about Dario Saric's future in Philadelphia lately, with the addition of the No. 1 pick in the draft looming on the horizon. So, with Bryan Colangelo and Brett Brown set to pay a visit to Istanbul next week, let's talk shop. How's Dario been playing since the end of the Sixers season sucked the life out of all of us (and my will to write about Turkish basketball)?
He's still good, folks. Efes has been steamrolling its way through the playoffs, disposing of the terrifying Andy Rautins-Julyan Stone Royal Hali squad before imposing its will on a Darussafaka team so attractive that David Blatt appears to have turned down NBA coaching opportunities just to get his hands on that Wilbekin-Harangody-Aldemir attack. (Note: Furkan's played in just 13 games this season. Sigh.) But seriously - Efes just lost its first game of the postseason in Game One of the finals yesterday to Fenerbahce, and Saric has been killing it.
Through six games of postseason play, he's shooting 54 percent from the field (28-of-52), including 11-of-14 from long range (!), good for 13.5 points in just under 24 minutes per game with 3.8 rebounds and over a steal to boot. And of course, he's still out-hustling fools by the skin of however many teeth he has left.
There've been a bunch of bright spots throughout this late season run, but one of the brighter ones is the exclamation point Saric has put on his improvement at the charity stripe this season. He's gradually improved year by year, shooting 71 percent with Cibona in 2014, before converting on 76 percent in 2015 with Efes and finally just over 85 percent this season (114-of-134). That includes 27-of-28 in Top 16 Euroleague play, which, sure, it's a sample size of 28, but it's night-and-day with when he first burst onto the pro scene in 2011 with Zagreb as a 60 percent free throw shooter.
So, Colangelo, Brown and Co. now head to Istanbul, likely at the conclusion of the TBSL finals to make their pitch to Saric. It's hard to tell what works in their favor and what doesn't, especially when Saric's motives to come over as soon as possible seem to have transcended any desire to maximize his earning power by evading the rookie scale one year from now. Perhaps adding Ben Simmons, a point forward slotting into the glut of front-court players on the roster right where Dario would need to play, is a minus.
But that feels like an oversimplification. There's no such thing, after all, as having too many plus decision-makers at any position, and running an offense tailored to a playmaking four could ease the transition for a player who similarly can do quite a bit of damage when given the freedom to crash the glass, run a break and initiate offense himself. Playing devil's advocate, Saric hasn't at any point in his career consistently held a starting role for a full season. When he transitions to the highest level of competition and the game speeds up for him, it'd be surprising if he were to demand major shot-creation duty right off the bat. We have no idea what he wants or is willing to buy into.
Depth is good, and depth of playmakers at that position is a unique luxury most teams don't have. If he wants to challenge himself at the highest level of competition in the world as badly as he says he does right now, he and Simmons could provide the Sixers with quite a bit of freedom to experiment with a really fascinating offense. This could be really, really fun.
In other news: Vasilije Micic did a thing!