The lull in Sixers action between summer league and the preseason has been especially tough to take this year because of the new found hype surrounding their upgraded roster, but Olympic basketball has certainly helped fill the void. The 2016 Games in Rio have given most fans their first real look at forward Dario Saric and point guard Sergio Rodriguez, and the pair have played important roles for Croatia and Spain, respectively.
Based off their current international play, as well as the uncertainty of how the roster may fit together, the Liberty Ballers staff discusses how they may fit in with their new club team.
Kyle Neubeck: Both players have come pretty much as advertised. Rodriguez has showed off some spectacular passing and is often more successful at initiating the offense than Ricky Rubio has been for Spain, while Saric's all-around game has been a driving force for Croatia's surprise success in the opening round. The outside shooting has been a bit worrisome at times but Saric found a way to stay involved even during stretches where he couldn't hit a jumper, and he's shown the competitiveness we've come to love around here.
Neither one of these guys will ever resemble anything close to a lockdown defender, and that's going to have to be accounted for with length and athleticism around them when they're on the court. Long-term (and immediately for that matter), Saric is the type of guy I'd love to see come off the bench and be the quarterback of the second unit a la Manu Ginobili. I think how he fits in the rotation is going to be a fun problem for Brett Brown to solve, and if he can find a way to play Simmons and Saric together without compromising defense entirely, watch out.
Sean O'Connor: In one sentence: the Sixers are going to be SO MUCH BETTER at passing next year with these two and Simmons.
Jake Fischer: The passing is awesome. Sergio's beard is magnificent. Dario's selflessness and bouncy hair is charming. The key for both offensive is still shooting. Will Sergio just be a fun floor general, or will he be able to snipe consistently enough to provide spacing off ball and unlock Simmons when they play tougher? Same for Saric, of course. Will he just be Simmons' understudy in bench units, or can he shoot well enough to play in the same front court as Simmons? Man, those two in the pick-and-roll together would be something.
Max Rappaport: It was nice to see Dario get some jumpers to fall against Brazil. I still feel like his outside shot is going to be the skill that makes or breaks his ability to be a key piece on this team, given the fact that his strengths overlap so much with those of Ben Simmons. If he can continue to improve in that area and become a competent floor-spacer, I think playing those two alongside one another goes from being a liability to being a really interesting advantage. Overall, his energy, rebounding, and passing vision has been as good as advertised, and I really think he's going to be someone Sixers fans gravitate towards almost immediately this season. Sergio has been really impressive as well. The way he commands the offense seems to have the power to soothe Spain in moments when it appears their wheels are close to falling off. The fact that he can knock down shots from the perimeter is a nice bonus too. I can't wait to see these two plus Simmons on the floor together at some point this fall.
Jake Pavorsky: Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer wrote that Saric is kind of the Croatian Ben Simmons, which I think to an extent is true. He's no knockdown shooter, but I think in catch-and-shoot situations he's going to be solid enough that teams will be forced to defend him out there. But his ability to be somewhat position-less like Simmons is just another really intriguing wrinkle in the Sixers offense. He can play the four, be your primary ball handler if needed, and I imagine at some point they'll experiment with him playing small forward. I think I'd be comfortable with the opening night starting five being Simmons-Henderson-Covington-
What do you think his role will look like to start the year?
Jake Fischer: I think predicting the starting lineup at this stage of the offseason is very premature, but I don't think Saric will start night one. I think we'll see one of Nerlens/Jah (whoever is not traded) at the 5 with Simmons, Covington, Henderson and Sergio.
Max Rappaport: I agree with Fischer. Ignoring the center position, I'd imagine Simmons starts at 4, RoCo at 3, Henderson at 2, and I'll say Bayless at 1, just because I can't imagine Brett Brown would feel comfortable with prolonged stretches in which Bayless is the de fact PG and Simmons is off the floor. Saric probably plays 22 or so minutes per game, almost exclusively at PF, to start the year.