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The Dario Diaries Vol. 8: Saric Rolls Out of Bed With Double-Doubles

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The Homie has been balling out.

NBA: Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this month, I tried to a look at the case Dario Saric had for Rookie of the Year, ultimately concluding that the award was still Joel Embiid’s to lose, but Saric had a chance otherwise in a weak rookie class. As February draws to close and Embiid has yet to return to play for the 76ers, Saric is increasingly becoming a realistic option to hoist that trophy.

Look at how Saric’s statistics in his 11 February contests matchup versus his pre-February numbers:

Dario Saric Rookie Year Statistics

Category Pre-February February
Category Pre-February February
MPG 23.7 29.7
PPG 9.9 16.6
RPG 5.7 8
APG 1.7 2.5
SPG 0.5 1
FG% 38.5 44.7
3P% 33.3 27.6
TS% 48.8 53.9
OREB% 6 7.6
DREB% 21 21.1
AST% 13.6 16.9

It feels as if he’s improving by the day. In his last seven games, he’s averaging 20.9 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists and shooting 50.9 percent from the floor. During his two games this past weekend -- his first two starts since Nov. 14 -- he put up lines of 20, 11 and four and then 19, 15 and five, while shooting 47.2 percent on 36 shots.

Ersan Ilyasova’s trade to Atlanta last week opened up the starting power forward position for Saric, a spot he probably should’ve already had for several weeks, given his already apparent improvement in the 2017 calendar year. My praise for Bryan Colangelo’s move there was quickly eradicated with Thursday’s trade of Nerlens Noel, but leave it to Saric to lessen that blow with his double-double-filled weekend, making it four-consecutive games that he’s dropped at least 18 points and hauled in at least 11 rebounds, leading to a few statistical anomalies:

In a Sixers universe where Ben Simmons is strapped to a training room table for the remainder of the season, Joel Embiid’s return date remains as mysterious as it has always been over the last three years, and fan-favorite Noel is attempting a Tyson Chandler impression in Dallas, Saric’s simultaneously intense and fun brand of basketball is keeping Philly fans entertained in the interim. It feels as if it’s always been this way with the Croatian. Never thought to be “The Guy” in the same vein of Simmons and Embiid, expectations for him have always seemed to be relatively low. But the weekly updates of his play and stat lines in Turkey provided a nice respite in between fits of worry about Embiid’s longterm health, anger at Sixers ownership, and exhaustion from debates about Noel and Jahlil Okafor.

In a season in which everyone assumed Simmons and Embiid would electrify the franchise, only for Saric capture the Rookie of the Year award, well, that would be the most Process thing ever.