2014 NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Dario Saric has big time NBA potential

Dario Saric has been coveted by the NBA since he was 15. Now he is closer than ever to being an NBA player, and no prospect has a higher offensive ceiling than Saric in this draft.

Croatian Dario Saric has been a wanted man for the last five seasons - wanted in the NBA as a sweet-shooting and scoring big man in the mold of Dirk Nowitzki and Toni Kukoc.

It's a big question of when he will join the NBA. He is 20 years old now, but still has hinted he wants more seasoning in Europe before playing with the big boys in the US. At the moment, Saric is a little light for traditional power forward and just a bit slow for small forward in terms of defense.

But on offense, Saric is a load that very few can stop. He has a high motor and scores very well in transition, passing as well as scoring himself. He also rebounds at a high rate at the other end. If a team can hide his man-on defensive issues, he could be a really great NBA player.

The basics

  • Height: 6'10"
  • Wingspan: 6'10"
  • Weight: 223 pounds
  • 15.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in Adriatic League (5th in PER)
  • Strengths: Very high basketball IQ, shooting, passing, scoring creativity from anywhere, transition, rebounding
  • Weaknesses: not strong in post defense of PFs, might be too slow to defend SFs, might be too slow to defend the pick-and-roll
  • Been a closely watched prospect since he was 15, and still may not come over to the NBA this season without a big buyout

Comparisons

For years, scouts have been trying to compare Saric to another Euro who came over to the NBA to dominate. There are legitimate comparisons to Toni Kukoc, except that Kukoc was much more skilled as a passer/facilitator and had a much longer pedigree when he joined the NBA. Kukoc was drafted in 1990 by the Bulls, but did not come to the NBA until 1993 after the Bulls had won their first three NBA championships. Throughout the 90s, Kukoc won several European Basketball Player of the Year awards.

There are also comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki but the German was much more of a scorer for Wurzburg, putting up 19 and 28 ppg in his last two years (as a 17 and 18 year old). In 1998, Nowitzki scored 33 points on 6-of-12 shooting, pulled down 14 rebounds and had 3 steals for the internationals.

So, Saric does not have the track record of either Nowitzki or Kukoc, but he does have many of the same skills - passing, shooting, scoring and very high basketball IQ. Another comp could be Boris Diaw.

Scouting Reports

  • DraftExpress: Despite showing excellent fluidity and coordination for a player his size, its Saric's skill-level, creativity and feel that makes him unique, and not amazing athleticism. His basketball IQ is simply off the charts, as his knowledge and understanding of the game is extraordinary relative to his age. The place where that's most visible is in his passing ability, as he does a great job of seeing the floor and making teammates better, aided greatly by the outstanding vantage point he enjoys at his size. He played almost exclusively at power forward the past two seasons, and even if he's gotten stronger, it will be difficult for him to match up inside the paint with some of the stronger players he'll encounter at that position in the NBA. Opposing players shot 49% from the field against Saric in post-up situations this season according to Synergy Sports Technology.Role and fit are arguably as important for Saric as any player in this draft. Having a coach that is willing to put the ball in his hands and utilize his many strengths will be a huge key, as its unlikely that he'll be happy playing exclusively off the ball, where his shortcomings as a perimeter defender and shooter will become even more glaring. A fiery competitor, Saric's body language already leaves something to be desired at times (he's quick to point fingers at teammates or complain), so there's always the risk that he could simply get up and go back to Europe if he isn't happy with his situation.
  • NBADraft.net: At 6'10 it is very hard to find anyone in the world with the skills he possesses to play with or without the ball anywhere on the court. Saric would have a much better NBA outlook if not for his lack of foot speed and athleticism ... His quickness and elevation might be enough to finish in Europe, but without the ability to finish above the rim, things will likely prove more difficult for him in the NBA.
  • NBADraftInsider.com: Physically Saric has the size to play either the three or the four at 6-10 223 lbs. He needs to add considerable strength to play the four consistently at the next level. With his deceptive speed, ball-handling, and shooting he creates match-up difficulties for traditional fours that play more in the paint with strength and size.

Suns Draft Potential

Could Saric be a guy the Suns target to play combo forward? His ceiling is higher than Marcus Morris, and he could be an unstoppable facilitator from the small forward position.

But Saric is not a pure two-way player, even though he rebounds well. GM McDonough likes two-way players, though he was part of the front office that drafted Jared Sullinger in 2012. Sullinger was also known as a scorer and rebounder without the quick feet to defend at a high level.

Maybe Saric's incredible scoring and facilitating ability will far outweigh his deficiencies on D.

Video Profile - DraftExpress

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