NBA Position: SF/PF
Hometown: Sibenik, Croatia
Ceiling: Toni Kukoc
Basement: Mike Dunleavy Jr.
NBA Comparison: Chandler Parsons
- Deceptive Speed
- Good Court Vision
- High Basketball IQ
- Skilled Point-Forward
- Improved Shooter
- Inconsistent shooter
- Turnover Prone
- Off-Court Issues (DUI)
The past two years have been a slow deconstruction of the stock of Croatian forward Dario Saric. He was once regarded as the best young European prospect since Dirk Nowitzki and then he ran into trouble off the court as well as on the court with his transition to the professional game overseas.
At the amateur level Saric put on special performances showing that he has the ability to dominate the game in every facet with the ball in his hands as a 6-10 point forward.
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.
He is not a great athlete with limited lateral quickness and average foot speed. Length (6-10) is not a major strength for Saric either based on the measurements at the 2012 Nike Hoops Summit.
Then again Saric’s game is not predicated on athleticism and dominating the game physically. He is a finesse player that has the perimeter skills of a guard and the size of a big man.
On the perimeter he has the ability to handle the ball and create plays for others. In the half court Saric has limitations because of the lack of space which he needs to be able to create. Because of that he can be turnover prone trying to force passes as well as dribbling through two or three defenders. When posting up smaller defenders he has shown a keen ability to find his cutters and shooters looking over the defense. Saric is a willing and skilled passer in that setting seeing over the top of the defense.
Shooting is not a major strength of Saric’s, however, he has done a quality job of improving his stroke and is capable of hitting the NBA three with rhythm off the dribble or in catch-and-shoot situations.
His shooting is not consistent enough to be considered a strength, but with his height, release point, and form Saric gets the ball to the rim easier than smaller players. His stroke is compact, quick, but not automatic, and has become consistent.
Like most other quality shooters that have Saric’s size (Danilo Gallinari, Chandler Parsons, Kevin Durant, etc) he can get his shot off with ease.
Saric does not have elite shooting numbers as a sub-40% shooter in the half-court. His game is more creating, but with that he will need to have the threat of hitting shots from the perimeter with more consistency. As a play-maker and ball-handler he is especially not productive with the shot clock running down. In 31 attempts with four seconds or fewer on the clock Saric has hit 8 shots for a field goal percentage of 25.8% when it matters for play-makers. Of course those numbers are skewed with typically poor shots available and a lot of catch-and-shoot situations, which Saric struggles with in general.
In transition Saric is a different player. The open court opens up his game and his ability to grab a rebound, turn, take three dribbles and be at half court is a rare skill for players of his size. With the ball in his hands in transition, 50 plays, Saric creates 1.295 points per possession getting his teammates shots at the rim. He made plays for others 22% of the time while using his ability to get to the rim and score 78% of the time in transition.
The advanced offensive statistics do not support Saric as he excels scoring in transition and cutting to the basket, but has overall poor shooting numbers and ranks out as GOOD to BELOW AVERAGE by most.
On the defensive end Saric has the size to defend multiple positions, but his average athleticism and strength will make it a tough transition. The NBA is full of elite athletes at the three and skilled posts at the four. Saric is a crafty, smart player, but the transition to the speed and strength will be a tough one.
He has played professionally and on the biggest stages for years so Saric has faced some comparable competition in Europe. He proved to be a better post defender than perimeter defender this past season.
In perimeter situations where opponents are spotting-up (1.22 PPP) or coming off a dribble hand off (1.6 PPP) Saric has struggled. His lack of mobility and foot speed allow quicker offensive players to get around him or to their spots to score. He was not put in a lot of pick-and-roll situations as a defender this past year, but in the 14 plays he was only responsible for five total points.
Defensive efficiency numbers are not as reliable as the offensive ones as Saric grades out as a VERY GOOD defender and for all intents and purposes a BELOW AVERAGE offensive player.
Advanced statistics are a good measuring stick for trends, but the eye test of a player still tells more of a story when scouting. Saric is a skilled ball handler that is not a great decision-maker. A good shooter, but not a consistent one. He has great size, but lacks the mobility and athleticism to be considered an elite athlete.
Overall he has certain skills and a feel for the game that most players do not, let alone players with his size. Saric has the potential to be a fringe All-Star talent for years, but off the court he has the potential to throw that away in a night.
Over the past year Saric has been arrested for speeding and a DUI and had issues with his current team about staying out past curfew. He has the talent on the court, but the drive to be great comes into question with those types of off-the-court troubles.
There are a lot of parallels between Saric and a dominant high school prospect that transitions to the college game. Saric was a dominant, great prospect at the 14-18 level, but when he stepped into the professional game he struggled with the transition. Great American high school talents get a pass because of their potential whereas Saric has seen his stock fall despite his. There is no denying that he struggled with the professional game in Europe, but as a 19 year old prospect that has played on the highest level for years Saric still has as much upside as any prospect in this class.
From the 2012 Nike Hoops Summit in Portland ~
It was the second go around for Dario Saric at the Nike Hoops Summit and the Croatian forward made the most of it. Last year Saric was the young prospect that stood out in practice, but was not much of a factor in the game.
This year Saric was the star of the event and the headliner scouts wanted to see.
He did not disappoint growing a few inches since last year measuring out at 6-10 and 223 lbs. as a power forward. His overall frame has grown, but still lacks strength. He plays more of a point-forward on the court rather than a traditional in the paint big man.
In practice Saric was able to be moved off of his spots in the paint with ease. His lack of strength is a target for the other team especially if he is playing power forward.
One of Saric’s biggest attributes is his ability to pass and handle the ball on the perimeter. In the game Saric showed that skill getting the ball in transition and making plays. When Saric checked in he caught the ball on the run and made a few really nice passes to teammates, especially one kick to the corner for a Michal Michalak three.
His handle was still a little loose and shaky. The ball is out in the open for defenders to take, but Saric has a crafty enough handle that he is able to keep control of the ball. He had a few (four) turnovers in the game, but those were mainly due to him trying too hard to get his teammates involved.
The court vision Saric displays is very impressive for a player his size. Off of a rebound Saric has a long stride to get out in transition and make plays for himself and others. For the game Saric finished with 13 points 14 rebounds 5 assists off of the bench.
One aspect of Saric’s game that needed to improve if he is going to play on the perimeter is shooting and he did show progression. In practice Saric shot the ball well and in the game he went 1-3 from three showing an improved stroke.
Overall Saric has improved in many ways as a prospect. He still needs to add strength, improve his three-point shooting, and tighten up his handle to be effective at the next level. Saric will not be available for the draft for a year or two still so plenty of time to add wrinkles to his game.