2014 NBA Draft: Dario Saric is the fifth best prospect

Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /
Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

Within the next few days it is expected that Dario Saric will officially enter the 2014 NBA Draft. This is big news for everyone and anything involved with the upcoming draft. The 6’10” Croatian wonder is certainly a big-time prospect, but what many don’t realize is that Saric happens to be the fifth best prospect in the entire draft.

Wait, what?

The big time names are ones you are already familiar with. Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Dante Exum are all projected to go earlier than Saric. Which still leaves Julius Randle, Marcus Smart and a few others that experts also expect to go before Saric hears his name called by Adam Silver.

That may be true. Chances are that all of those players get selected earlier than the former MVP of the Adriatic League. That doesn’t mean they are, or are going to be, any better, though.

Dario Saric is probably not a name that you have heard a lot of about. Chances are that you’re reading this and thinking that some guy is blowing smoke up your rears. So, with that, let me tell you about the player who might end up a household name in just a few short years.

The easiest way to describe Saric is like a rich man’s version Danilo Gallinari. Gallinari — who is already in the NBA and has had some success — can be viewed as somewhat of a disappointment since he first entered the scene with the New York Knicks. Despite being a good shooter, having great size and some assumed tremendous upside, Gallinari has suffered one too many injuries and has never evolved past being a really good role type of a player.

The difference between the two, as I continue my (possibly lazy) European on European comparison, is that Saric can bang.

Only 20-years-old, Saric’s body development is going right on track with a player you would want to be able to go under the boards. Now a muscular 223-pounds, Saric started off a tall but skinny player. With the NBA has his goal, Saric clearly made strong efforts to beef up in an effort to not only be able to play under the basket, but withstand the battering a professional basketball schedule encompasses.

Just because he can get some rebounds (9.5 this season), Saric can also score in a variety of ways. While he isn’t as proficient a three-point shooter as Gallinari was coming over (.31 percent from three), Saric has the ability to catch fire. And, for what it is worth, his release is quick and consistent enough that it feels like he just needs more time before shooting over .40 from behind the arc is a given.

However, it is his versatility that makes him so intriguing. Really, Saric is built as a player who could get a triple-double on any given night. Like, um, here:

It’s not lost on me that Saric is playing “lesser” competition while playing for Cibona. I’ve watched about 10 ten games (via YouTube) of Dario Saric awesomeness. So the sample size is rather limited. Although, if we are going to use the quality of competition he plays against as a negative towards his prospectus, we should also acknowledge that he is the focal point for all things success related for Cibona.

Saric has to deal with a teammate, a point guard mind you, who constantly hurls 30-foot three-pointers as if that is a thing he should be doing. He’s also met with constant double teams, clear hacks of the arm and defenders attempting to push him around as if Saric were a soft player. None of which seems to phase the former 2012 FIBA Europe Under-18 gold medal winner.

Oh, about that. Saric scored 39 points in the 2012 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship game — where he was also voted the tournament’s MVP after averaging 25.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.

But, still, how does that make him the fifth best NBA Draft prospect? Pretty easy, actually.

It’s a given that Wiggins, Parker, Embiid and Exum are viewed as the better prospects. However, I’m clearly in the minority for putting Saric ahead of Randle, Smart, Ennis, etc.

DraftExpress has Saric going ninth. That’s right behind Aaron Gordon and just ahead of Doug McDermott. Two players that most casual fans would certainly put ahead of Saric.

Here is the problem with them, as well as Randle, Smart and — to a lesser degree– Noah Vonleh; they are limited.

Randle is a 6’9″ power forward. That’s it. He is a comparable player to Zach Randolph, but without the consistent ability to shoot mid-to-long range jumpers. With the focus of the power forward position in the NBA moving to stretch-fours, Randle has a long way to go before he can be anything more than a bruiser underneath.

Marcus Smart, well, he’s a gamble. A guard that can’t really shoot, isn’t an other-worldly defender, and shows a real lack of on the court awareness and composure that you want from a player who is going to have the ball in his hands a large portion of time.

As for Aaron Gordon, if we are comparing his skill set head-to-head with Saric’s, it’s a no brainer. Would you rather a big who needs to work on a little bit of everything, but does have some athleticism, or a big who already has a little bit of everything and can play an extra position?

That’s not to knock any of those other guys either. I’m not one of the people jumping off the 2014 NBA Draft is all that and a bag of chips train. I still think it is incredibly deep and is chalk full of guys who can be more than just role players. My feeling is that Saric just has more to bring to the table than most of the others.

It won’t be all sunshine and rainbows for whatever team drafts Saric. It is expected that he will stay in the Euroleague land for a little bit. That has a bit to do with Saric’s father thinking that former foreign-born players who have had success in the NBA only did so because they waited until having some serious success in leagues outside of the NBA.

To recap this Saric is awesome post, let’s summarize his draft prospects via a quick look at his skills. If it seems like a player you want no part of, then good for you.

  • 6’10” and a muscular 223
  • Versatile (Can play multiple positions as well)
  • Has improved his three-point shooting over the last two seasons
  • Plays huge in the biggest of games (Under-18 Championship game as an example)
  • Is an already dominant player in Adriatic League (MVP)
  • Only 20
  • Defends at a competitive rate
  • Cibona has him run the point sometimes (the point!)
  • Can finish at the rim
  • Quick release
  • Plays without hesitation or fear
  • Far more professional experience that most 20-year-olds
  • He’s all that and a bag of chips

Yes, those are some pretty generic scouting bullet-points, but they are all true. Out of all the top-10 potential picks for this year’s draft, none of them encompass those same features except maybe Jabari Parker, who doesn’t do as well under the basket as Saric.

NBA fans, general managers and scouts will spend the next few months salivating over Wiggins’ potential, Parker as a “proven” commodity, the prospect of Embiid being the next great true center, and Exum as the best foreign player available, all of which is fine. However, ignoring the fact that Saric does everything that you could ask for on a basketball court, and most of it well, would be like ignoring paying the tax-man.

Because just like the tax-man eventually will come after you if you owe him some loot, Saric is eventually playing in the NBA and making a name for himself. Not just as another good role guy either, but as a player who will make multiple All-Star rosters.

The comparisons have already happened as far as what type of player people expect Saric to be. They range as low as just some ho-hum European player to as high as being similar to Dirk. However, from what I have seen at least, I think Dario Saric resembles Arvydas Sabonis the most. Not the already injured, half-of-the-player he was that was on the Portland Trailblazers. But the Sabonis who was an athletic, do-it-all marvel in for many years in the Euroleague. The only difference being Sabonis’ tremendous footwork under the basket, something that Saric seems to improve every time he plays a game.

At the end of the day it is pretty simple. Dario Saric has far more positives than he does any basketball related flaws. In fact, he doesn’t have any real flaws other than the fact no one knows who he is. Which might just be another positive on-top of it all.

I guess what I am trying to say is that Dario Saric is already sneaky good…

On the verge of being sneaky great.