It was 2014 and the Sixers came out of the NBA draft with two international players that many thought would end up as busts. It wasn’t until this past offseason that anyone knew for sure Joel Embiid and Dario Saric would be playing for the team. Now they are currently in the process of turning the Sixers into a playoff team. There’s times where both are seen making the same kinds of clumsy rookie mistakes, but the pair averages more points and rebounds than any other rookie tandem in the league.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock this season, everyone knows the story of how Embiid e has become the face of this team. Unlike Embiid, Saric hasn’t won over the entire fan base just yet. However, his confidence is growing while getting plenty of minutes without Simmons in the lineup. Chances are, the fan perception will change pretty soon.
The development of Dario Saric has been unreal considering the odds have pretty much always been against him. It wasn’t that long ago that it seemed as if Dario had no good reason to come over and play for the Sixers. A bigger paycheck and not having to play for the the league’s biggest loser were among the best reasons for Dario to stay with Anadolou Efes of the Turkish Super League. Being labeled by several Philly media figures as ‘just another piece’ in Hinkie’s elaborate con, it had to come down to this season for everyone to get on board.
When Hinkie left, it almost seemed like Dario’s old promises would go unfulfilled…but look where we are today. Before this season started, there really wasn’t too much to film go off of. The most anyone saw of Saric playing came during the Rio Olympics when Team Croatia put up a good run, eventually ending with a quarter-final exit. While there was never enough to define Saric’s game, other than a couple no-look passes and a game-ending block on Gasol, we all saw that the kid had character and could make a team come together.
He’s arguably the second best rookie in the league. The only non-Sixer standing in his way for Rookie of the Year is Malcolm Brogdon of the Bucks who is posting a better shooting percentage than Saric. It would certainly be interesting for a shared Rookie of the Year between Embiid and Saric, even though Embiid has contributed more. Dario may end up as the team’s “glue guy” when Ben Simmons comes back into the rotation. He can pass, he can get boards, and his defense is improving after every game.
Right around 10 PPG, 6 RPG, 2 APG, and a field goal percentage of 37.5% shows that Dario’s numbers in the fifty games that he’s played in so far don’t exactly jump out as an incredible. It could be that he’s only started 11 games and averages just 24 minutes of playing time, or it could be that he looks great in comparison to this year’s weak rookie class. Statistics shouldn’t really define Dario’s presence among the rest of this team.
Here’s a clip just under three minutes of recent Dario highlights (if you’re still not sure who this article is about)
From Super Dario to “Trust the Friendship”, Saric has become an important part of this team on social media as well. Even though it’s just internet memes, his rising popularity has shown how much this team came together on a personal level and more-so the energy role he has filled. Creating a winning culture doesn’t happen overnight and that’s why teams need playerss like Dario if they want to rebuild. Don’t let this guy go unnoticed.
Saric will be playing on Team World for the upcoming Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Weekend alongside his partner in crime, Joel Embiid (possibly). The last time players from Croatia lit up the league, Drazen Petrovic and Toni Kukoc were in the spotlight. The NBA is due for some Dario Saric. Coming off the bench nearly every single game he’s played hasn’t stopped Dario from making a strong impression on coaches and even players around the league. Just ask Jonas Jerebko of the Celtics how his ankles are doing.
Author: Tylar Pomroy
Twitter: @tylarpomroy, @SportingEdge1