Despite being just 20 years old playing in the Adriatic League, Dario Saric used the highest number of possessions among players in this group at 18.2 possessions per game, showing the incredible role he played on his way to winning the MVP of the Adriatic League Final 4. His stat line of 23 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and 5 blocks in the championship game showcases his unique versatility as a prospect.
That versatility is showcased in his situational stats as well. At 2.3 possessions per game, Saric the highest proportion of his possessions from isolations among players in this group and he's the only one to get any regular opportunities coming off of screens. He's also the most jump shot-heavy prospect in this group, with 45% of his offense coming from jump shots. His jumper is still a work in progress, as he hit on only 34.2% of them, good for 0.87 points per shot. That being said, his jumper has seen improvement over where it was a year ago, and could become a reliable weapon down the road.
If there's one price to be paid for Saric's versatility, it's that he turned the ball over on a higher percentage of his possessions than everybody else in this group, turning it over on 18.6% of his overall possessions and an astounding 36% of his post-up possessions. This needs to be put in a little bit of context, though, as he was used as a set-up man for Cibona far more than any other player in this group, and these numbers aren't so much of a reflection on his basketball IQ or skill level as they are on his role.
Scouting Report by Jonathan Givony. Video Breakdown by Mike Schmitz
One of the most closely scrutinized international prospects in recent memory, Dario Saric has been on NBA radar screens since he was 15 years old. We take an inventory of everything he displayed this season as an NBA prospect, as well as the things he still has to improve on.-Damien Inglis Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -DeAndre Daniels Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -Adreian Payne Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -Jordan Adams Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -Isaiah Austin Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -Jerami Grant Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -James Young Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -Gary Harris Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -Kyle Anderson Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -P.J. Hairston Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -Zach Lavine Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -Artem Klimenko Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -Tyler Ennis Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -Rodney Hood Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -Doug McDermott Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -Andrew Wiggins Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -Elfrid Payton Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -Marcus Smart Scouting Report and Video Breakdown -NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: C.J. Wilcox (Video Scouting Report) -NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: T.J. Warren (Video Scouting Report) -NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: A.J. Hammons (Video Scouting Report) -NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: K.J. McDaniels (Video Scouting Report) -NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: Deonte Burton (Video Scouting Report) -NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: Noah Vonleh (Video Scouting Report) -NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: Nik Stauskas (Video Scouting Report) -NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: Aaron Gordon (Video Scouting Report) -NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: Clint Capela (Video Scouting Report) -NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: Thanasis Antetokounmpo (Video Scouting Report) -NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: Shabazz Napier (Video Scouting Report) -NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: Bogdan Bogdanovic (Video Scouting Report) -NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: Joel Embiid (Video Scouting Report) -NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: Julius Randle (Video Scouting Report) -NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: Jabari Parker (Video Scouting Report) -Revisiting Giannis Antetokounmpo (Video Scouting Report) -Revisiting Damian Lillard (Video Scouting Report) -Revisiting Nikola Mirotic (Video Scouting Report) -Revisiting Alexis Ajinca (Video Scouting Report)Saric led the Adriatic league in scoring this season at just under 17 points per game, and did so on solid efficiency (58% true shooting percentage), despite shouldering a very heavy offensive load for Cibona (27% usage rate, 3rd highest in the league [min 20mpg]), winning the championship and earning MVP honors along the way.
Standing 6-10, Saric is arguably the most versatile offensive player in this draft class, showing the ability to handle the ball in transition, score on the block, operate in isolation situations in the half-court, play off the ball, and rebound the ball at a very high rate. He's probably also the most experienced player in this draft class, despite only turning 20 last month, playing solid minutes at the European Championships last summer, and helping Croatia qualify for the World Cup this summer by making the semifinals.
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.
Saric improved noticeably defensively as the season moved on, more-so due to his effort level and anticipation skills than anything. He's an extremely competitive player, running the floor hard, boxing out and doing his best to make-up for his physical shortcomings with aggressiveness and terrific timing. These traits help explain why he was such a prolific rebounder (11.7 per-40 this season), particularly on the defensive end, where he ranked second best in the Adriatic league per-40. He also gets quite a few blocks (1.1 per-40) and steals (1.4) for someone that doesn't have an incredibly long wingspan (measured 6-10 at the Nike Hoop Summit in 2012).
With that said, there are some concerns about how that might translate to the NBA level. 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.
Saric will likely see more time at the small forward position against higher level competition, but there are some question marks here as well. His lateral quickness is average, and he often looks either hunched over in his stance or completely on his heels, getting frequently burned by smaller players on the perimeter.
While Saric improved as a perimeter shooter this season, and really caught fire on a few occasions (making 8/16 3-pointers in two games at the Adriatic League Final Four [see video breakdown for example), he is still fairly inconsistent overall in this area, knocking down just 34% (44-131) of his attempts in 48 games this season in all the competitions he's played in thus far.
Saric is capable of knocking down open looks, but his release is somewhat slow and he has a slight hitch in his jumper that becomes more noticeable when he's being closely contested. He's far better with his feet set (36%) than he is off the dribble (31%), where his shot can get very flat. He's also still not the most consistent free throw shooter you'll find at just 71%, although that is an improvement over last season (66%). Saric reportedly has a very strong work ethic, though, which leaves room for optimism regarding him improving his shooting as his career moves on.
Getting stronger will help Saric not only defensively, but also in terms of his ability to absorb contact and finish plays around the basket. Not being a high flyer, he's unlikely to ever be an outstanding finisher inside the paint at the NBA level, but the added strength should help him do a better job of drawing fouls and also cutting down on his turnovers. Saric coughed the ball up on 20% of his possessions this season, a very high rate.
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.
The biggest question about Saric at the moment revolves around when he'll actually come to the NBA. He has been quoted on the record multiple times saying its his dream to play in the NBA, but the actual timing of his arrival is still up in the air. Saric's agent told us that at this moment he believes that is better to stay in Europe for a season or two, to get a taste of the Euroleague, and then to enter the NBA when he has more experience. (click here to see all the comments made about his decision to enter the draft and when he might come over).
Will a NBA team drafting in the lottery accept that? It's somewhat unusual (although not unprecedented) for a team to use such a high draft pick on someone they know is not going to come over right away, but two teams (Philadelphia and Orlando) in the top-12 having multiple picks helps his cause.
We've taken a more visual look at Saric's strengths and weaknesses thanks to game film from the Adriatic League in the following video scouting report, courtesy of Mike Schmitz.
All of our video scouting reports this season can be found here.
Dario Saric led his Cibona team to a historic Adriatic League Championship this past weekend, with wins over Red Star and Cedevita at Kombank arena in Belgrade. This was the first Adriatic League championship Cibona has ever won despite being inaugural members of the competition in 2001, and the first time a Croatian team has captured the title since KK Zadar won it in 2003 (back when only one Serbian team, Red Star, participated).
Saric, the reigning MVP of the league, who turned 20 years old just three weeks ago, was absolutely huge in the two game, single-elimination Final Four format, totaling 44 points, 26 rebounds, 13 assists and 5 blocks in 77 minutes, shooting a blistering 8-16 from beyond the arc. He was in turn named MVP of the Final Four as well.
His comments after the game were telling.
Before the game, I said that we will come here like Olympiacos did as underdogs and became Euroleague champions. You can say that I was born as a winner, but I believe that you are producing a winning mentality on your own. In my case when I was 12, I got this spirit and I believe that I will win each game.
In three to four weeks approximately, I will know where I will play next. Whatever I decide, the NBA will always be my dream. All guys who are in this draft this year, Parker, Wiggins, etc, would not be able to do with this team, what I did this season.
An exclusive wide-ranging interview with Dario Saric's new agent Misko Raznatovic of Beobasket declaring his intentions to enter the 2014 NBA Draft and laying out the plan for his new client for this summer and beyond.
DraftExpress: Will Dario Saric be entering the 2014 NBA Draft?
Misko Raznatovic: Dario will declare for the 2014 draft in the next seven days for sure, what's a logical step after the best season in his career. He was voted the best young player in Europe by FIBA, as well as MVP of the Adriatic League.
DraftExpress: Will Saric keep his name in the draft at the withdrawal deadline?
Misko Raznatovic: It is very difficult to say at this moment. His target is to be in the top 10 picks of the draft this year, maybe it would be acceptable to be a lottery pick. If we have a clear situation for getting where we would like him to be drafted, then for sure he will keep his name in.
DraftExpress: What will need to happen for Saric to join a NBA team immediately next season?
Misko Raznatovic: It's very difficult to predict now. Dario's ultimate dream is to be a NBA All-Star and he absolutely does not accept anything less than that. At this moment he believes that is better to stay in Europe for a season or two, to get a taste of the Euroleague, and then to enter the NBA when he has more experience. He believes that it will be a shortcut for making his dream. But he did not make a final decision about that, and I will not absolutely exclude that option as well. He just wants to make a proper step and be in a place where he will be able to develop and play.
DraftExpress: How can a NBA team be confident that we aren't talking about another Fran Vazquez situation, where the player gets picked in the lottery and decides not to ever sign a NBA contract, which makes the team that drafted him look incredibly foolish and maybe costs a GM his job?
Misko Raznatovic: I really believe that after talking for five minutes with Dario, that doubt will be gone. He cannot wait to become a NBA player, and this is his ultimate goal. He will be in the league no later than 2016, and with good chances to start earlier.
DraftExpress: Why is Dario's father so anti-NBA?
Misko Raznatovic: He is absolutely not anti-NBA. He is just against him coming to the league this summer, because he believes it's too early for him. He was teammates with Drazen Petrovic, along with other Croatian former NBA players from that period, and he strongly believes that they (Kukoc, Radja, Petrovic) had success in the NBA due to coming later in their career (after a couple of serious seasons in the Euroleague).
DraftExpress: Will Dario's father continue to give interviews about his future constantly while he is in the draft and ultimately joins the NBA?
Misko Raznatovic: When you talk with him, it's always interesting and fun. He is open to talking, and journalists used it to get some sensational interviews. There's nothing especially wrong there, and every day it will be better and better. He worries about the future of his son, and nothing more than that.
DraftExpress: What communication has Anadolu Efes had or attempted to have with Dario about signing a contract next season?
Misko Raznatovic: There's been practically no communication until now. As you know European teams do not build their teams in April, especially not when you're talking about a huge buyout, like in Dario's case.
DraftExpress: ESPN reported that he already signed a three year contract with Efes. How true is that?
Misko Raznatovic: That's absolutely false information. As I clearly stated Dario did not decide anything about his summer direction (NBA or Europe). People believe this due to my link with Mr. Dusan Ivkovic (a client of mine, rumored to be their next coach). If you follow European basketball sites, Micic, Krstic and Doelmann (all clients of mine) are also linked with Efes.
DraftExpress: Why has Dario's situation the last few years always seemed so unstable?
Misko Raznatovic: I really don't want to comment about the past, but I am sure that this instability is over. We talked a lot, and agreed about everything. We have our plan now and I believe that in the future everything will go accordingly. He's a special person, and I really enjoy talking with him and representing him.
Follow Misko Raznatovic on twitter for further updates on Saric and all his other many clients in the NBA and Europe.
Dario Saric has already withdrawn from the draft, which might be a good thing considering he ranked as the least efficient shooter and overall scorer, and most turnover prone player in this group. His 0.84 PPP and 22% turnover rate are a bit misleading though, as he struggled mightily when he first returned to action in the Adriatic League before looking more comfortable and settling in nicely in the far weaker Croatian League later on. It will be interesting to see how much he can improve in various areas next season.
-What are you feelings about playing in the NBA next season? -Which NBA player will you be most excited to play against? -Which NBA player is your style of play closest to? -Is there a particular team you feel your style fits with? -How many times have you been to the United States? What was different from Croatia?
-Is there any part of the United States you would want to live in? -What was it that made you decide to enter the draft this year? -How have you changed as a player in the past year? -What position do you think you will play in the NBA? -What do you need to continue working on to reach your potential?
-How has your season been so far in Croatia? -What are your plans for the pre-draft process? -What are your goals for your playing career? -Who do you think wins the NBA title this year?
Still not draft-eligible despite competing in his second consecutive Nike Hoop Summit, Dario Saric had a strong showing in Portland, impressing scouts with the versatility he possesses for a player his size. After participating in the event last season, it was clear that the Croatian prospect had gained a comfort level with the format and level of competition level of the Hoop Summit, playing much better than he did in 2011.
Standing 6'10 with a matching wingspan, Saric spent the majority of the week at power forward, but clearly has his future on the wing, often bringing the ball up the floor for the World Select Team. Having added 10 pounds to his still wiry frame, Saric looks more physically mature than he did the last time we saw him, even if he still has plenty of room to grow. His lack of bulk limits him at times around the basket, and while he isn't terribly explosive, he shows impressive fluidity for a player his size and a unique skill level.
As was the case the last time we watched him, Saric's most impressive skills are his ball handling ability and court vision. Though the former FIBA Europe U-16 MVP's first step doesn't allow him to blow by defenders at will, his rangy strides give him to ability to attack gaps and turn the corner off the bounce. Showing terrific savvy changing speeds and great timing attacking his defender when unbalanced, Saric did a fine job all week getting into the lane and either finishing with deft touch and excellent body-control, or finding the open man with a quick pass. Tallying 5 assists and 4 turnovers in the Hoop Summit game, Saric still has room to improve his decision-making, as he forces the issue driving into traffic at times, but his ability to create offense for his teammates off the dribble is certainly impressive for a 6'10 18-year old.
Away from the basket, Saric showed decent touch from the perimeter, but remains unreliable for stretches. Shooting the ball extremely well on the first day of practice, but not as well the next, Saric has a somewhat unorthodox release that sometimes leads to the ball coming off his hand with less than ideal rotation. When Saric was knocking down shots from the midrange and perimeter, he made plays on a regular basis in practice regardless of who was defending him, but he's still working on becoming consistent with this part of his game, which is a huge key for his development.
As a rebounder, Saric did a nice job all week, using his size and excellent hands to corral the ball off the iron at a good rate. Recording 14 rebounds against the USA Junior Select Team, Saric was able to show why he's averaged a double-double on multiple occasions at the junior level. Though his strength and explosiveness hamper him at times, his uncanny ability to read the ball off the rim allows him to overcome his limitations with consistent effort and excellent anticipation.
Defensively, Saric lacks great lateral quickness to deny dribble penetration, but is able to compensate to some degree by playing off his man and using his length to stay attached to contest jump shots. He was beaten a few times off the dribble over the course of the week, and it will be interesting to see how his defense improves as his body continues to develop.
After a quiet debut in the Hoop Summit last season, Saric looked better in practice and was one of the catalysts for the World Select Team's 84-75 victory this year. Making his Euroleague debut earlier this season, Saric is an international prospect worth tracking closely as he is a potential early entrant for the NBA draft in the coming seasons.
At just 17 years of age, Dario Saric was one of the youngest players at the U-19 World Championship. Nevertheless, he had no problem asserting himself in this setting. He made significant contributions as a scorer, rebounder and passer, while playing a tournament high 36 minutes per game.
Saric is the same ultra-talented prospect we've written about on a few occasions alreadya 6-10 guard with outstanding ball-handling skills and incredible fluidity. He can grab a rebound and drive coast to coast, create his own shot at will, find the open man with terrific court vision, and score in a variety of different ways. There are some cracks starting to appear in his evaluation, though, which create doubts about whether he's the can't miss prospect he's been made out to be.
Saric's style of play was very predictable at this tournament, owing in large part to the incredibly unimaginative, isolation-based half-court offense his team ran in Latvia. He had the freedom to do essentially whatever he wanted in this setting and, more often than not, chose to simply pound the ball on the perimeter trying to shake his man, then lower his shoulder and attempt to force his way to the basket. Once this option was exhausted, he'd either try to thread the needle to a teammate with a spectacular bullet pass, or pull up for a low-percentage, off-balance jumper.
Between the turnovers, the missed shots and the disappointing eighth place finish, there were some obvious moments of brilliance mixed inusually involving Saric's ability to change of speeds or his uncanny skills of anticipation.
But there were also some doubts raised about whether he'd be able to operate successfully at the senior level in quite the same manner, seeing as he already has major issues finishing in the lane and does not appear to have the perimeter shooting skills to compensate for it.
Defensively, Saric struggled to stay in front of quicker, stronger wing players on the perimeter, and he didn't seem to put great effort into his work here, preferring to instead gamble excessively for steals.
More concerning was the poor body language he displayed at times, getting easily frustrated with his teammates, referees and opposing players, and showing something of a bad temper. There are concerns that the attention he's received at such an early age, for instance being anointed the next Toni Kukoc by the Croatian media, has gone to his head.
At such a young age, Saric still has plenty of time to work on his weaknesses and take advantage of his considerable talent. It's important for everyone involved to realize that the road he needs to take to reach his potential is still a long one.
The youngest player at the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit, only turning 17 during the week of the event, Croatian forward Dario Saric showed why people are excited about his future down the road. He has an excellent feel for the game and a very high skill level for a player his age at 6'10, playing as a small forward and looking very comfortable operating on the perimeter.
His body is still filling out (weighing 215 lbs in Portland), and his age showed at times, as his thin frame prevented him from competing inside and on the glass on occasion. His decision-making hasn't quite caught up to his skill level either, as evidenced by his 3 turnovers during the game on Saturday night.
The most impressive aspect of Saric's game is his outstanding court vision and passing skills for a player his size. He really stood out in one of the scrimmages during the week, throwing multiple eye-popping passes to open teammates. Although he's not terribly explosive, he's a very versatile player who is able to handle the ball on the perimeter and play a point-forward type role, which is very intriguing.
Saric made some 3-pointers throughout the week and went 1-2 from behind the arc during the game, but his shot looks a bit ugly and has some sidespin on it. He's talented enough that he's able to make some shots in spite of that, but working on his mechanics would likely greatly benefit him in the future, and being able to be a consistent deep threat to go along with his size and ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays would make him very dangerous.
Saric's physical tools could be a bit of an obstacle, as he lacks the ideal lateral quickness to stay in front of many small forwards. His size and length (6-11 ¾ wingspan) will help to compensate for that, as will his instincts and toughness, which he showed all week on the glass and in the game, where he grabbed 6 rebounds in just 14 minutes.
While it's still very early to draw too many conclusions about Saric since he's so young, he clearly showed that he has the potential to grow into a very nice player down the road. NBA scouts will be keeping a close eye on his development in the future.
One of the youngest prospects in our database at just 16 years old, Dario Saric is amongst the most promising prospects in the European game. Though he may not have matched Ricky Rubio's legendary 51 point, 24 rebound, 11 assist triple-double from the 2006 U16 European Championships, his 35 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds were decisive in Croatia's rout of Lithuania in the 2010 U16 final. The tallest player for the Croatian side standing 6'8, Saric showed his versatility and put his skill level on full display, leading the competition in scoring and rebounding while finishing second in assists in carrying his often overmatched team to a first place finish as its first option and primary ball-handler.
Though Saric was tested by Caja Laboral, he opted to stay in his native Croatia to play for KK Zagreb, who has made every effort to give him opportunities to gain experience. Loaned to Dubrava for Croatian League games, Zagreb has kept Saric on their roster for EuroChallenge competition, Adriatic League play, and will allow him to play against his peers for their youth team. In maximizing the amount of game action Saric sees, Zagreb hopes to accelerate the maturation of the highly-touted, young point-forward.
Much of Saric's development as a player in the immediate future will come in his decision-making. Functioning as a do-everything point guard at the U16 Championships, but working primarily off the ball as a small forward in limited minutes in Adriatic League play, Saric has a tremendous feel for the game, shows great touch from the perimeter, proves to be a solid passer, and shows a degree of versatility that is extremely rare for a player his age. Despite all that, he remains a bit turnover prone, especially when handling the ball regularly as evidenced by the 12 turnovers he registered on top of his triple-double in the U16 Championship Game.
Just as Saric has room to improve his game, he has plenty of room to improve from a physical standpoint, a key concern regarding his NBA potential. Standing 6'8, Saric has terrific size for a small forward already, but lacks NBA caliber footspeed and the strength to take care of the ball against more aggressive defenders. Should he continue to grow, which is entirely possible, he could play multiple positions in the European game, but will need get stronger and continue to work on his athleticism to improve his ability to create offense and defend any position effectively on the NBA level.
Considering that we're talking about a player that won't turn 17 until April of next year, we would be remiss to draw any definitive conclusions about Saric at this point, as he's just scratching the surface of his potential. There is no question that he has a fantastic skill-level for a player his age and is dominant in his age group. However, he's seeing just 12 minutes per-game in the Adriatic League. We'll be monitoring his progress as his role grows both this year and in the future.