Apr 12, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; A view of the Phoenix Suns logo before the game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Suns at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Suns 101-98. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Draft: Dario Saric could be the next great point forward


Dario Saric is one of the more intriguing prospects in the upcoming NBA Draft. While Dante Exum has stolen much of the spotlight from an international-prospect perspective, Saric has a lot of skills in place that could lead to him becoming a very solid player in the NBA, and he could certainly fit well on a team like the Phoenix Suns. Saric is really a player that likes to run up and down the court in transition, and his game should translate fairly well to the NBA.

Strengths

Saric’s strengths come from his ability to understand the game of basketball, which he does at a level well beyond that of a typical 20-year-old. Whereas Dante Exum is considered one of the best on-ball players in this year’s draft, Saric is really a master of the opposite. Saric’s off-ball movement is impeccable, and he knows which cuts to make to get himself open, especially in transition. For a player that is 6’10, Saric is incredibly deft at putting himself in the right position to catch a pass and make the right play, but that doesn’t mean that he lacks the ability to score with the ball in his hands.

While Saric struggled a bit to finish in the post against bigger power forwards, he will likely be far more effective as a post threat in the NBA, as he is expected to transition to the small forward position (a la Kevin Durant and LeBron James). At 6’10, Saric will be able to back a lot of smaller guys down in the post, and when teams try to throw a bigger defender at him, Saric will be more than able to back the ball out and reset, taking over the point-guard duties for his team. The ball-handling ability of Saric will allow him to pull larger defenders away from the basket, thus creating space for a slashing guard or forward to cut to the rim.

When he does have the ball, Saric is really clever at seeing plays as they develop, which also translates to the defensive side of the ball, resulting in many steals and blocks. Saric’s ability to read the other team’s offense often leads to more opportunities for him to showcase his skills in transition, especially considering that he manages to keep many of the shots that he blocks in play, similar to a Jeff Withey, although it should be noted that Saric is far from a lockdown defender (at this point in his career at least).

Weaknesses

Saric is not going to blow anyone away with his scoring ability or athleticism, which can be problematic, considering that teams often rely on their wings to carry much of the load on offense. Saric is a decent three-point shooter for his size, but he’ll still need to improve in that area, as he shot less than 35 percent last year. Additionally, Saric will need to continue to grow his post game, although it should improve given the fact that he’ll likely be defended by other 3s in the NBA, rather than power forwards.

Saric’s main weakness, however, is the fact that he struggles to really guard any one specific position on the floor. While Saric can be really effective in a zone defense or against a similar type of player, he tends to struggle against prototypical 3s and 4s. Saric really needs to improve his defensive stance, as he has a tendency to overplay shooters on the perimeter, which allows them to burn him off the dribble and get to the rim. Saric also needs to get better at containing bigger players as well, as he often gets pushed around in the post, and he doesn’t really have the length to recover, as his wingspan is just 6’10 (the same as his height). For this reason, Dario Saric allowed opponents to shoot nearly 50 percent in the post, according to Draft Express, which obviously is far from ideal. Regardless, it is important to remember that Saric turned 20 in April, meaning that he still has a lot of potential to grow as a player.

How Saric would fit with the Suns

While Saric does have his struggles on the defensive side of the ball, he really fits well on a team like Phoenix. Saric would give the Suns another ball handler in transition. Additionally he can be a guy who can come in and provide a spark by making the right plays. The Suns could also choose to play very small, with Saric at the 4 (or potentially at the 5 if he could add some muscle), which would make it very difficult for other teams to matchup with and stay in front of the Suns.

Most experts have Saric being drafted toward the end of the lottery, meaning that he could be available when the Suns pick 14th (barring a dramatic move up in the NBA Draft via trade). It’s important to note that should the Suns draft Dario Saric, they will have additional flexibility with how they chose to handle Channing Frye, who is set to become a free agent after this coming season. If the Suns like what they see, they could allow Frye to walk and continue to develop Saric, who really does have the potential to become a very solid player in the NBA.


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