Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dario Saric is Worth Trading Up from #12 to Acquire

My thoughts on what to do with the Magic's #4 pick are well known *cough*Dante Exum*cough* But what about the #12 pick? It's pretty evident that the departure of JJ Redick in the February 2013 trade from Orlando has left a bit of a 3-point shooting void. Yeah the Magic have Arron Afflalo, guys like Doron Lamb and E'Twaun Moore, and Maurice Harkless is being groomed into a 3-point specialist. That's not enough.

Taking a peak at mock drafts such as the most recent one from DraftExpress, it appears that the Magic will be in a spot to get one of Dario Saric, Doug McDermott, or Nik Stauskas. All are sharpshooters in their own right, all can fit into Jacque Vaughn's program nicely. One of them will certainly not be available at #12...Dario Saric. Dario is a top 5 talent in this draft who could possibly be on the board at #8 or #9.

Why the confidence in a Euro? Because Saric is a 20-year-old with the athleticism and confidence of a Danilo Gallinari, but with more fine-tuned ball handling skills. Toni Kukoc and Hedo Turkoglu comparisons have been thrown out by others, but I see a more aggressive Gallinari in Saric's playing style. This isn't an Otis Smith run front office. If Saric gets picked, then Rob Hennigan and his employees will have done the research. There's no need for Fran Vazquez-type worrying.

The Croatian is a one-man fast break and someone who has point forward experience. Outstanding court vision. Can spot-up or pull-up on jump shots. Capable post-up moves. Can rebound well for his position. Doesn't give up on a defensive play. There's a reason why the current member of Cibona Zagreb has been on scouts' radars since he was age 15. The guy knows how to carry a team and win. Saric on numerous occasions over the years has displayed a prolific scoring ability. The list of accolades is impressive at his young age already:

FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship MVP in 2010
NIKE International Junior Championship MVP and Champion in 2011
FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship MVP and Gold Medalist in 2012
Croatian League Finals MVP and Champion in 2013
FIBA European Young Player of the Year in 2013
Adriatic League MVP in 2014
Adriatic League Finals MVP and Champion in 2014

Below is Dario's fantastic Adriatic League Final Four tournament video breakdown and stat line courtesy of DraftExpress:

The 3-point shooting isn't an anomaly. Neither are the constant double-double capabilities.

There is a rumor circulating that Dario Saric only wants to get picked by the Celtics or Lakers at pick #6 or #7. THAT IS FALSE! A Croatian news outlet falsified the quote. It is true that Dario's famous basketball legend father would prefer his son to remain in Europe another year or two. However, Dario's agent has remained adamant that Dario will very likely come over if he's a top 10 pick. That's where proper due diligence comes in play.

Money is going to play a factor. Dario can easily make over $2 million per season if he stays overseas. The #9 overall pick makes $2.1 million in their first season. Twelfth overall makes three hundred thousand less. That's another reason why it's important for Saric to not drop past the top ten, because then media doubt starts to come into play on whether he will immediately come over to the U.S. or not. The Sixers appear to value Dario at #10, and I can't envision the Croatian falling past them. Orlando would need to trade up from #12.

So let's say the Magic don't move up and Dario is off the board? Stauskas isn't 21 years old yet, and he's my second favorite option. The 6'6" wing is a bit more mobile and agile than the just under 6'8" McDermott. Also, Nik's quick release appears like it'll translate better into the NBA. Between Stauskas and McDermott, I'd give the nod to Nik. However, if Saric and Stauskas are off the board at #12, Orlando should be very pleased if Doug is available to be selected. Neither should be compared to Adam Morrison. It's tough to say where on the 6-through-12 pick range the three prospects will land.

If Saric, McDermott, and Stauskas are all off the board by #12, then the Magic have some deep thinking to do. It may mean Aaron Gordon will be available with the twelfth selection. If the Magic don't select a PF with their 4th pick, then Orlando should immediately snag Gordon. I buy into the Blake Griffin comparisons.

Others being discussed as viable options are James Young, Rodney Hood, Zach LaVine, Tyler Ennis, and Elfrid Payton. Hood's lack of wingspan combined with unimpressive athleticism is worrisome, as were his shooting inconsistencies. Young's athleticism has also been overrated based on combine figures. Hood and Young don't have on-court identities, are both raw, and I feel are not worthy of the #12 selection.

If Orlando picks Dante Exum or Marcus Smart with their earlier 1st round selection, then you can count Ennis, LaVine, and Payton out as possibilities. Ennis tested well at the combine to support his body of work at Syracuse, so he's at the top of my list. While I don't trust anything Payton's done on the court to risk a #12 pick on. LaVine is an athletic freak who would be a point guard project in the way Reece Gaines and Jerryl Sasser were during the Doc Rivers Magic reign. That didn't exactly go swimmingly. LaVine apparently has a 46-inch running vertical. But leaping ability doesn't mean good basketball player.

Adreian Payne is a great talent who very well could be a first round steal. However, his health worries everyone. Rightfully so. Particularly his unique circumstances with his lungs. Also, he's 23 years old and has many similarities to Kyle O'Quinn minus the court vision.

In keeping my eye on Saric, I've also seen Cedevita's Jusuf Nurkic. The 6'11" Bosnian big man has some intriguing post-up moves. There is paint protection potential, but his defense is lacking and he gets beaten about like a rag doll against veteran big men. That doesn't translate well into the Association. Nurkic is projected to go to the Nuggets at #11, and he's not someone the Magic should contemplate obtaining. The 'Bosnian Boogie' is an intriguing nickname too, and Jusuf is renowned for his offensive efficiency.

Back to Saric. Dario can win another Croatian League championship as his Cibona team is taking on Nurkic's Cedevita squad in the Final Round. Dario's June 3rd stat line? 24 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists on 6-of-12 shooting and 9-of-10 free throw line shooting in 34 minutes. Saric is also on the Croatian senior national team squad again for the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

His intensity at last year's EuroBasket was contagious. Dario will be facing Magic player Maurice Harkless' Puerto Rican national team on September 4th in Sevilla, Spain. Saric and Nikola Vucevic are also allegedly friends from back when Vucevic played in Europe during the last Lockout. I initially had issues with Saric's attitude and maturity, but I've seen the necessary strides in personal growth. Dario is far removed from his DUI a year and a half ago. But that's something Hennigan and the Magic front office will have to discuss.

How do the Magic move up from #12 to snag Dario? The easy answer is Arron Afflalo. No one knows if Afflalo has even peaked yet. There won't be room for the 28-year-old in the starting backcourt if Orlando takes Exum or Smart to team up with Victor Oladipo. It wouldn't be fair to Arron to ask him to come off the bench either. He was almost an All-Star last season.

The Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Hornets are two franchises that covet the services of the veteran. The Kings hold the #8 pick while the Hornets own the #9 selection. A package of Afflalo and the #12 selection would net GM Rob Hennigan the three/four spot jump necessary to be in range to get Saric.

A potential starting lineup of Nikola Vucevic, Dario Saric, Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo, and Dante Exum would immediately be able to compete for a playoff spot. The versatility is scary. That's four guys who can all handle the ball. If Saric isn't as good at rebounding as he is in the jostling Croatian and Adriatic Leagues, then that's where you have guys like Kyle O'Quinn and Dewayne Dedmon (plus any other signings) available to slide in next to 'Vooch'.

Saric is worth the gamble to move up and get. He's not a 'can't miss' prospect. No one is. But Dario has a tall enough ceiling to where he can be an international superstar in the way guys like Dirk Nowitzki became. It's the year 2014 and foreign scouting is light years ahead of where it was a decade ago. June 26th is approaching.

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