NBA Draft Notebook: Is Dario Saric Worth a Top-10 2014 Pick?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterApril 17, 2014

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Picture this—you've got a late-lottery pick, and all the top dogs have already been taken. Nobody left is a sure thing.

Still, there are some good-looking prospects available, but none of them were highlighted as must-have targets on your board.

One of the options to consider is Croatian star Dario Saric, only there's a chance he plans on staying in Europe instead of coming right over to the NBA

Evaluating him as a prospect is tough enough—now you have to decide how to weigh Saric's potentially delayed and uncertain arrival into the equation. 

The Orlando Magic know a little something about this particular pickle and how the wrong decision can backfire. They drafted Spanish big man Fran Vazquez No. 11 overall back in 2005—and he never showed up.

Saric's new agent, Misko Raznatovic, recently spoke with Jonathan Givony of, and he made some pretty revealing comments about his client.

"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," Raznatovic told Givony. 

Petr David Josek

Let's not forget—Saric withdrew from the draft at the last second in June 2013, so his non-commitment is nothing new. 

His agent says Saric "will declare for the 2014 draft in the next seven days for sure," but when asked if he'll keep his name in through the deadline in June, Raznatovic responded with: "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."

There's always some risk attached to drafting international, given the different game and competition overseas. If you're going to gamble on Saric this year, chances are it's going to cost you a lottery pick. 

And it probably should. Based on what he's done this season and the promise he's flashed for the future, the potential reward justifies a pick that high. 

He's regarded as one of, if not the, top international NBA prospect in Europe. Saric was just named 2013 FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year and MVP of the Adriatic League, which he led in both scoring and rebounding. 

He just might be the most versatile offensive player in this year's field (if he chooses to enter and stay in it). At 6'10", Saric has the mobility and foot speed of a 3 with the size of an NBA 4. 

For most big men, Saric is a difficult matchup on the perimeter or in space where he's elusive off the dribble:

You sometimes forget he's actually 6'10" out there, considering how well he moves. 

Saric could pose as an awfully tough cover away from the rim for most slower power forwards, and if he ends up drawing wings, he should have some favorable height advantages. 

Though not known for his outside stroke, there's no doubt he's a capable shooter and one that should improve with time. Saric knocked down 22 three-pointers in 26 Adriatic League games, and assuming his accuracy and range only get better, he's got the ability to stretch the defense as a drive-and-dish target or pick-and-pop option.

As a scorer, Saric can get himself buckets in a variety of different ways, whether he's cutting off the ball, spotting up, attacking off the dribble or finishing in the post. 

But his motor, energy and basketball instincts are also a big part of his game. 

He's a relentless presence on the glass, and he's an excellent passer in the half court. Saric averaged three assists per game in the Adriatic League, and he recently triple-doubled with 20 points, 13 boards and 10 assists in a win over KK Zagreb. 

I like to think of Saric as a high-end glue guy.

Defense is where there's the most uncertainty regarding Saric's transition to the pros. It's fair to question if he has the lateral quickness to secure the perimeter or strength to defend the post against some of the tougher interior bigs.

But Saric's offensive versatility as an inside-outside scorer, passer and rebounder is what ultimately drives his NBA upside. 

Personally, I've got Saric ranked as a top-10 prospect, though I don't think he's a fit for everyone. From a talent perspective, Saric should be worth it, but only to a team that can afford to wait or draft-and-stash.

Petr David Josek

If you ask me, Saric should be a target for a team like the Philadelpha 76ers that has two picks in the lottery—one projected No. 2 and the other No. 10. Based on where this franchise is at in its rebuilding process, it's pretty clear there isn't a rush. This is a team that could continue to tank while letting its young players develop and Saric season abroad.

The same goes for a team like the Magic—another franchise with two lottery picks—one projected at No. 3 and the other at No. 12. Just think how nice it would be for Orlando if a 22-year-old Saric came over in 2016 to Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic entering their primes and potentially a guy like Duke's Jabari Parker, Kansas' Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid or Australia's Dante Exum with at least a year of NBA experience.

However, teams like the Sacramento Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons—anxious franchises likely looking for a safe, immediate contribution—might want to avoid Saric's situation unless he insists he'll be coming over right away. 

Saric is going to be a tough call for a number of general managers drafting outside the top seven or eight. It's early and things can change, but it looks like there's a falloff in talent and upside after Wiggins, Embiid, Parker, Exum, Noah Vonleh of Indiana, Julius Randle of Kentucky and Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State. You can throw in Arizona's Aaron Gordon if you want to.

With those guys off the board, Saric is going to be a name the remaining teams selecting will at least have to consider. 

Because a few of them might actually be built to take on the risk that comes with chasing his appetizing upside. 

2014 NBA Draft Big Board
1Joel EmbiidKansasCFreshman
2Andrew WigginsKansasSFFreshman
3Jabari ParkerDukeSF/PFFreshman
4Dante ExumAustraliaPG/SG1995
5Noah VonlehIndianaPFFreshman
6Julius RandleKentuckyPFFreshman
7Marcus SmartOklahoma StatePG/SGSophomore
8Aaron GordonArizonaSF/PFFreshman
9Dario SaricCroatiaSF/PF1994
10Gary HarrisMichigan StateSGSophomore
11Nik StauskasMichiganSGSophomore
12Tyler EnnisSyracusePGFreshman
13James YoungKentuckySFFreshman
14Zach LaVineUCLAPG/SGFreshman
15Doug McDermottCreightonSFSenior
16Adreian PayneMichigan StatePFSenior
17Cleanthony EarlyWichita StateSFSenior
18Rodney HoodDukeSFSophomore
19Jusuf NurkicBosniaC1994
20Kyle AndersonUCLAPG/SFSophomore
21P.J. HairstonTexas LegendsSG
22Shabazz NapierConnecitcutPGSenior
23T.J. WarrenNorth Carolina StateSFSophomore
24Jerami GrantSyracuseSF/PFSophomore
25Glenn Robinson IIIMichiganSFSophomore
26Clint CapelaSwiterlandPF/C1994
27Elfrid PaytonLouisiana-LafayettePGJunior
28K.J. McDanielsClemsonSFJunior
29C.J. WilcoxWashingtonSGSenior
30Nick JohnsonArizonaPG/SGJunior
Bleacher Report


Update Abroad 


Clint Capela, Switzerland, 6'11", PF/C, 1994

Capela failed to make an impression at the 2014 Nike Hoop Summit where he struggled to stand out, particularly during the main event. Capela finished with just five points and three boards in 13 minutes against Team USA, and though he didn't get many touches, his offensive limitations were fairly obvious. 

However, he did measure in at 6'11", 222 pounds with a sensational 7'4.5" wingspan, but at this point, his physical tools are just too far ahead of his skill set.

Capela is a terrific finisher thanks to his size, length and above-the-rim athleticism, but I'm not sure he given teams enough of a reason to reach in the lottery. Here are his highlights from Summit:

Vasilije Micic, Serbia, 6'5", PG, 1994

Just after declaring for the NBA draft, Vasilije Micic went for 20 points and five assists in Mega Vizura's most recent win.

At 6'5", Micic has excellent size for a point guard, and where he lacks in athleticism he makes up for with instincts and a natural feel for the position. 

He'll likely be competing for a spot in the back of Round 1 with a couple of other point guards including Connecticut's Shabazz Napier and Louisiana-Lafayette's Elfrid Payton. 

Fourth-Quarter Thoughts

  • Jabari Parker has officially declared for the NBA draft, which likely prompted a couple of general managers to take a huge sigh of relief. Parker really seems like the safest option on the board at No. 1, though his inferior upside could cause him to fall to No. 3 behind Wiggins and Embiid. At the end of the day, that No. 1 pick is going to come down to who gets it—because I wouldn't be surprised if the teams at the top each had different-looking draft boards.
  • Willie Cauley-Stein made a surprising decision to return as a junior despite so few centers eligible for this year's draft. And with top recruit 7'0" Karl Towns coming in and center Dakari Johnson likely returning as well, there's going to be some serious crowding up front. Still, it's tough to knock the guy for wanting to come back to school. But I've got a feeling he'll end up having left money on the table by the time he is eventually ready to declare. 
  • Louisville's Montrezl Harrell was another guy who surprisingly chose to put off the draft. Harrell came on strong late in the season, and he finished with impressive averages of 14 points, 8.4 boards and 1.3 blocks a game on nearly 61 percent shooting. But I think he made a wise decision—Harrell was no lock for the lottery, and he'll have plenty of opportunities to add to his game and boost his stock as a junior. Because with his incredible athleticism and power, his upside isn't going anywhere.
  • Syracuse's Jerami Grant chose to declare for the draft, and though he's not ready to make the jump fundamentally, it was the right move. With teammate/point guard Tyler Ennis also leaving for the draft, Grant wouldn't have been in a good spot to improve next season at Syracuse. North Carolina's James Michael McAdoo was put in a similar spot a few years ago when his point guard, Kendall Marshall, declared for the draft. But McAdoo returned, and he was ultimately exposed as a sophomore and junior. Now, he's entering the 2014 draft just hoping for an unlikely first-round bid. 
  • Baylor's Isaiah Austin declared for the draft, via Bleacher Report's Jason King, after seeing his scoring and rebounding numbers both plummet. But at 7'1" with the ability to knock down shots from all over the floor, Austin is a candidate to rise up boards during the workout process prior to the draft. He was on and off throughout his two-year career at Baylor, but when in doubt, teams traditionally lean toward size. 
  • Nick Johnson declared for the draft following his terrific season as Arizona's catalyst. Johnson doen't have a natural position—at 6'3", he's undersized for the 2 and he lacks the instincts of a natural point guard. But athleticism sells, and there aren't many better athletes than Johnson. I've got Johnson locked in as an NBA combine riser following the agility, sprinting and vertical leaping tests. 


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