Dario Saric is ready to make the NBA jump...so long as it's with the Los Angeles Lakers or Boston Celtics.
The sweet-shooting, high-scoring Croatian big man is projected as one of the top picks in this year's draft. Cherished for his versatility on both ends of the floor, he offers a skill set that should translate into the stretch forward-heavy Association.
Potential has never been the issue with Saric. Availability has. He has become a "Draft at Your Own Risk" prospect, because it's unclear whether he'll journey stateside right away.
David Pick of EuroBasket.com offered some clarity on that matter:
Dario Saric, I'm told, has let it be known he plans to go to NBA next season if drafted by Celtics or Lakers.— David Pick (@IAmDPick) May 29, 2014
Boston and L.A. have high picks with Celtics at 6 and Lakers at 7. Both high on Dario Saric's wish list.— David Pick (@IAmDPick) May 29, 2014
This changes everything for, you know, the Celtics and Lakers. They don't have to wonder if selecting Saric will entail them stashing him overseas for a few years before he's ready to play. They can take him at No. 6 or No. 7 knowing he won't make them wait.
As for every other NBA team, the same cautions still apply. There's no guarantee Saric comes to the States if he's asked to wear anything other than purple and gold or green.
Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman has Saric going to the Denver Nuggets at No. 11, making him a draft-night reach for two teams dwelling in the top seven. But Wasserman also offers a huge caveat, writing that if Saric is prepared to come over immediately, "he's worthy of a top-10 pick."
If he's worthy of a top-10 selection, the question then becomes: Do the Celtics or Lakers need him?
Boston has gaping holes in its frontcourt, but it needs a true center more than it does a floor-spacing forward. Both Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger fill those slots. The Celtics could also re-sign Kris Humphries, another forward who renders Saric's arrival overkill.
There's always the possibility Coach Brad Stevens tries to run with Olynyk or even Saric at the 5, but Sullinger's father, Satch, recently told ABC 6 (via Mass Live) that the Celtics "kind of promised" his son they would acquire a legitimate center. Saric doesn't fit that bill.
The Lakers have a bigger need for the 6'10" 20-year-old, whose skill set is essentially a fusion of their entire frontcourt rotation from this past season.
"Saric is like a Swiss Army knife out there—at 6'10", he handles the ball, facilitates, scores and shoots," Wasserman writes. "He also led the Adriatic League in rebounding—the same league of which he was named MVP."
It seems like a natural fit to an extent. Los Angeles needs Saric, and he wants Los Angeles.
Thing is, he's not the only one.
A number of top draft prospects have expressed interest in playing for the Lakers. Australian guard Dante Exum has already cited Los Angeles as a good fit. Duke's Jabari Parker and Creighton's Doug McDermott have too:
Doug Mcdermott on possibility of being a Laker: "Dream come true, I would like that" Jabari: "Likewise, what Doug said" (On @ESPNLA710)— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) April 11, 2014
More recently, so has Kentucky's Julius Randle.
Which team would Dario Saric fit better with?
"It would be extremely fun,” Randle said of playing with Kobe Bryant, per the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina. "I could learn a lot from him and talk to one of the greatest, if not the greatest player of all time. There’s a lot I could learn from and pick his brain in just how to get better and dealing with adversity."
Basically, Saric better get in line with his fellow Laker-lovers, or else hope that this pre-draft ploy helps him slip to the Celtics—much later—at No. 17.