NBA Position: PF, fringe SF
General Information: 20 year old from Sibenik, Croatia. Most recently played for KK Cibona of the Croatian League. Member of the Croatian national team.
Measurables: 6'10, 223 lbs, 6'11 wingspan, 9'0 standing reach. Did not participate in the NBA combine.
2013-14 Season Statistics (Croatian League): 16.5, 9.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1 SPG, .9 BPG, 3.3 TPG (53 games played, 32 Minutes per contest) - 50.6% FG, 70.9% FT, 32.6% 3P
Summary: While he is one of the more hyped up foreign players in the past few years, Saric still gets forgotten in a draft class full of big names. The 6'10 forward plays beyond his age, and possesses one of the more well-rounded offensive skill sets for the 2014 picks. He's still not a completely consistent shooter, and isn't a great defensive prospect due to his lack of quickness or verticality, but he's shown significant improvements over the past few years.
There's no guarantee that he'll play in the NBA this year and could spend another year or two in Croatia, but his all-around skills, point-forward abilities and basketball IQ should net him a top-10 selection.
Offensive Breakdown: Saric is one of the most talented offensive players in this class, up there with Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Dante Exum. What he lacks in athleticism he makes up for in basketball IQ, especially offensively. Saric is one of the smartest players in 2014, and his feel for the game and general court awareness is exceptional for a 20 year old. He's benefited immensely from his years in Croatian basketball.
There isn't much on the offensive end Saric can't do. He's got a solid post game, although it'll be challenged as he plays against taller competition on a regular basis. Saric improved his jumpshot and his range every season, and while his 32.3% clip from three in 2013-14 wasn't great, he went 8-16 from three in the Adriatic League Final Four in April. There's still a hitch in his jumpshot, but given his continued improvements I don't believe this will be a long-term issue. He's got the foundations to develop into an all-around offensive threat.
One thing that Saric has that the other big men in this class lack is his passing ability and court vision. He has true point forward potential, and is unselfish with the ball. He's a serious weapon in transition even while lacking great footspeed, mainly because he's got the handle to drive the ball in himself and the vision to find any teammate. The Kings need more guys with great court awareness and offensive IQ, and Saric has that in spades.
The one major concern about Saric offensively is turnovers: he averaged 3.3 a game this season, a disastrous number. While he was asked to handle the ball as much as anyone on his team, he coughed up the ball far too often, especially when he was low in the post. He's coming into a league where he'll face bigger and quicker forwards on most nights, so his turnover issues are a serious weakness that needs to be addressed.
Defensive Breakdown: Saric isn't a great defensive prospect due to his average athleticism and lack of verticality or insane reach, but he'll end up an average defender in a few years. There will be a learning curve as he adjusts to the faster NBA game, but his basketball IQ and court vision will help him. The biggest concern defensively; while he's got the size and length to play power forward, he doesn't have the muscle yet and would get beaten up in the paint. Defensive fit will be something teams have to seriously consider before selecting Saric.
The good thing about Saric defensively is he isn't afraid of contact and will get up into his opponent; he's not the most physical player in the world, but it isn't an area of concern. He's a completive player and doesn't give up on defense very often, so he's got the work ethic that will hopefully lead to defensive development. His presumed NBA position at the four will hinge on his ability to get stronger and prove he can guard his rivals.
Saric is a great rebounder, snagging 9.3 boards a game (tops in Croatian basketball) that included 2.3 offensive rebounds. Again, his size will be a disadvantage in the NBA until he gets stronger, but he's got a good instinct for where the ball will go and boxes out his opponents well.
Intangibles: Saric is a tough player with a good work ethic by all accounts, backed up by his impressive improvements over the past few years. DraftExpress.com's Jonathan Givony does point out that Saric's body language "already leaves something to be desired at times" and says he's "quick to point fingers at teammates or complain". Body language shouldn't be a deal breaker, but given that Saric's fit in the NBA is still unclear, he won't have time to complain.
It's less exciting to think about Saric will develop then it is to consider the more exciting prospects potential. His 6'10 frame and 6'11 wingspan don't add up to anything special in the class, especially when compared to insanely lengthy guys like Joel Embiid or Noah Vonleh, or insanely athletic guys like Aaron Gordon. But Saric's basketball understanding for his age cannot be underrated; he's younger than Embiid and Smart, within a few months of Randle, and is almost a full two years younger than fan favorite Doug McDermott. Aside from Exum and Smart (and Gordon on defense), none of the players in the top ten can touch Saric's fundamental feel for the game.
Saric isn't a guarantee to be in the NBA next season, and there aren't any serious indications as to which way he's leaning. A lot will likely depend on where he gets drafted and what role his future team has in mind for him immediately.
Fit with Sacramento: Offensively, Saric is a fantastic fit with DeMarcus Cousins. With two players who are both capable in the post and from distance, the Kings could switch the two in high-low post sets at will. Saric's unselfishness and passing instincts, along with his abilities in transition, could help open up the Kings offense to a new level. The possibilities with Saric/Cousins should make Kings fans drool.
Defensively, it's not as nice a fit. The ideal fit defensively with Cousins would be an athletic shotblocker, and Saric is neither of those. He'll need to bulk up or risk getting beaten up down low, but I have faith the Kings would have a plan in place if Saric was the pick. Saric will end up an average NBA defender at worst, but a backup defensive player would be a must add.
The Kings have serious needs at shooting, defense and at basketball IQ-defensive fit with Saric would be a concern, but he'd help spread the floor and is one of the smartest players in this class. Saric deserves far more attention at the 8th pick then he is getting. Currently, Saric ranks 9th on my personal draft board, and 4th among power forwards behind Aaron Gordon (5th), Julius Randle (6th) and Noah Vonleh (7th).
There's a decent amount of game footage available on Youtube for Saric. Here is a more recent game from February 2014 when Saric had 22 points, 12 rebounds and three assists (6-14 FG) against Partizan (Euroleague matchup). Here are some highlights from August 2012 from the U18 World Championships gold metal game against Lithuania, in which Saric (named unanimous tournament MVP) had 39 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals on 15-24 shooting (1-6 from three).
Make sure you check out the two recent (and fantastic as always) DraftExpress videos on Saric - one on his success in the Adriatic League Final Four in April, and one as a more complete breakdown.