By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
For the nearly two years following the 2014 NBA draft, Philadelphia 76ers have eagerly awaited the arrival of international man of mystery Dario Saric. The modern day Austin Powers going on to become a two-time FIBA European Young Player of the Year has only further whetted the appetite of Sixers fans starved for talent on the club’s roster.
While Saric has repeatedly said that he wished to make the jump stateside for the 2016-17 season, Sixers fans have continued to brace for the worst, both because Dario would be leaving a lot of money on the table by not waiting an additional year, and because years of general disappointment have turned us into an abused puppy that expects to be hit even when someone is holding out a treat.
However, it’s becoming more and more apparent that this time, at least, there’s cause for celebration, following this report from overseas;
Dario Saric, source said, told his teammates he intends to leave Europe for Sixers this offseason.
— David Pick (@IAmDPick) April 24, 2016
Telling reporters in the abstract that you’d like to test your skills against the best competition in the world is one thing. Dario going to his teammates and saying he won’t be around much longer is quite another. It would appear that the long wait for one of Sam Hinkie’s lottery tickets is finally over, and just in time for new President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo’s liking.
As Derek Bodner of Philly Mag pointed out last summer, Saric coming over now while he’s still under the rookie salary scale will save the Sixers about $16M in cap space over the next three seasons. Not only does Saric coming over help the team by his being on the court this season, the savings realized by his not waiting another year is enough in itself for Colangelo to go after a legitimate back-up point guard, or an additional shooter on the wing.
I’m sure the whole “he doesn’t care about the money and only wants to play against the best competition” storyline will only endear him further with fans in Philadelphia. That and his hard-nosed playing style (the man had 6 teeth knocked out in a game in 2014 and kept playing), seem poised to make him a fan favorite.
Fans should temper their expectations a bit for Saric; he projects as a borderline starter/6th man type in the NBA. Still, for a fanbase that’s watched a team chock full of 15th man types for the last 2 and a half to three years, a legitimate 6th man type sounds like manna from heaven. In what’s been a dark and stormy month in Sixers circles, this news is a much-needed ray of sunshine.