The Croatian Sensation emerging for the Sixers

The Sixers have got off to an impressive 13-9 start to the 2017-2018 NBA season. The team got off to a slow start but are (7-3) in their last ten games. A player who came out flat himself was Dario Saric. Through the month of October, Saric was averaging (7.7 ppg) and (4.3 REB), which the fans did not like to see. We all were expecting the power forward to have a significant role on this team. Let’s not forget, he was in the running for Rookie of the Year alongside Joel Embiid and Malcolm Brodgen of the Bucks.

In this slump, Dario was not engaged in the offense. The reason for that is he was not implanted into the game the same way he was last year. There was a span against the Celtics in the second game of the season that he did not touch the ball once in for eight minutes. Even a scrub can at least expect some attention on the court for that amount of time.

Ben Simmons and he did not have the chemistry as Simmons would go to a pick and roll on the other side of the court away from Saric for what seemed to be 90% of the plays. There were times Dario would put his hands up in the air calling for the ball as he is wide open for a three, and Simmons would not give him the opportunity.

Now, let’s not forget, Saric and Simmons only played with each other for the first time in a couple preseason games as Saric was overseas playing throughout the Summer. Also, Ben Simmons was hurt all of last year with his leg injury. Speaking off the overseas play, it looked to have affected Saric’s play as he was hitting shots short and making turnovers that he usually would not commit. The style of play in Europe is completely different than the NBA, so it is an excuse for struggles in the season.

Let’s fast forward to the month of November. The return of the 2016/2017 version of Dario Saric emerged. A key reason for this was the injury to Jared Bayless, allowing Brett Brown putting the power forward into the starting lineup. Sometimes all a player needs is a change of scenery to get his game back to the level it should be. Take, for example, someone moving to a new city for a change in a job to get a fresh start on their career. This is similar to the Croation as he changed his role being put into the starting lineup and got that motivation and grit back in his DNA. I noticed right away, he was making three-pointers at a higher rate with his minutes getting extended. He went from playing on average 24.3 minutes to 30.4 minutes from the month of October to November.

An area that may not reflect on the stat sheet is his blue-collar ability to turn “garbage into gold”- Marc Zumoff

Dario Saric has found that vision to make the extra pass to guys on the perimeter such as Robert Covington, Jared Bayless, and JJ Redick. He has the ability to make no-look passes that put Joel Embiid in perfect layup situations. Saric and Redick have also developed a great relationship on the court working off pick and rolls. He averaged (13 ppg) and (7.5 REB) in the month of November, which has been a drastic improvement that has helped the Sixers beat teams like the Rockets, Blazers, Wizards, and Saturday’s win over the Pistons. He is the piece to this puzzle that I feel does not get recognized enough. If it was not for his presence, where would the 2nd chance points come from? He has to get at least three offensive rebounds a game for putback layups and those points add up at the end of games.

The moral of the story is Dario Saric went from coming off the bench after playing overseas, to become the starter the Sixers need to make a run for the playoffs this season. Everyone wants to talk about Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons being the face of the Sixers, but Saric is the 3rd piece to the puzzle in my eyes. The energy is there with him turning great defensive stops into easy offensive transitions for the other four players on the court. His ability to hit three-pointers, mid-range step backs, and post-ups at the rim is very hard for a power forward of his size. He is averaging 18.4 points and 8.4 rebounds over his last five games and look for it to continue in tonight’s matchup against the Phoenix Suns.

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