The Philadelphia Sixers have regressed in the month of February due to star rookie Joel Embiid having missed twelve of the team’s past thirteen games dating back to the middle of January. They have gone 5-8 in the recent streak without Embiid. Without such a prolific scorer and rim protector, the other players on the team have all had to shoulder some of the load that the Cameroonian usually carries and no one has stepped up more than fellow rookie, Dario Saric.
Days before the 2014 NBA draft, Saric, 20, signed a two-year contract with the Turkish team Anadolu Efes. With a two-year commitment tying him up overseas, it made Saric the perfect Sam Hinkie player. It was all about the elongated process. After taking Embiid third overall, they selected point guard Elfrid Payton out of Louisiana-Lafayette. Then Saric was drafted by Orlando two picks later and they agreed to swap players with Philly also picking up a second round pick and future first round pick.
After waiting for two years, Philadelphia was given the gifts of the 2014 draft. When they took the court for the first time this season, they had both Embiid and Saric. Both of them have proven to be worth the wait and have caused a shift in the balance of Philadelphia basketball.
Over the course of the season, Dario Saric has averaged 10.5 points per game and 5.7 rebounds a game. His point total per game is second among rookies only behind Embiid, whereas he ranks third in rebounds. His scoring average has increased this month. In seven games in February, Saric has averaged 14.9 points a game.
Saric’s recent production has been even better over the team’s previous four games where they’ve gone 2-2 in those games. He’s averaged 19 points and 5.25 rebounds a game. Arguably more important though, he’s shot 52.7% from the field in those games. The Croatian’s game has been elevated with a more integral role in the offense.
Dario Saric’s superior play this month has shown a glimpse of what he can become. He’s a jack-of-all trade player. His offensive abilities are limited in terms of creating his own shot, but with the help a big point guard who can distribute the ball, like Ben Simmons, he could see more open shots. Saric’s defensive game is also above average for a rookie. His game will continue to progress.
With Embiid, Simmons, and Saric all healthy and playing together, the Sixers will continue to grow and it’s because of the patience that was inherently a part of THE PROCESS.
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports